(RNS) As Americans get older, their confidence in an afterlife increases, according to a recent survey of people over 50 conducted by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the advocacy group for seniors.
Seventy-three percent of older people believe in life after death, and two-thirds of those believers say that confidence has grown with age, according to the survey.
But while 86 percent of respondents say there is a heaven (70 percent believe in hell), they were split on what it looks like and if humans go there. Forty percent of those who believe say heaven is a place, while 47 percent think heaven is a “state of being.”
“Americans see life after death as a very dynamic thing,” said Alan F. Segal, a professor of religion at Barnard College, in the AARP article. “You don’t really hear about angels and wings, sitting on clouds playing melodies. … They talk about humor in the afterlife, continuing education, unifying families — like a retirement without financial needs.”
While most people believe that heaven exists, and about nine in 10 of them say they’ll end up there, they are less sure about others. People who believe in heaven say an average of 64 percent of others will get there, too.
Other findings in the survey:
Â· Women are more likely to believe in an afterlife (80 percent) than men (64 percent).
Â· Income matters: Of those who believe in an afterlife, 90 percent of those earning $25,000 or less believe in heaven, compared to just 78 percent of people with an income of $75,000 and above.
Â· 29 percent of those who believe in a heaven think one must “believe in Jesus Christ” to enter. Twenty-five percent believe “good people” go to heaven, and 10 percent think everyone is admitted.
The survey was conducted by telephone between June 29 and July 10. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.