To begin, we found that people 50 and over tend to be downright conventional in their basic beliefs: nearly three quarters (73 percent) agree with the statement “I believe in life after death.” Women are a lot more likely to believe in an afterlife (80 percent) than men (64 percent).
Two thirds of those who believe also told us that their confidence in a life after death has increased as they’ve gotten older.
And while 88 percent of people believe they’ll be in Heaven after they die, they’re not so sure about the rest of us. Those responding said 64 percent of all people get to Heaven. And many think the percentage will be a lot smaller than that.
More than half of those responding reported a belief in spirits or ghosts—with more women (60 percent) than men (44 percent) agreeing. Boomers are a lot more likely to believe in ghosts (64 percent) when compared with those in their 60s (51 percent) or 70s or older (38 percent). Their belief is not entirely based on hearsay evidence, either. Thirty-eight percent of all those responding to our poll say they have felt a presence, or seen something, that they thought might have been a spirit or a ghost.
The sentiment, I discovered, is echoed across a wide spectrum of belief—and disbelief. “Atheists celebrate life, but we know death is a reality,” says Margaret Downey, president of Atheist Alliance International. “We believe the only afterlife that a person can hope to have is the legacy they leave behind—the memory of the people who have been touched by their lives.”
It’s a good line. It also has more potential to resonate with people than the blunter version American Atheists president Ellen Johnson once told Barbara Walters:
“Heaven doesn’t exist, hell doesn’t exist. We weren’t alive before we were born and we’re not going to exist after we die. I’m not happy about the fact that that’s the end of life, but I can accept that and make my life more fulfilling now, because this is the only chance I have,” she tells Walters.
[tags]atheist, atheism, American Association of Retired Persons, AARP, afterlife, Heaven, death, Margaret Downey, Atheist Alliance International, American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, Barbara Walters[/tags]