Newsweek explores heaven and hell
Why doesn't Newsweek let its religion reporter write its religion cover stories anymore? Last summer, music writer Lorraine Ali got to write about Christian music. Managing editor Jon Meacham wrote on the Catholic Church's abuse scandal earlier this year. Ken Woodward got to write his piece on the Qur'an vs. the Bible, but this week (as with the abuse package) he's again relegated to sidebar status. It's up to senior editor Lisa Miller to examine "Why We Need Heaven." "In the '00s, a decade known so far for its calamities, the question of what heaven is and who gets to go has taken on new urgency," she writes. "Suicide bombers and terrorists, similar to those who killed seven people at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem last week, often invoke heaven before they act, and, afterward, the survivors invoke heaven to guide them forward."

A Newsweek poll found that 76% of Americans believe in a heaven, and 71% of them believe it's a real, physical place. (The magazine's online poll is currently running at 72% believing in heaven.) Three quarters of respondents say their actions on Earth determine whether they'll go there.

Much of the article is very good, though one finishes the piece feeling like heaven is probably a nice psychological construct—in the words of a 14-year-old vacation Bible school counselor who's either not well-trained theologically or not well-quoted, Heaven is "whatever you dream it is."

There's the occasionally odd sentence, such as "Heaven was designed in part to bolster constituencies under stress," but these are fortunately rare.

Evangelicals definitely get their say, and are mainly represented by Anne Graham Lotz (whose new book, Heaven: My Father's House, is on the CBA ...

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