ONLY 12 PERCENT of all Americans — that's less than one out of every eight — are NOT sure about whether there is, or is not, a life after death.
Is that surprising?
It should be. Because it means, of course, that the remainder ARE sure. Why are so few unsure? Why are a full 88 percent of all Americans — that's more than seven out of every eight — SURE that they themselves know the answer to what must be the most fundamental question of human existence? We intend to find out. But first of all we should realize that these self-confident 88 percent can only agree among themselves about their own self-confidence. There is a distinct division of opinion as to what they think the answer to the question really is: Thus, 84 percent of these 88 percent (or 74 percent of the total) are sure that there does exist a life after death. And 16 percent of these 88 percent (or 14 percent of the total) are just as sure that there does not exist a life after death. [These figures came from the American Institute of Public Opinion (Gallup Poll) release of April 14, 1960.] This leads us to the main point of this article. What we are presently interested in is why all these people believe as they do — and especially why such an amazingly large proportion of Americans seem quite sure that they KNOW the answer to the question of whether or not there is a "life after death." And a full 88% do claim to know this answer. Eighty-eight percent! That's a greater percentage than are usually sure which way they are going to vote in most political elections right down to the last week of the campaign! In other words, Americans are more sure about whether or not there is "life after death" than they are about which political candidate they like best. What makes 88 percent of us so sure about such an important issue? Let's find out by examining the three basic positions — NO, YES, CAN'T SAY — in response to our basic question, "Do you believe there is, or is not, a life after death?'
The 14 Percent Who Say "NO!"
These people say that there is no life after death. And they seem to be rather sure of themselves. The physical life of the body and brain, they claim, is all there is — and all there ever will be — and when it dies, you die. And that's all there is to it. Just four to ten decades of life, to be followed by an unending stream of billions of eons. About which you will forever remain unaware. In general, the 14 percent of the American public who seem to be quite sure that there is no life after death are for the most part the product of the scientific revolution — the "knowledge explosion" — our "technitronic" civilization in which man enjoys a-never-increasing comprehension of the organized complexities of physical life. This "enlightened elite" has supposedly been freed from the "archaic traditions" of past generations. Reality to this 14 percent is the physical world — reality is "the now" — reality is only that which can be apprehended by the physical brain. No doubt, the millions of individuals composing this group consider themselves "intellectually liberated" from "the confining shackles of religious superstitions which were concocted and imagined by primitive man." And so these people surely do consider themselves to be the "enlightened elite" — a product of "our sophisticated society," a society where reality must be measured and quantified by an equation, oscilloscope, test tube, microscope or computer or else it simply cannot be real. And in the 11 years since this specific survey was taken, our entire world has grown even more materialistic. As a result, we would expect a similar sampling of public opinion today to reveal an even larger percentage of people who are in their own minds rather sure that there is no life after death. These people would largely claim to have based their convictions on a wholly rational approach to their own existence — an approach seemingly founded on "the scientific method." They are proud to arrive at what they reason "must be the only rational and logically correct appraisal of the human situation — that there is nothing beyond the physical life." But is this conclusion as rational and logical as they would like to believe? Now we are not, for the moment, interested in whether the conclusion of no life after death is right or wrong — we are simply asking whether this conclusion is rational and logical to the scientifically oriented mind! We intend to prove that the answer is no! Because, whether this conclusion is ultimately right or whether it is ultimately wrong, in either case, to arrive at such a definitive conclusion of "no life after death" based on physical evidence alone is completely irrational and totally illogical. And this should be especially obvious to anyone who understands the limitations of science and the scope of the scientific method of reasoning. Science is restricted to the physical world. The scientific method of reasoning is limited to specific deductions which can be logically derived from the original assumptions or data. Now consider the fact that our original question, "Is there a life after death?" really means, "Does there exist some other form of life or consciousness which follows in time sequence the expiration and conclusion of our present physical lives?" Or, more directly, "Is there an existence BEYOND the physical life?" To answer these questions we must dissect out and comprehend the underlying nature — the very essence — of these questions. And this is it: they deal with an issue which is outside of the physical realm. Or, more accurately, they inquire whether there is an existence outside of, apart from and/or beyond the physical realm. Remember that 14 percent of all Americans give a categorical "No" answer. But, to come to this conclusion, they have used only data and information within the physical realm — gathered by physical instruments, apprehended by physical sense organs and interpreted by a physical brain. And they have thereby conclusively concluded — based on this data and information from the physical realm alone — that there cannot exist anything outside of the physical realm. This is a logically IMPOSSIBLE deduction. Especially for a mind which is rational and scientific. And most especially for a mind trained to properly utilize the scientific method of reasoning. Because, as we have shown, our question by definition involves areas outside of the physical realm. And so as a result, when we logically and correctly apply the scientific method, all the data and information in the entire physical universe cannot be applied to rigorously negate, deny and disprove the existence of a non-physical universe. Yet everyone who has concluded that there is no life after death — no non-physical existence — has indeed based that conclusion on physical evidence. And physical evidence alone. Which, as we have seen, is grossly illogical. So the very people who like to think of themselves as "the rational upholders of the scientific method" prove by their very conclusions that they have in fact been the most flagrant violators of that method!
The 74 Percent Who Say "YES!"
Logic is generally not the problem for the 74 percent of all Americans who believe that there is a life after death. It is not a problem because these people do not base their conclusion on physical evidence. Unfortunately, these people often do not appear to base their conclusion on any genuine evidence at all! "Evidence" — or proof — is never really considered. It is rather a motivation which generates a "YES" response to the question — a motivation which is usually either a desire to maintain a "cherished tradition," a compulsion to protect a childhood "security blanket," a wish to believe a comforting "sweet sentiment," or a hope to enjoy "a happier life after death ending the trials and tribulations of this present life." The irrational acceptance of a life after death by such an overwhelming majority of the American populace is easily understood. The eternal emptiness of death is both frightening and absurd at the same time. Human beings have a self-conscious personality and a unique spirited animation. It emotionally seems totally ridiculous for that peculiar "something" — which is me — to suddenly and permanently cease to exist. And yet every individual physical body and brain dies — after just a few halting steps along the endless corridors of time. Human beings crave something more — and a belief in a life after death, no matter how irrationally and illogically founded, satisfies that craving. Now the contention arises that much if not most of the 74 percent who believe in a life after death base their conviction on the Bible — rather than on some subconscious motivation as we have stated. Sorry, but we have to reject that contention. Because what the Bible actually says has little if anything to do with the overwhelming majority's belief in a life after death. Sure, we'll concede that the Bible may be used as a "crutch" for "tradition," or as a "security blanket," or as a "sweet sentiment" (or whatever else) by those who may not realize what their own underlying motivations really are. How can we be all that sure that what the Bible actually says has little to do with the reason why three out of four Americans subscribe to a belief in a life after death? Because so very few of these people actually live by the Bible. Now one should expect, that if an individual believed in a life after death because a certain Book said it was so, that this individual should do everything in his power to fulfill the conditions given by that Book to acquire that life after death. One would think that the chance for a life after death would be of such inestimable importance that every individual would mold and modify the behavior and tenor of his entire life in any way whatsoever. Yet how many are even trying to conscientiously and continuously obey all of the Ten Commandments? We can conservatively say, "Substantially less than 74 percent!" (If you disagree, check the Fourth, the Sabbath Commandment) Which all goes to prove that although many people would like to think that it is the Bible which has caused them to believe in a life after death, it just isn't so! We can corroborate this point with further evidence. How many of the 74 percent of all Americans who believe in a life after death believe this way because they know that they have — or "are" — an "immortal soul" which will not die when their physical body dies? Pretty near 100 percent. That's the common understanding — shared by both the major religions and their individual members alike. But not by the Bible.
What the Bible Does Say
An "immortal soul" is not the Biblical understanding of a life after death. As a matter of fact, the phrase "immortal soul" is not even mentioned in the Bible. Ezekiel twice emphasized that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4, 20). Jesus Christ plainly stated that both the body and the soul can be destroyed in gehenna fire (Matt. 10:28). And Paul concurred: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. -6:23). As for those who would interpret "death" to "really mean a conscious eternal life in hell," we can only conclude that they have apparently not read — or simply have chosen to overrule — the Psalmist who said of man, "He returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psalm 146:4). And Solomon has also been conveniently ignored — because he proclaimed that "the dead know not anything (Ecc. 9:5). Now feeling a trifle cramped, some are sure to protest that we are dealing with a problem of translation. Not so. Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated "soul" — nephesh and psuche — literally mean "breath" and refer to both animals and humans. Remember, the expression "immortal soul" never appears in the Bible. Since "immortal souls" didn't come from the Bible, where did our Judeo-Christian religions find them? The Jewish Encyclopedia freely admits that: "The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body... is speculation... nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture.... The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended." Plato is also the self-confessed authoritative source for the "Christian fathers" (e.g., Origen, Tertullian) who, two centuries after the death of Jesus, the supposed founder of the world's Christianity, first introduced "immortal souls" into Western Christians' thinking. (For further information, write for our free reprint article "Do You Have an Immortal Soul?") Consequently, since very few Americans live by the Bible and since the immortal soul theory is irrefutably refuted by the Bible, we can safely conclude that the fact that 74 percent of all Americans believe in a life after death has little to do with this most misunderstood Book.
The 12 Percent Who "Can't Say!"
These are the people who have not succumbed to the traditional comforts of saying "YES" or the intellectual vanity of saying "No." They are honest — and ignorant! Now we realize that many in the survey stated that they "didn't know" whether there was, or was not, a life after death because they have never even considered the question. Others perhaps were so wishy-washy that they were unable to commit themselves one way or the other. So, the number of individuals who in fact seriously and candidly thought about and analyzed this most fundamental question of human life and then came up with the logically precise answer that they REALLY didn't know is preciously few indeed. But it is these few whom we salute. These are the ones who have both properly understood the limitations of science and correctly applied the scientific method of reasoning. These are the ones who have elevated themselves above the simpleminded, half-baked conclusions of both the intellectually vain philosophers and the immortal-soul-propounding religionists. These at least are intelligent, truly scientific individuals. (It is interesting to compare the percentage of people in this "unaligned" category in the United States with the percentage of people in the same category in six other countries. See the accompanying box. Especially note that in Germany the number of "can't say" individuals is almost three times as large as in the U.S., while in Great Britain the number is more than twice as large as in the U.S.)
Where Do We All Stand?
All right. We have seen that the belief of those who do believe in a life after death is equally as irrational and equally as illogical as the belief of those who do not believe in such an "afterlife." Both do not apply anywhere near the carefully and correctly determined reasoning procedures which are absolutely necessary. And the few people who do reason properly are those who, after much consideration of the problem, CANNOT come to any conclusion at all! What a paradox! You can, of course, recognize the person who through correct reasoning procedures cannot come to any conclusion at all. He is the ideal agnostic. (And, by the way, the rare agnostic. Because most agnostics choose agnosticism — literally "not knowing" — as a result of their own intellectual ineptitude and/or laziness) Are we then praising the intellectually sincere agnostic? Well, here is a man who has realized that the religious traditions of men are like a straitjacket. And here is the very same man recognizing that the proper use of the scientific method prohibits a person from using the data of the physical realm to in any way "prove" the supposed nonexistence of the non-physical realm. So we most certainly respect the agnostic's incisive reasoning. But we are most assuredly not agnostics. Because we can neither praise nor respect ignorance. And the agnostic, by his own definition, is ignorant. He does not know the answer to the most fundamental question of human existence. And all too often — and incredibly — he is proud of it! At a time when the whole human family is perilously perched on the brink of cosmocide, the logically consistent conclusions of the agnostic seem morbidly out of place. Like a meticulous old woman orderly arranging her trinkets on the living room table while a tornado packed with 250-mile-per-hour winds is headed directly for her little wooden house. Humanity needs answers. And soon.
Where Is the Answer?
Even the most casual first-time reader of this magazine can pretty well anticipate what the answer is going to be. We don't want to be trite — but we do want to present the truth. The answer is IN the Bible. Nothing could be plainer. Skeptics delight in pointing out how many use the Bible to justify well near any doctrine that can be concocted. True! Take the "immortal soul" theory as one pregnant example. There are dozens of others. So we wholeheartedly agree with the skeptics. Nonetheless, the question we counter with is this: Where does the fault lie — with the Bible, or with the individual who uses it in an attempt to justify his personally conceived "beliefs"? In this context it is our purpose in TOMORROW'S WORLD to show what happens when the Bible is allowed to interpret itself. For example, the issue under consideration in this article is the question of life after death. Here the Bible is surprisingly clear. (It's only "surprising" because we have been prejudiced by the conflicting and confusing religious ideas of men) When a human being dies, he is dead — which means that his body, mind and soul are all dead. He simply stops "being." He becomes as dead as the earth itself — without thoughts (Psalm 146:4) and without any consciousness whatsoever (Ecc. 9:5). If there ever was an individual who "deserved" to have a life after death, it was David, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), a man whose heart was perfect before God (I Kings 11:4). Yet over 1000 years after he had died, yes, even after Christ had been resurrected, Peter succinctly reported — under divine inspiration — that David was both dead and buried and was not ascended into the heavens (Acts 2:29, 34). This means that immediately after an individual's death — and perhaps for up to thousands of years to follow — there is absolutely no life after death. But this brings us to the ultimate answer: There indeed IS a life after death — eventually! It is discussed throughout the Bible. It is as sure as the rising of yesterday's sun. It is the fact of the RESURRECTION. Of course the Bible speaks of more than one resurrection. And everybody must be in one of them! (Obviously, space does not permit us to fully discuss the various Biblical resurrections. The interested reader is encouraged to read our articles Is This the Only Day of Salvation? and What Is Death?) The first resurrection will occur when Jesus Christ returns to this earth. This is the moment when all who have been dead in Christ will rise from their graves (I Thes. 4:16). David will be among them. And he knew it: "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15). And finally, a little over a thousand years later, when God's Plan for this present earth has been completed, "Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (I Cor. 15:54). Or as Goodspeed translates it, "Death has been triumphantly destroyed." This is the revelation of God to man about life after death. It is sure!