Survey: 32% of Atheists & Agnostics Believe in an Afterlife
A survey compiled in 2014 by The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture (AISFC) reveals that 32 percent of Americans who identified themselves as agnostics and atheists believe in an afterlife of some kind. In addition, 6 percent of the same non-theistic group expressed a belief in a “bodily resurrection”. These numbers were taken from a sample of 15,738 Americans, all of which were between the ages of 18 and 60. According to the data, 13.2 percent of Americans identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or some other variation of non-believing.
I found these results to be quite surprising. Having been immersed in circles of atheists and agnostics for the past 20 years, the numbers revealed by this study are higher than I would have guessed, by quite a lot. What stands out the most is that 6% expressed a belief in resurrection. It could be a statistical anomaly of some sort (perhaps the respondents did not understand the question about bodily resurrection?) Why an atheist or agnostic would believe that a dead person could come back to life seems entirely contrary to their worldview.
But as the authors of the survey admit, the results are far from a definitive. From the introduction of the report:
“We recognize that any analyses of these issues are incomplete, and this report is no exception. All analysis builds on previous work, and we are grateful to the many researchers whose work has helped us to shape and position this report. The sections, or questions, should not be thought of as comprehensive as more thorough examinations consonant with academic journal articles or book chapters. Additionally, this report is not peer-reviewed. But we hope that the research featured here adds to growing interest in research in these fields, and that others who come after will find this data and these analyses useful in shaping their understanding of the complex issues that shape American families and society.”
The concept of an afterlife is a very powerful idea, even to people who you might otherwise think differently. Agnostics and atheists are human beings with all of the same inherent biases, flaws, and sacred-cows which are standard equipment in a human brain. People innately want to believe in things which make them comfortable, such as death not being “the end” of a person’s existence. That is a very powerful obstacle to overcome, even for people who rely on reason and rationality in their everyday lives.