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“I would've said no,” Alexander said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey when she asked him if he believed in God before his near-death experience. “There was no way to explain it based on my neuroscientific career.”
Neal, who is an orthopedic surgeon, became unconscious while trapped underwater and says that she went to heaven and met angels who eventually told her she had to go back to her life.
There have been earlier books, of course, by writers who claim they traveled to heaven. These include the 2004 title “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper, which also cracked the New York Times bestseller list, and “Flight to Heaven,” a 2010 book by pilot Dale Black.
Barnes & Noble vice president for marketing Patricia Bostelman says she thinks some readers have been convinced by the fact that Neal and Alexander are doctors.
“When you have people from science backgrounds, it adds a certain credibility," Bostelman told USA Today. "They provide an authority from a scientific perspective. It's not a popular point of view in their world."
Phyllis Tickle, religious editor for Publishers Weekly, says the appeal of the stories is simple: people want to believe there is a heaven.
“We want to hear from someone who has gone there, done that, seen it,” she said in an interview with USA Today. “That there is something beyond this life.”