What People Believe About the Afterlife

It doesn’t take much of an investigation to understand that we’re living in a time of intense struggle. While the digital technology industry has made more progress than ever before, the development of human beings has declined severely. Religious practice has plummeted, family growth has fallen, and people spend more time in front of screens than ever before in human history.

It seems like every moral standard America has ever stood for has fallen by the wayside in the wake of people’s greed. People live as if this world is all we have; like there is no afterlife, no glorious end. Pew Research Center recently did a study on people’s thoughts on the afterlife and it yielded some intriguing results. Cale took a look at these results on The Cale Clarke Show and discussed their implications and what we can learn from this study.

Pew surveyed 6,485 American adults for this study. “So, let me bottom-line some of the numbers for you. 73% of Americans today believe in heaven and 62% still believe in hell. That is interesting to me.” Cale found these statistics intriguing because this study was done in the heart of the pandemic when the severity of the illness was at its worst. During a time when many were doubting their beliefs, seeking answers, and questioning God as to why he might inflict this suffering, a significant majority of people still expressed belief in the afterlife.

Dissecting some of the more specific demographics:

  • Evangelicals: 96% believe in heaven; 91% believe in hell.
  • Catholics: 90% believe in heaven; 74% believe in hell.
  • 68% of men believe in heaven; 78% of women believe in heaven.
  • Ages 18-49: 67% believe in heaven; 58% believe in hell.
  • Ages 50+: 80% believe in heaven; 67% believe in hell.
  • Republican: 85% believe in heaven; 75% believe in hell.
  • Democrat: 64% believe in heaven; 52% believe in hell.

Getting even more specific, 70% of those surveyed believe that heaven is a place where people are free from suffering. 65% believe that they will be reunited with loved ones who previously died. 62% believe that they can personally meet God in heaven and 60% believe that they will have perfectly healthy bodies.

Unfortunately, as for the methods of attaining salvation, the Catholics surveyed made a poor showing. 68% of Catholics believe that you can go to heaven without believing in God and only 16% believe that Catholicism is the one, true faith. By contrast, only 34% of Protestants said that you can get to heaven without believing in God and 38% say that they believe that Protestantism is the one, true faith.

Cale attributed these shocking statistics to a widespread, poor understanding of the Catechism. Unfortunately, many Catholics are not being given the education they need to live their faith effectively, and that fact combined with the declining biblical literacy rate has produced lukewarm Catholics.

To that point, it is vital that all Catholics come to understand the concepts of heaven, hell, and purgatory. Heaven is real. It is an entrance into perfect happiness where we will meet God face-to-face. We will obtain perfectly healthy, glorified bodies and experience no more suffering because heaven is “the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (CCC 1024) Saints are people who have died and gone to heaven. We do not become angels when we go to heaven.

Hell is real. We will go there if we die with a grave, mortal sin on our soul. It is an eternal allowance of one to live the life they desired on earth: one without God. Hell is an “unquenchable fire” that is “reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.” (CCC 1034)

Purgatory is real. All who die in the friendship with God but are imperfectly purified will spend time in Purgatory. It is a place of repentance and purification and after a soul has been cleansed, that soul will go to heaven.

Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.