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Nobody knows what happens after we die.
However, according to scientific research, four out of every five younger adults between 18 and 29 years old believe in some sort of afterlife.
A research team from San Diego State University, Florida Atlantic University, and Case Western Reserve University took data from the General Social Survey – where 58,000 people are interviewed every year about various things, including religion – and published the results of the survey in Sage Journals.
The respondents were asked questions such as “What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?” and “Do you believe in life after death?”
The results showed that by 2014, people were less likely to pray, believe in God, identify as religious, attend religious services, or believe the Bible was the word of God than they had been previously. The biggest declines in religious beliefs were seen in the 2000s and 2014 among those 18 to 29 years old, with a decrease from 49% to 38% identifying as religious.
However, there was an increase in people believing in an afterlife, from 73% in 1972-74 to 80% in 2014. In fact, those in younger generations were more likely to believe there is life after death than older ones.
One explanation the authors tentatively give for this is the rise in entitlement within younger generations – meaning expecting special privileges for nothing in return.
“Entitlement appears in religious and spiritual domains when people see themselves as deserving spiritual rewards or blessings due to their special status,” the authors wrote. “Entitlement centered on afterlife beliefs could be seen as a modern rendition of Pascal’s wager, in which the individual observes that believing in God and a positive afterlife has few downsides, but not believing has the major possible downside of condemnation to eternal suffering.”
According to a blog post by Mario D Garrett, a professor of gerontology at San Diego State University, the more entitled you feel, i.e. those who are white and middle class, the more likely you are to believe in an afterlife waiting for you, even if you don’t believe there is a god. Garrett says minorities do not feel this entitlement to the same degree.
So if you believe you’ll be saved after you die, yet have no particular religious persuasion, you might want to think about why that is.