Heaven Is for Real (Burpo book) cover

Look at that cute kid. If only his dad had been a little smarter.

Heaven is for Real is just another one of those bestsellers that make a lame attempt to prove that Christianity is real.  It was written by a pastor named Todd Burpo with Sarah Palin's ghost writer, Lynn Vincent.  Colton is apparently able to tell where his parents were during his operation, but it is highly likely that their memories have been distorted by Colton's retellings.


Being the son of a pastor, Colton has been indoctrinated at an early age.  His family's constant praying, however, is not enough to stop his appendix from bursting. 

Colton is rushed to the hospital, where he needs expensive emergency surgery and might not survive.  His father goes into a little room and yells at God with good reason.  Colton later tells him that he did that.  He also tells him that:

  1. Colton was carried to heaven by angels.
  2. Jesus rides a "rainbow horse."  (It sounds so much like a fairy tale or what a small child would imagine, doesn't it)?
  3. Colton met a ton of people in Heaven.  In addition to Jesus, there are his miscarried sister, his long-dead Grandfather, and even God himself. 
  4. Colton did "homework" in Heaven.  This will make it really unattractive to first graders.
  5. Except for Jesus, who moves "like an elevator," everybody in heaven has wings.
  6. Jesus also wears a white robe with a purple sash.  That looks a lot like the Jesus in that old Children's Bible of yours.

Even afterwards, Colton's "heaven experience" seep into life.  Although he says that "Jesus loves all children," when his father does a funeral he insists that the dead man "had Jesus in his heart."  If the man had been a child, but without Jesus in his heart, where would he go?  Heaven or Hell?

After kicking and screaming at the hospital, Colton insists his parents pay their medical bills because the doctor "fixed me." Colton's family had major financial troubles, Obamacare could help a little.


People have come up with plenty of stories like this before.  A neuroscientist's heaven experience was far more complicated than Colton's and yet they both spent time on the New York Times bestseller list.  The same people probably read both books.  What they should have understood is that at least one of them has to be wrong.

Sam Harris[1]

Unsurprisingly, the two books offer incompatible views of what life is like beyond the prison of the brain. (As colorful as his account is, Alexander neglects to tell us that Jesus rides a rainbow-colored horse or that the souls of dead children must still do homework in heaven.)

Studies have shown that near death experiences often have to do with the person's religious belief.  [2] [3]  False memories can affect how a near death experience is recalled. Sam Harris believes false memories may be involved in this and other near death experiences. [1]

So if Colton had been raised atheist, none of this would have happened. It is also important to consider the simple fact that NYT Bestsellers make the author money.  Todd could just be lying about the entire thing, knowing that a story about a three-year-old going to heaven would capture enough attention to make the NYT Bestsellers list and pay all those medical bills. 

Picture Book[]

Much in the spirit of selling books to make money, plus indoctrinate their children, Todd and Sophia condensed it into a picture book with art "created under Colton's direction."  The book has a forward about needing to bring Jesus in or having your children suffer in Hell (The parents have also been brainwashed with this but don't forget that Jesus loves children).  If you're considering buying this book for a child you know, know that it's not worth it.  All that will happen is that it will teach your kid about something that probably doesn't exist.  Why not teach them about the real world instead?

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