Is there life after death? Survey says yes, but doesn’t reveal much confidence

A new survey demonstrates that the majority of Canadians do believe in life after death. That is somewhat positive, though there are major questions about what kind of afterlife, as well as particular concerns about weak affirmations from some faith groups.

Here is the introduction to the study, which was released March 24:

For many Canadians, Easter weekend has become a secular holiday celebrated by students as spring break and marked with a statutory holiday for workers across the country.

But the religious significance of the date still holds import for Christians, who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and perhaps provides an opportunity for others to consider if there is life beyond what we know.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, in partnership with Cardus, finds three-in-five Canadians believe there is some sort of life after death – whether that is the heaven or hell of the Christian faith, the Jannah or Jahannam of Islam, or the reincarnation of the soul believed by Sikhs and Hindus.

The belief in the afterlife has been held at a majority level steadily in survey data seen back to 1960. Two-in-five (40%) say there is no life after this one, but only one-in-eight (13%) Canadians “definitely” rule it out.

As Christians celebrate the Holy Week, they do so with varying beliefs depending on their sect. Evangelical Christians are the most likely (92% say yes) to believe in life after death, while Roman Catholics express more doubt (67%).

Among the other Abrahamic faiths, Muslims (87%) strongly believe while Jews predominately doubt the existence of life after death at a majority level (60%). Hindus (71%), who celebrated the arrival of spring with Holi this week, and Sikhs (67%) are also firm in their belief of life after death.

Go here for the full survey.

A couple of things struck me particularly:

  • There was a major difference between Catholics and Mainline Protestants on the one hand, and Evangelicals on the other, when it came to stating “Yes, I definitely do believe (in life after death).” Only 24% of Roman Catholics and 35% of Mainline Protestants answered that way, while 73% of Evangelicals responded affirmatively. (Still too low!)
  • Along the same lines, less than half of Roman Catholics agreed that “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical event that actually occurred in the 1st century.” That included those who “Somewhat agree.” Mainline Protestants were 55%, while Evangelicals were 81%. (Still too low!)
  • British Columbian respondents were right in line with the national average on “Do you believe in life after death,” not below as I had expected – 28% “Yes, I definitely do believe’ and 32% ‘Yes, I think so.’ Not what I’d call good news, but at least no worse than average. 

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