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Sunday, November 6, 2016

WHAT PERCENT OF PEOPLE ON PLANET EARTH BELIEVE IN THE AFTERLIFE?

It's Sunday, so today, I sermonize.  The crux of religiosity is that there is some higher authority or belief that transcends life as we know it.  Much of this is good and could well explain how Homo sapiens prevailed.  My issue is whether religions are today obsolete and are relics with such a powerful hysteresis that it will take many more millennia to shed.

Take something like the Second Amendment, for example.  Earlier this year I posted:


There is something patriotic about needing to own guns that a presidential candidate would be committing political suicide by saying the above.  

At the time this amendment became part of our Constitution, I too would have owned some firearm, for there were angry Indians, continued threat of the British, no police to protect me and a government which was suspect.  There are 500 active patriotic groups, most linked to guns, where they all think that nothing has changed since 1787 and they need arms to protect themselves from the Federal Government.  At best they have assault rifles.  Our military has tanks, nuclear weapons and more.  The times have changed, but mental attitudes take a long time to appreciate the reality.

So back to religion, I've always been curious about something called the afterlife.  My thought was that those who believed in God would have hope for something after death.

Well, I finally did some additional research today, and, surely enough, in an Ipsos/Reuters global poll of 18,000 people:
  • 51% believed in God
  • 51% believed in an afterlife
First, the fact that these numbers are equal makes sense.  Second, I can't believe these figures are so low.  Just in the USA, according to Gallup, 89% believe in God.  89%!!!  While not explained, it's possible that in India, with 80% Hindus, where this religion doesn't have one god and soul is immortal, a respondent might be be able to comprehend the notion of one god or an afterlife.

In China, of course, where religion is discouraged, it might not be safe to admit to something like God and the afterlife.  I know, for in a lecture I gave in Hangzhou to 50 students from Zhejiang University, I was naively curious as to how many in the audience believed in God and the afterlife.  Very few raised their hand.  I was told later, don't ask this question in this country.  People will report on others.
When you can, sometimes how you ask the question makes a big difference.  In June of this year, two versions were:
  • Do you believe in God?
  • Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?

However, this query in 1944 gave a response of 96%, which dropped only to 95% by 1994, half a century later.  So while the percentage went down (and there has been a recovery from two years ago when the number declined to 86%), compared to the World, an astonishing (to me) majority of those in the United States believe in God:

To be religiously specific:







For each of the following items I am going to read you, please tell me whether it is something you believe in, something you're not sure about or something you don't believe in.

Believe inNot sure aboutDon't believe in
%%%
God791011
Angels721216
Heaven711415
Hell641322
The devil611227
GALLUP, MAY 4-8, 2016
Somehow, I guess, Gallup added "not sure  about" to "believe in" to get 89%.  But 79% is still a whole lot higher than the world, at 51%.  Sure, many also believe in Angels and Heaven, but those come with the territory.

But here is where you sometimes wonder about these polls, for here is a result linking God to morality:


The countries near 100% include Ghana, Indonesia, Pakistan and much of the Middle East and Africa.  The U.S. is at around 55%.  I guess the conclusion you can come to is that Americans are religious, but don't necessarily link God to morality, which makes little sense to me.  Way down below 20% are China, Czech Republic, Spain, Britain and France.

I can go on and on, but I'll stop after one more, an Icelandic poll conducted by an association of atheists found the following:
  • 4.4% in Iceland are religious
  • however, 61.1% of Icelanders believe in God (more than the World)
  • ZERO % of those 25 and younger think it was God who created the Earth
  • In the U.S., belief that a Supreme Being guided evolution
    • 33% of White Catholics
    • 24% of all adults
    • half of Republicans 
    • one-third of Democrats and Indepents (same as adults)
You can check many other polls, but my conclusions from those (my SIMPLE SOLUTION for Humanity has a chapter just treating this subject) and the above are that:
  • There seems to be a sense that there is more to life than what we see.  Many will ask how can you explain love.  Thus, not being able to fully comprehend doesn't mean there might not be something more.  However, the matter of blind faith troubles me.  As an engineer and associated with some level of education my entire life, I need compelling proof to believe in something so prodigious.  I don't think it will be possible to ever convincingly confirm there is an afterlife or Supreme Being.  As such, unless something incredibly life-changing occurs, and soon, I can only look forward to eternal gloom at the end.
  • Around the world, the younger generation has less of a belief in God than the older generation.  You would think especially in developing nations that education should more and more make a difference, but, how can you explain us?  With among the better educational opportunities, 90% or so of Americans think there is a Supreme Being.  To reinforce the shift of youthful attitudes, Millennials (roughly 15-35 of age) in the U.S. are sinking in God belief:

In conclusion, I'm a bit surprised that only half of those on Planet Earth believe in an afterlife.  I thought I was in the minority, but at the global level, I'm normal.

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