ABC NEWS PRESENTS A BARBARA WALTERS SPECIAL:
�HEAVEN -- WHERE IS IT? HOW DO WE GET THERE?�
Is Heaven Somewhere out There Beyond the Stars? Barbara Walters
Takes Viewers on a Heavenly Journey, Tuesday, December 20 on ABC
Walters Speaks with Everyone from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to
Failed Suicide Bombers in Israel, from an Evangelical Leader to Atheists,
From Muslim Scholars to Jewish Rabbis, as Well as with
Richard Gere, Maria Shriver, Mitch Albom and Rabbi Jackie Mason
For centuries man has looked to the sky and asked profound questions: Where is heaven and how do we get there? People have dreamed of heaven, dedicated their lives to the promise of heaven, even martyred themselves � committing heinous acts of terrorism � for the promise of paradise. Is heaven simply a myth dreamed up to give lives meaning, or is it a real place? Anchored by Barbara Walters, �Heaven -- Where Is It? How Do We Get There?� explores the meaning of heaven with religious leaders of the major faiths, scientists, people who say they believe in heaven because they�ve been there, celebrities who are vocal about their beliefs and even with terrorists. �ABC News Presents a Barbara Walters Special: Heaven -- Where Is It? How Do We Get There?� airs TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
Walters takes viewers on a journey around the world � to India, Israel and throughout the United States. She interviews people of different religious and scientific beliefs, each with strong opinions about the afterlife. They discuss their visions of heaven, what happens to the body, and why it is important to believe in heaven.
Catholic � Cardinal Theodore McCerrick of the Roman Catholic Church of Washington DC says the purpose of life �is to come to the end of your life at peace with the lord so that you may find an eternal happiness in heaven�This life is not what we�re made for. We�re made for heaven. We�re made for the future.�
Jewish � �The purpose of life is to live a decent life� and that you do it for its own sake, not for getting a reward,� says Rabbi Neil Gilman from the New York Jewish Theological Seminary. �There is a tremendous emphasis in our tradition about what you do with yourself in your lifetime here on earth.� Comedian Jackie Mason, who is a rabbi, also gives his humorous take on heaven.
Baptist � Reverend Calvin Butts, Pastor of New York�s famed Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, who says he has seen heaven, tells Walters that heaven is �eternal joy and happiness because you are at one with God.�
Buddhist -- Walters traveled to the Himalayan Mountains to visit the mystical home of a reincarnated Buddha, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who says the purpose of life is to be happy, and that you can accomplish that by �warm heartedness.� He says heaven �is best place to further develop the spiritual practice� for Buddhist the final goal is not just to reach there, but to become Buddha. [It�s] not the end,� and he tells Walters that you can come back as an animal: �If someone do very bad, badly� kill or steal� could be born in an animal body.� Walters also talks to longtime follower Richard Gere, who says, �I don�t think necessarily heaven and hell happen in some other life. I think it�s right now.�
Evangelical � The promise of heaven plays a central role in the lives of the National Association of Evangelicals President Pastor Ted Haggard�s followers, believing if you are not a born again Christian, you have no assurance of going to heaven. �Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to anybody that�ll follow him� The purpose of life is to glorify God and go to heaven� �cause heaven is our home.�
Atheist � �No, heaven doesn�t exist, hell doesn�t exist. We weren�t alive before we were born and we�re not going to exist after we die. I�m not happy about the fact that that�s the end of life, but I can accept that and make my life more fulfilling now, because this is the only chance I have,� says Ellen Johnson, president of the American Atheists Society.
Muslim � Islamic scholar Feisal Abdul Rauf says there is sex in heaven: �The real life is the next life� and based upon how we live this life, it determines where we shall be in the next. We are told we will be in comfortable homes, reclining on silk couches� so we�re given the delights of sex, the delights of wine, the delights of food with all of their positive things without their negative aspects.�
Terrorists and Heaven � Jihad Jarrar, of Islamic Jihad, who is incarcerated in an Israeli prison for a failed suicide bombing, tells Walters that only Muslims will go to heaven and �the reason I chose a martyrdom operation� was to spend an eternity in paradise. He says he was taught that �everything good is in the garden in paradise,� and that �the lord promised the martyr who lost his life and lost the world on earth, that he promised him these 72 women in paradise as honor, as respect for him.�
The special also explores:
The Science of Heaven � Why does faith come easily to some and elude others? In search of the scientific rationale of heaven, Walters talks to expert Dr. Dean Hamer, author of The God Gene, and a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health. Is there really a �God gene� that affects people�s level of spirituality? The special also looks at studies of the brain itself to see if it undergoes unusual changes when someone is deep in the throes of spiritual experiences. These studies are done by Dr. Andrew Newberg, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Near-Death Experiences � Walters also examines the phenomenon of the near-death experience. What happens when you journey to the other side of death and back? British psychologist Dr. Susan Blackmore has spent decades searching for a scientific explanation: �When the oxygen levels fall in the brain�you get massive over-activity in the brain� I think there is a true transformation, but not because you�ve been to heaven.� But whatever the rationale, such experiences have changed many. Dr. Diane Morrissey says she felt the �white light of god� when she was electrocuted. �My near death experience changed everything about me� there is not a single experience on earth that could ever be as good as being dead,� she says.
Heaven and Real People � How do you tell children what happens to their loved ones when they die? Whom do you see when you arrive in heaven? Walters talks to such people as Maria Shriver, author of a children�s book on heaven, and Mitch Albom, author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, for their take on the afterlife.
�Heaven -- Where Is It? How Do We Get There?� is produced by Rob Wallace. It will be released on DVD through ABCNEWS.com and includes extended interviews and bonus features.