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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

What Happens After We Die?

Aired April 14, 2005 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: What happens after we die? Tonight we explore the ultimate mystery with spiritual leaders from many faiths.
Joining us, John MacArthur, evangelical Christian pastor of Grace Community Church in Southern California, best-selling author and host of the Global Medium Ministry Grace to You. Father Michael Manning, Roman Catholic priest, host of the international program "The Word in the World." Representing Judaism, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Muslim scholar Dr. Maher Hathout, a retired physician and senior adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Mary Ann Williamson, best-selling author and lecturer on spirituality. And Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists.

The next world, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's going to happen to everybody. And we all wonder about it. When will it happen, what will it be like? And, of course, what happens after? We're going to try to piece together those questions tonight, especially with death so much in the news.

Lately the only dying I know that comes back is a comic who dies one night and then the audience respects him and he returns for the second show. Other than that, I don't know what happens. But these guests might. So we'll start with John MacArthur and the opinion of each of them, representing their own opinions or their faiths.

John MacArthur, what happens had you die?

JOHN MACARTHUR, PASTOR, GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH: Well, when you die, you go to one of two places. According to scripture. You go out of the presence of God forever, or you go into the presence of God forever.

KING: Depending?

MACARTHUR: Depending upon your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is according to the Bible the only way to enter heaven.

KING: So therefore a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist will not go to heaven?

MACARTHUR: Christian theology and the scripture says that only through faith in Jesus Christ.

KING: And you -- when we say what happened, what happens? Do you go somewhere as a body? MACARTHUR: No, your body stays. We go to the funeral. We see the body. It goes into the grave. It decays. Your spirit immediately goes either in the presence of God or out, waiting the final resurrection. There will be a resurrection of all bodies in the end, a resurrection unto life or a resurrection unto damnation.

KING: Father Manning, what happens when you die?

FATHER MICHAEL MANNING, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST: I think we're going to encounter God. I find God the one that I'm longing for. I'm longing for truth. I'm longing for honesty. I'm longing for peace. I'm longing for love. And it's very incomplete in this world. And I believe that moving into heaven into the experience of God will be the fullness of that.

KING: You will meet him in what form?

MANNING: I don't know. I'm going to be a spiritual form. I'm not going to have a body. It's -- we talk of spirits when we speak of angels and so there's a reality of something there. We say that I'll see God and I'm not going to have eyes like I had, but there will be a knowledge. There will be a completeness of all of these longings that I've had to be able to be now satisfied in the presence of God.

KING: Rabbi Hier, what will happen when you die?

MARVIN HIER, FOUNDER, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: When you die, God created Adam, escorted him into the Garden of Eden. When he sinned, he took him out of the Garden of Eden. But God never destroyed the Garden of Eden and held up the hope that people who live righteously, with righteous conduct, go to the eternal world, the world of the soul.

And admission to that world is based on righteous conduct and not based on any specific religion. A righteous person of any religion and a righteous person who may, in the fact, be irreligious...

KING: You mean atheist?

HIER: ... would be granted because it is determined by deeds.

KING: And what is heaven like?

HIER: Well, to tell you the truth, no one has been there, and it would be all speculation. You know, it's the world of the soul. And the best expression of that is, you know, my monadi (ph) says that when a person, a young man -- a person is born blind, he's prepared to take an oath that there is no color in the world. But there is color.

But my monadi (ph) says he can't see it because he's not in that world and we can't see the world of the spirit.

KING: Dr. Maher Hut -- Maher Hathout, I'm sorry, the Muslim scholar, what do Muslims believe happens when you die?

DR. MAHER HATHOUT, MUSLIM SCHOLAR: We really do believe that when we die, the spirit would be liberated from the limitations of the body.

KING: And?

HATHOUT: And then it will go through eternity after a process of accountability and judgment. And people will go to heaven in eternity or to face consequences of punishment.

KING: Like hell?

HATHOUT: Like hell. And this depends on the good deeds, on the belief in God, and on the belief on accountability, that every person is responsible and is accountable for what he or she will do during this earthly life.

KING: And this going will be in the spiritual sense?

HATHOUT: It has to be because the body is decaying, as we heard. And then the spirit, which is energy, will be unadmitted (ph), uncontained and will be completely liberated.

KING: Mary Ann, what do you think happens?

MARY ANN WILLIAMSON, AUTHOR/LECTURER ON SPIRITUALITY: I agree with what Father Manning said, that all of the love that we've longed for all of our lives, we find it. We're there. I think that only love is real. And we can see it once we've died.

I think that this earth is like a veil of illusion. The mortal mind obfuscates the spiritual truth, which is the love of God. And I think that when we die, the veil falls down, the filter is gone, and we're in that state of pure love which is God.

KING: And it's not -- it's in a spirit state, right?

WILLIAMSON: Yes, I mean...

KING: Not a physical state.

WILLIAMSON: ... You can apply -- yes, of course, not the physical state. But all concepts like where do we go, space and time don't exist in God's eternity. So it's a state of awareness and knowledge and experience of pure love, which is God, which is the true life.

I think at death we find that. And I think that we long for that all our lives and at death we find it. It's a reward. It's not a punishment.

KING: Ellen Johnson, president of the American Atheists, what do you believe happens?

ELLEN JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ATHEISTS: The atheist accepts the reality that when you die, that is the end. That is it. Therefore when you're living, life is all we can ever know. We can't know death. Death is a nonsense word. So we have to do our part now to make this a better life for ourselves and for the rest of humanity and all of the life on this planet.

The only fulfillment, the only joy, the only happiness you will ever know is right now. Now is the time to do your part and to enjoy life. And it's a very, very good thing, because we don't take any moment for granted for that very reason.

KING: What do you mean by nonsense word?

JOHNSON: Because we cannot know death. We can only know life. So therefore, what are we talking about?

KING: It is, John MacArthur, is it not a guess on your -- an educated guess based on your scriptures, your reading, your faith, but you don't know. You don't know know, do you? How can you know?

MACARTHUR: Because the Bible says so.

KING: But you believe the Bible?

MACARTHUR: Well, I believe the Bible, but I believe the Bible can be defended. I believe through the centuries the Bible has stood the test of intense scrutiny, and it is the real and true revelation of God, and it speaks truly about life and death. And someone has been there and come back, and that's Jesus Christ.

KING: How come only one?

MACARTHUR: How come only one what?

KING: Person ever come back?

MACARTHUR: Well, that's because the design of leaving this world is to go into the eternal world. The only person who came from the eternal world into this world is Jesus Christ.

There have been a few others, by the way. In fact in the Old Testament, the prophets raised a few from the dead. In the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles raised a few from the dead. And at the death of Christ on the cross, the graves were open and some were raised. And that's indicative of the fact that there will be an actual physical resurrection to join with the spirits that are with God at death.

KING: Isn't it true, Father Manning, that all religion is really based -- if we didn't die there'd be no religion. All religion is based on fear of dying?

MANNING: Certainly very important. Not in this...

KING: Be good and you'll be...

MANNING: The hope of fulfillment of all the things I'm longing for. In many ways I'm trying to get to -- I believe what the scripture says. But why am I so afraid of death? And why is there this longing to live forever?

KING: You don't know.

MANNING: No, no. But I'm just -- this urge, this longing that I have somehow speaks of a truth that I can't deny. I can't deny that life will go on and on.

KING: We'll get the comments from everybody. Including your phone calls. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Dr. Hathout, you wanted to add?

HATHOUT: I'd like to say two things. No. 1, we don't rule out physical selection by any means. It is -- it is interest there.

However, I want to comment on death is a nonsense word. It is the most real word of the birth. We know that we are born. We know we are going to die. To just write it off as nonsense is somehow...

KING: Well, because the atheists -- I don't want to put words in her mouth, but they believe it's all over. It's a nonsense word in that nothing happens afterward.

HATHOUT: Sure, everybody is entitled to believe whatever they want. But the reality is death is a very real thing. And we have reasons more than the scriptures to believe that this is not the end of the story.

At least scientifically, we know that energy does not disappear. Energy is always there. This is a scientific reality. And if the body is physical and the soul is energy, it cannot disappear.

KING: As a doctor have you seen people die?

HATHOUT: More than what I care for.

KING: Do you have thoughts that they go somewhere when you watch this?

HATHOUT: I always felt that a chapter is over, that we turned off a light on that house that is called the body. And I always felt that is just me. There must be a part of the equation that is not revealed.

KING: Ellen, don't you want these people in your heart? Don't you want them to be right? Wouldn't you like to go somewhere? Do you want it all to just end when you're 89?

JOHNSON: Yes. I don't want...

KING: You do want it to end?

JOHNSON: Yes. I don't want to...

KING: Would you be sad if you woke up somewhere?

JOHNSON: I'd be sad if I what?

KING: You die and suddenly you find you're somewhere nice and peaceful.

JOHNSON: No, no. That's...

KING: ... you'd be pissed.

JOHNSON: That's not going to happen. That's the reality. And I'm not going to live my life in order to, you know -- about concerned with death. Life is for living, and I'm not living my life for death.

And I can't accept something because I think the outcome is -- I can't accept something that's not believable because I think the outcome is desirable. It's not believable. It's not acceptable. When you die, that's it.

But that's the reality. It is what it is. So let's deal with it. Let's deal with death, the way we deal with everything else in life, with dignity, and move on. And at the same time, try and prolong life so that we can extend what we have.

KING: Do you think, Rabbi Hier, in your heart more people think the way Ellen thinks -- they don't say it. They go to church. They go to synagogue. But in their heart they think she's right?

HIER: I have no doubt that people contemplate that. People are -- you know, human beings are human.

But I would say this: the question was posed before whether we know for sure. Well if God would clue everybody in on all his secrets and he'd say, "Look this is the way the plan works," then there would be no belief. There would be no faith.

God created an imperfect world and he needed a partner, man. And he said to man, will you help me repair this world? And make it a better world? But he did not tell man all of his secrets as to how does death work. So there will be natural doubt. Of course there will be doubt.

KING: If you could go back to ancient times, that's a safe thing to say. They asks the seers of the time, what happens when you die? They don't have an answer.

HIER: No one really has an answer.

KING: So you say it's God's -- God's mystery. It's a copout.

HIER: That's correct. No, it's not a copout.

KING: Not a cop-out?

HIER: No. Because God created man from dust of the ground. And dust of the earth. And God can do whatever he wants. But in this world there is a purpose to this world and that is God didn't want to do it alone. And he wanted man, as I said before, a partner and therefore there's a mystery. He didn't clue man in on all of the secrets. Because otherwise there'd be no purpose to believe.

KING: Mary Ann, isn't that a safe thing to say? It makes you feel good?

WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, the fact that something makes you feel good hardly means that it's less true.

All the great religious systems speak about life after death, speak about the fact that the goodness with which we live our lives -- you know when Ellen talks about how important it is to live well on the earth, the great religious systems agree with her. Life is for the living.

And it's not that we are to concentrate on death rather than life. It's that while we live loving lives and try our best to be the people that God would have us be, then after we die, and also while we're on this earth, I think that the condition of the state of God's love isn't as different after as it is -- as we think.

You know, the course of miracle (ph) says birth is not a beginning but a continuation. And death is not an end but a continuation. I think in a very real sense death doesn't exist. The spirit, the more we are in a consciousness of the spirit, the less we will feel the dropping of the physical body as a fundamental shift in our state of being.

JOHNSON: However -- however, to Mr. MacArthur, the price for eternal life and life after death is obedience to church doctrine. So you must live a certain life in preparation for that life after death. That I totally reject. I am not going to...

MACARTHUR: So do I.

KING: What do you think?

MACARTHUR: I reject that completely.

JOHNSON: There is a way to get...

KING: Hold it, hold it, Ellen. What is -- you said you have to believe in Christ.

MACARTHUR: Well, yes -- the only way to heaven -- and at this point I respectfully disagree with the rabbi. Nobody can live a righteous life. The Bible says that no one can obey the law of God. No one.

KING: So no one is going to heaven?

MACARTHUR: So no one can go to heaven on their own merits or on their own works. I don't care how many good works they do. The New Testament is crystal clear on the fact that...

KING: So a bad guy who believes in Christ, he's going to heaven, and the good guy who doesn't is going to hell.

MACARTHUR: But when he truly believes...

KING: That don't sound just.

MACARTHUR: But when he truly believes -- Larry, we don't want justice. Justice...

KING: You don't want justice?

MACARTHUR: No. It sends everybody to hell. We need grace. We need forgiveness. We need mercy. Only those who ask...

HIER: When you need grace -- first of all, when you take an exam, not everybody has to get 100. It's preposterous to think that when you say righteous conduct you mean perfect specimens.

Human beings are not perfect specimens. In God's world, they will be accepted to eternity or eternal heaven if they pass the exam. What's a passing grade in heaven? I don't know. Maybe 67 and not 65. But the fact of the matter is if you -- if you live the decent life that is credible, you don't have to be perfect.

KING: Let me get a break and come right back. I hope it's 51. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Father Manning, if there is a better place a coming why are we so sad when people die? Unless it ' just selfish that we miss them?

MANNING: I think it's selfishness. Because I think I...

KING: We should be happy for them, right?

MANNING: I rely on the conversation that I could have with the person...

KING: It's you, not them.

MANNING: So I -- in the Catholic liturgy, we have two stages of it. One is a wake service, which is really a time for crying. Just opening up our hearts and saying this really hurts me.

But then on the mass of resurrection, which is the mass of burial, everybody wears white. And we sing songs and we say, yes, it's victory. So it's a one, two thing.

Yes, I want to -- I need to cry. We've got to cry. But I'm never going let the crying overcome me because I've got to have that victory of life.

KING: How do Muslims explain the death of a child?

HATHOUT: Well, the death, as we said, is not the end of life. So he just finished that chapter early enough. And it is sad for his parents and for his relatives, but I think I agree after a period of mourning and the grieving, we start -- because the Koran saying is when it happens, say to God we belong and to God we all shall return. So this is really soothing and very reassuring that this is not the end of that person.

KING: Do you think religion, Rabbi, talks about that too much?

HIER: I think that in Judaism we're encouraged not to speak too much about death, because we have only a sketch. We don't have a blueprint. We have a hint about what the world -- what the world that follows this is like.

And the fear is that if people concentrate on it, they become like interior decorators that want to design their home and in heaven. And you have a lot of fanatics today in the world, extremists, that they say heaven sounds so good, let's exit life right now so we can have our palaces and 70 virgins. And that is a tragedy, so therefore we should not concentrate too much about that which we know very little about.

HATHOUT: There is no doubt that the religion is for life, even the Koran says respond to God when he calls you to life. But based on what we do with this life, we hope that our eternity will be determined.

KING: Ellen, what keeps an atheist going if she or he will never be judged?

JOHNSON: Well, we get judged by our fellow human beings. We must obey human laws. We are social animals. And we want to live in a society in which is comfortable to live in it, in a world in which people do terrible things, that would be a terrible place in which to live.

We -- the normal healthy human being is happy in the face of happiness and sad in the face of sadness. I don't think it -- you know, I have to ask the question if you think that there is a God who will forgive you for what you have done wrong, how can you be ethical in that sense? We know that we have to do our part right here and now and answer to our fellow human beings.

But I also want to add, when we talk about death, these gentlemen did mention the fact that -- you brought it up, why do we fight at the very end to stay alive? We have this will to live. I think we humans know that death is the end of it. We fight it. We all fight it. Religious people fight it, too. And in fact, this will to live, this imperative is part of our genes, our bodies fight to live all the time.

KING: Isn't that a good point, Mary Ann? Why do we fight it? Why the whole Terri Schiavo story? Why this fight of the life. Death is a good place.

WILLIAMSON: Well, even with the Terri Schiavo story, though, Larry, the idea was was her death part of the natural arc of her existence, which her husband claimed, or was it not, as her parents claimed.

This spiritual position here is that there is an arc of life and we are on the earth for the time that God chooses. And there are many people who die fighting it. And there are many people who die in a state of grace, a state of acceptance and a state of knowing that there is a great light that they're coming into.

I mean, we are in this mortal body, so of course we have a fear. I think a lot of people, what I felt and I think a lot of people feel is not really a fear of death, but a fear of dying. You know, just abstractly many of us feel it's a greater life on some level, it's a clearer spiritual experience, a greater closeness with God. But we are in this mortal body, and it's the dying itself that I think creates more of a resistance.

KING: Billy Graham told me, sure, if he was going down in an airplane, he'd be scared, scared of pain, but not of dying. Scared of the method of dying.

MACARTHUR: Absolutely.

KING: You're frightened, aren't you, of dying?

MACARTHUR: Well, I think the pain is realistic. I don't want to go through some kind of torturous extreme. But going down in an airplane would be a novel way for me to go immediately to heaven.

And my Bible says absent from the body present with the Lord far better to depart and be with Christ. This is my hope.

I have no fear of dying itself. I have no fear of death. It was five years ago that I was near death in the critical care unit with blood clots all over both lungs. And the truth of the matter is, eight days later when I came out I had a disappointment because I felt like I was ready to see my Lord and I was ready to enter into all that God prepared for them that love him.

And I -- not that I don't love my wife and my kids and enjoy the riches, I was made for social life. I was made for relationships, and that's why I hang on here. And I was made to be used by God. And I want to serve him as long as he wants me here. But I'm ready to go to heaven whenever he sends the word.

HATHOUT: I'm afraid that this is based on a very serious assumption, that I'm so good, I live the perfect life, when I die I go heaven. I still have to see someone who can make this statement without blinking.

MACARTHUR: Can I respond to you? That is a very good statement to make. And you know what? You'll never meet that person, because that person who can earn heaven by himself does not exist. Only one person ever lived a perfect life. That's Jesus Christ. Listen to this. This is Christianity. He imputes his life to the believer in Christian.

KING: All of you believe -- all of you believe this. HIER: That what?

JOHNSON: Believe what, Larry?

KING: That you're going somewhere? All of you believe it except Ellen?

HATHOUT: Yes.

WILLIAMSON: I believe we are.

KING: Do all of you believe God has a plan for when you're going? God knows when you're going? So God knew about 9/11?

MACARTHUR: Sure.

KING: He did. OK. When we come back, we'll ask why did he let it go. We'll also include your phone calls. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's reintroduce our panel, answer the question about 9/11, get to some calls. John MacArthur, evangelical Christian, pastor, teacher at Grace Community Church, author and host of "Grace to You."

Father Michael Manning, the Roman Catholic Priest, Society of the Divine World, host of the "Word and the World."

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Dr. Mayor Hathout, retired physician, Muslim scholar, senior adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

In Detroit, is Mary Ann Williamson, best-selling author, lecturer on spirituality. Her most recent book is "The Gift Of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life."

And in New York City is Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists.

Before we go to some calls, we'll start with Father Manning. If God knows when it is going to happen, why he did let 9/11 happen?

MANNING: I'm not sure that in my mind God has this overall plan that that was there. I believe that God is a God of now. And he was continually working with these people that were ready to fly into that plane, trying his best as he could with all of the grace that he had to avert them from something terrible like that.

I don't see God saying, oh, yes, OK, let's teach those people in that building, or let's get something out of this. No. God is continually working for justice and power with every human being at every moment, pushing us on to something more.

KING: Mary Ann, why did they die, those innocent people?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I agree with what was just said, that God was working with all of the people who perpetrated the act. But I also believe that God gave us free will. And God himself will not violate that law.

At the same time I think that 9/11, and any tragedy such as that, does not come out of a vacuum. And there are many ways that all of us have to look into our hearts about what each of us might have contributed to create a world in which such things as this are happening at all.

So I think that all of us have to ask a little bit more about the darkness in our own hearts. And how we might not do everything we can to make this world what it should be.

KING: Rabbi Hier, if it is possibly a better place why is death a tragedy?

HIER: Well, we feel as human beings -- a great Jewish philosopher, Joseph Albo said the following, "a human being is on a vessel in turbulent seas. And he's tremendously frightened, because of the conditions of the ocean. And he sticks close to the vessel until the vessel hits -- until the vessel docks. When the vessel docks, he says the man walks right off the vessel and perfectly adjusts to a new environment and lost his fear." We fear that which we do not know. But when the vessel docks, and we're shown that world we'll just walk off there and say, wow.

KING: Don't you question it, John MacArthur -- when 9/11 occurs -- don't you question your faith?

MACARTHUR: No, I don't question my faith.

KING: The guys who took the plane into the building didn't question theirs either. And they....

MACARTHUR: I don't like that association too well.

KING: Wait a minute. They didn't give their ultimate gift?

MACARTHUR: No because...

KING: They did not give their life?

MACARTHUR: I understand that God allows death. That does not mean that I take the side of a perpetrator of murder and slaughter.

KING: I'm not telling you to take their side. I'm saying is, did they have a belief?

MACARTHUR: Oh, sure. Sure. A misguided, a severely misguided one.

KING: In our opinion it was misguided, of course. But why is the death tragedy if death is good? Why is tragic used in the word death.

MACARTHUR: I'll answer that very simply. Nobody died in those towers that wasn't going to die anyway. Death is a reality. And the message is

Jesus told the story, he said there were some people worshipping in the temple: pilots -- soldiers came in, sliced them up, their blood mingled with the sacrifices, it was Passover. They said to Jesus, were they worse than anybody else? Jesus said you better repent or you will also die and perish.

And they said, a tower fell and killed 18 people in Saloam (ph), were they worse than everybody else because they were crushed? And Jesus said, you better repent or you'll likewise perish.

The Bible says you die and after this the judgment and then heaven and hell. And you're not going into eternity as energy, you're going as a person.

KING: Ellen, how does an atheist view 9/11?

JOHNSON: If you are a person who thinks that there is a creator who is -- it is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent and then you make excuses for this all-powerful being for allowing 9/11 to happen, for allowing TWA flight 800 to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, for allowing over 100,000 people to die in -- with the tsunami. If you can then excuse your God for being asleep on the job, then when a member of the clergy, the same members of the clergy ask you to pray, to pray for anything because God answers prayers, forget about it. These people...

JOHNSON: I don't think we're going to forget about it.

JOHNSON: There was no God to save them.

Human beings have to solve human problem. We take care of each other. We watch out for each other or it doesn't get done.

KING: Isn't the term free will an easy thing to say when bad things happen? Free will?

HIER: It is free will. But the truth of the matter is -- look, God created this world. And he wanted this -- this is a world for human beings. And human beings are not perfect.

Now God does did not create 9/11. God is not the author of evil. If man is God's partner, man performs or he doesn't perform.

And the tragedy about 9/11 as far as the murderers and perpetrators are concerned is that unlike in their minds, they, of course, they think they're going to heaven. Whatever the opposite of heaven is where went first class. But in terms of God's world, you know when Mary spoke about evil, God is not the author of evil. And it is -- everything bad in this world was caused by man, not God.

KING: What about tsunami, man had nothing to do with that? HIER: Well, man had nothing to do with the tsunami.

KING: So, why didn't answer it?

HIER: Well, we answer it follows, that if -- for God to create an imperfect world, in order for man to be his partner, the world has to be imperfect. If the world is perfect, then man knows all his clues.

KING: So, he gets no blame.

HIER: He's not -- when God created an imperfect world...

KING: If somebody kills someone, they killed him. If a tsunami occurs, it is an imperfect world. What did he do wrong?

HIER: Man doesn't pay attention to the traffic. If man doesn't pay attention to the traffic, we're not -- in other words, human beings, perhaps is 100 years now, 500 years from now, will be able to measure tsunamis better than -- we will have scientific methods of measuring them that are not available to us now.

KING: Don't help the 2-year-old...

HIER: But God is not going to interfere in his world.

KING: I'll take a break.

KING: I'll get to get a break, we'll pick right back up. We'll take some calls too. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We'll pick up again on death and natural tragedies versus man made tragedies. But let's include some calls. Clovis, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Hi.

CALLER: If Jesus is the only way to get into heaven, was heaven empty and devoid of souls before Jesus came to Earth.

KING: John?

MACARTHUR: Oh, that's a very good question, and the answer is absolutely not. We know way back in the Book of Genesis, Enoch (ph) didn't die. He walked right into the presence of god, and the prophet Elijah went to heaven in a whirlwind. And David said that when he died, he would see god face to face. And Job said when he died, he would see god face to face. And the prophet Daniel spoke about a resurrection unto life.

There was clearly in the Old Testament an indication that they were going to go to heaven. But they went to heaven because god provides for those Old Testament saints, the same way he does for people on this side of the life of Jesus, resurrection life for those who believe in him. Jesus paid the penalty for their sins, and his righteousness was applied to them, past and future. But Jesus Christ, nonetheless, was the one who bore their punishment even though he had not yet come.

KING: Richmond, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. My question is about our beloved pets. I recently lost mine, can't find any specific scriptures that say our pets are in heaven with us. Your thoughts on that, please. Thank you.

MANNING: I don't know that I do believe there is a spirit there. Why not? Why not?

HIER: No, I don't, because there are many things in life that we're not supposed to know.

KING: Dr. Hathout?

HATHOUT: The fact that we don't know something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. We didn't know that there is -- interesting, by the way, a few years ago or few centuries raise go -- we didn't know the phenomena of gravity. We didn't know so many things. So we -- people have a tendency to be arrogant enough to say, if I don't know it, if I didn't touch it, it does not exist, which is not true.

KING: Mary Ann, you have a thought on pets?

WILLIAMSON: I think all living things are held tenderly in the hands of god.

KING: And I imagine, Ellen, you believe that a pet like a human just comes and goes?

JOHNSON: We just come and go. Yes.

KING: Sad, though.

JOHNSON: Yes. It is. Yes.

KING: Bloomfield, Connecticut, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. My question is for Dr. Hathout. What about the claim of suicide bombers that there's virgins waiting for them on the other side. Is that in the Koran?

HATHOUT: No, it is not, and it is...

KING: Where does that come from?

HATHOUT: Well, I -- the notion of suicide is absolutely -- the only thing that is inexcusable in Islam is suicide. There's no excuse for it. So suicide is completely prohibited, and the suicide to kill others is even worse. It is totally unacceptable. KING: What of this virgin story?

HATHOUT: This virgin -- it is coming from certain traditions of literists (ph) and hearsay stories, but it is not in the Koran. The Koran is not available in any library. I challenge anyone to tell me there is a Koran...

KING: So, where did they come up with this?

HATHOUT: Well, as you know, religion have been subject to people who are galvanize people and mobilize people who are gullible, and the religion have been terribly misused. By all religions, by the way, by people who are Christians, or Jews, or whatever. And they highlight certain stories and bring them to the forefront to play on the ignorant and the gullible, and to lead them to death, which is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Mary Ann, do you think religion is a failure?

WILLIAMSON: No, I do not religion is a failure, and I think when you talk about religious extremists, it is -- you don't blame a religion for the fact that there are extremists in its name. Religious extremism is not religion. It is pathology, it is insanity. So, religion -- you know, god remains god, regardless of the fictions that might be proclaimed in the name of god. I think god is love, and so when people do things and use the word god that don't have love in it, they might use the words god, but god is an experience, it's not just a belief and it's not just a word.

I think there is some people who conspire with god who don't believe in him, who live loving lies and are of god, and I think there are people who proclaim him all over the place and live lives of hate. So, I think that the real religious experience goes beyond doctrine, even goes beyond belief; it goes to an experience of our love for each other, love for our creator, love for this earth, and love that emanates outward from who we are and makes all things right. That's the religious experience, and it is hardly a failure.

KING: Rabbi, because we revere life so much, doesn't it amaze you when someone kills them self?

HIER: Absolutely. Life is regarded as holy in Judaism, and, for example, any law in Jewish tradition, observance of the Sabbath, fasting on Yom Kippur, any law is violated -- may be violated -- in order to save a life, because there is nothing more sacred than a human life.

And I think that, in terms of those fanatics today who want to say that somehow god justifies killing others and killing themselves, I mean, nothing could be further from the will of god than that.

HATHOUT: This is identical to the Islamic concept, also. Nothing more important than life.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with our panel.

Lake City, Colorado. Hello.

CALLER: Hey, there, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Many of your guests have said that after we die we either go to heaven or hell, and that's on the basis of whether we have faith in Jesus Christ or if we have done enough good deeds. My question is, what about the baby, the infant who has not been able to come to an understanding of Jesus or not lived enough to do the good deeds to merit heaven?

KING: Or John, someone who doesn't know about Jesus, an aborigine.

MACARTHUR: I have written a book which has been widely received and very encouraged by it by nursing associations and hospitals called "Safe in the Arms of God," and it takes an old testament-new testament look at what happens to babies that die. And as I told you, when we met the first time after 9/11, and you said, what happened to that baby at the bottom of that tower? And I said, instant heaven. And I said that in just that fast order because I had just prepared that book and I think the weight of scripture is very clear that infants that die, or people who are mentally unable to make decisions and operate in faith toward god, god gathers to himself, and scripture is clear on that.

KING: Do all of you agree on that, Father Manning?

MANNING: I think it's really important -- I agree certainly. But I think there is an important thing as a Christian for me to understand, in my understanding of Jesus, that although I believe Jesus is the son of god and he is the source of salvation of all, I believe that he can be able to be expressed in ways far beyond what I can understand. And so for me to condemn a person who loves the father -- a Jew or a Muslim that loves the father and say, well, Jesus is not...

KING: How do you view Jesus, rabbi?

HIER: I would say that Jesus was a great teacher. I do not believe he was divine. I do not believe he was the son of god, and I might add, if Moses would claim to be that he is the son of god, I would reject that as well.

KING: What does Dr. Hathout believe?

HATHOUT: I think our stand is almost identical to the rabbi. However, we believe that Jesus Christ is very special in a way because he is born to the Virgin Mary, so...

KING: And you believe she was a virgin? HATHOUT: Oh, yes.

KING: The Muslims believe...

HATHOUT: The Muslims believe -- there is a whole chapter on -- called Mary, to highlight that. So, we believe that he is described as the word of god and the spirit from him to the Virgin Mary.

KING: Mary Ann...

HATHOUT: But we don't believe he's the son of God.

KING: Mary Ann what do you believe?

WILLIAMSON: I believe that we're all the sons of God. And I believe Jesus was and is a fully actualized -- he was a fully actualized human being who now has the function of helping others, who choose -- who feel he is their way, to help them rise as well.

But I was so glad to hear the father say that he had acknowledges as a Christian that there are those who experience that vortex as it were without the name Jesus on it. And I find it very unfortunate, and a slightly offense this notion that if someone does not proclaim the name Jesus, you're talking about Jews, you're talking about atheists, you're talking about agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, who somehow, even if they aren't babies, if they do not proclaim the name Jesus, to me that is an incorrect understanding of Jesus himself.

MACARTHUR: I appreciate what she is saying. The bottom line is that this is an authority issue. The Bible says neither is their salvation in any other name other than Jesus Christ.

KING: Why do you believe that is the only word?

MACARTHUR: Because I believe the Bible is true.

KING: But he believes the Koran was true.

MACARTHUR: Well, I understand that. But I believe the Bible is true. I believe the Bible stands up scientifically, historically, prophetically, I believe every test to the scripture yields that.

KING: There's no hypocrisy.

There are contradictions.

MACARTHUR: There are hypocrites described in the Bible, but the Bible itself...

KING: We got to take a break. Ellen, what do you believe about Jesus Christ?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm here to give the reality point of view, I guess. Because the reality is there is not one shred of secular evidence there ever was a Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and Christianity is a modern religion. And Jesus Christ is a compilation from other Gods: Horas, Mithra, who had the same origins, the same death as the mythological Jesus Christ.

KING: So you don't believe there was a Jesus Christ.

JOHNSON: There was not. It is not what I believe. There is no secular evidence that JC, Jesus Christ, ever existed.

KING: We'll take a break. And come back with more moments and subject that deserves more attention which we shall give it in the future, don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Toronto, hello.

CALLER: Hello. How are you doing?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: Yes, my question is, how can there be eternal hell when the Bible clearly teaches that the result of sin is death?

KING: What do you mean?

MACARTHUR: Well, I think I understand what he means. If you take the view that death is the end of existence, then how can there be hell? When the Bible talks about death it is not the end of existence, death either ushers you into heaven or it ushers you into hell.

KING: Staten Island, New York, hello.

CALLER: I had a near fatal car accident. And I had an out of body experience. I was hovering over my own physical body and I was surrounded by a beautiful white, white light. And while there, there was a sense of peace. And there was no knowledge of my loved ones or anything here on Earth.

Then there was a vacuum that pulled me back into my physical body again. And then I had the awareness that I was dying.

And my feelings of my family members, my loved ones were so forceful with me. I believe I -- God gave me a second chance to live. And I would like to have an opinion on your panel.

KING: Mary Ann, what do you think happened?

WILLIAMSON: Well, you know it is interesting because her story is repeated so many times by people who had extraordinary near death experiences. There is a man named Tom Melon Benedict who has written an incredible piece which embellishes on what this woman just said.

I think she entered the realm of the light. She saw the light that is described. And I believe that when she said is true, God felt that for her she need to complete here in some other chapters in her soul's journey here on this Earth before she goes permanently. But I think what a gift she received in a way to have seen that light. KING: Ellen, if you accept her story, how do you explain it?

JOHNSON: Have an atheist go through the same thing. She was on obviously a believer before it happened. So, she will have a particular and cultural and religious interpretation. But there are physiological explanations for what happened.

There is no evidence that there is life after death. So theists rely on this kind of experience to try to prove there is life after death. It really doesn't prove there is life after death.

KING: Other than the Christ story, Dr. Hathout -- there is no proof, is there? Other than the Christ story? There's no proof. You don't know anybody who died.

HATHOUT: Nobody died and came back. We, as Muslims -- we believe that Jesus has yet to come. So we believe that once you go through the door, you are not going to come back until after the day of judgment.

However, as I said, not everything we believe in we have to see. How do you believe that water is oxygen and hydrogen? Somebody told you. If you have been told that fact by some source you trust, whether in the case of here is the Bible or in our case the Koran or the Torah, or your mother or your father or whatever, or your science teachers, you believe things without seeing them happening otherwise, our scope would be extremely limited.

JOHNSON: No, we don't. We don't accept that -- we accept them when we finally have the evidence for them. But if somebody tells me something when there is no evidence for it, I'm in the obligated to accept it.

HATHOUT: No. Nobody is obligated for anything. Everybody is completely entitled to his or her beliefs according to their ability to...

king: I believe most of our faith are faiths of our parents? We didn't go out and study comparative religion, right? Your father was Protestant, I'll bet.

MACARTHUR: Yes. My father was actually a pastor and still alive.

KING: You're Catholic, you're Jewish. You're from Muslims. Mary Ann, what was your father?

WILLIAMSON: I'm Jewish. I'm Jewish. I'm Jewish.

KING: You're Jewish. Ellen, were you raised Jewish, Ellen?

JOHNSON: No, my parents were not religious, of course.

KING: Why of course?

JOHNSON: If the panel at all fits. KING: They could have been and you could have broken away.

JOHNSON: Because everybody going down the panel there -- if they're religious this, they he had a religious upbringing. I'm an atheist and I was brought up in a nonreligious household.

HATHOUT: However you can be brought up in certain religions, but certain things happen in your life to either confirm or do away with your religion. So, it is not just the box that we are born within.

All of us are exposed to experiences that might make them live the religion or get...

KING: I'm running out of time.

MANNING: One of the most important thins about religion is an encounter with God. It has to be a personal relationship with God. If I'm Muslim, if I'm Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, I encounter the Lord and this is real. And this reality -- no, to the person that experiences God, you can't take this away from me because I've experienced it.

KING: I'll close with the words from "Fiddler on the Roof" "to life, to life lachaim." Lachaim, lachaim to life.

We thank our guests. We hope we have explored this situation well. We look forward to doing more programs on it.

Stay tuned now for a very special edition of "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown. A look back at the 507 squad of two years ago. Don't go away.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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