Engaging the Culture
7/19/12 at 02:37 PM 13 Comments

Heaven & Hell Survey

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Would you be willing to take a 6 question survey about your thoughts on Heaven and Hell?

That was the question I asked people sitting in front of the Public Library in New York City on two different days last week.

As you can imagine if you’ve ever been in New York, a lot of people said “No” even before I asked the question. Others were visitors from other countries – some spoke English, some did not. One elderly couple was visiting from Israel. A man and his two daughters were from Columbia. A woman visiting from London thought it was very interesting. And, another who was born in Russia but had lived in New York for the last 20 years, looked forward to an opportunity to freely share her thoughts.

It was clearly an unscientific survey, but I wanted to see what “real” people “really” thought about the afterlife, since death – and not even taxes – is the only thing we can actually be sure of in life!

Interest in the Afterlife

There has been much discussion recently about Heaven and Hell.

On July 6, 2012, Barbara Walters hosted a 2-hour special on ABC's 20/20 entitled, Heaven: Where Is It? How Do We Get There?  In it, she interviewed people from many different faith backgrounds on their beliefs in Heaven. She touched on the issue of Hell at the end of the program. According to the website TVByTheNumbers, it was the top rated network program for the evening for adults 18-49. It beat out NBC's Dateline, as well as reruns of CSI:NY on CBS, Bones on Fox, and Supernatural on CW.

The cover story for the April 16, 2012 issue of TIME Magazine was Rethinking Heaven. The featured article focused on the writings of a number of recent scholars who have pointed out that the New Testament idea of eternal life is not just a pie-in-the-sky future reward. Rather, it is, in the words of N.T. Wright, God's space, while earth . . . is our space. And the Bible makes it clear that the two overlap and interlock."

A little over a year ago, Rob Bell’s controversial book, Love Wins, was published. As stated in the subtitle, it was A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.  It was immediately a best-seller.

So, What Do People Think?

I was encouraged by the variety of people who filled out my short survey. Willing participants were male and female of various ages, White, Black, Asian, Latin, Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, and Jewish.

As expected, those in my sample who professed to be Atheists did not believe in either Heaven or Hell, and those professing to be Agnostic generally answered “Not Sure” to both.

Half of those who claimed to be Buddhist did not believe in either Heaven or Hell. The other half was evenly split between those who believed in both and those who were not sure for both.

Among the Jewish respondents to my survey, a little over 80% believed in Heaven, but less than 20% believed in Hell.

The largest group taking the survey said they were Christians. Of that group, 84% believed in Heaven, but only 42% believed in Hell.

The large gap is undoubtedly true in part because people in modern America are increasingly coming into contact with friends, co-workers, and even family members from a variety of different faiths. People don’t like exclusivity, and they don’t want to think that those they love are going to spend an eternity in Hell where they will experience endless, conscious suffering with no hope of any kind of relief.

Interestingly, 65% of the Christians who took the survey answered that they either did not believe, or were not sure that misery in Hell was never-ending.

Who Will Ultimately Be In Heaven?

Several people commented that the most interesting question was the last one.

At the end of time, what percentage of the total population of the earth most closely represents the number of those you believe will be in Heaven? 

            __ 0% __ 10% __ 25% __ 50% __ 75% __ 100%

Some chose not to answer the question at all and, predictably, the Atheists answered 0%.

However, what was most surprising to me was that 74% of the Christians who took the survey thought that one-half or more of the total population of the world would eventually be in heaven – and only 19% believed that, ultimately, that number would include 25% or less of all those God created!

In fact, the number of people who thought 100% of the total population of the earth would ultimately be in Heaven was the same as the combined total for those who thought only 10-25% would eventually be there! One person actually put down two answers: 10% and 100% - the latter included the comment, “optimistic with hope that we all make it!”

The Survey

The information from this survey will be used in an article for the blog, Engaging the Culture, and posted on the ChristianPost.com website.

1. With which of the following religions or religious groups do you most closely identify?
__ Atheist
__ Agnostic
__ Buddhist
__ Christian (Eastern Orthodox)
__ Christian (Evangelical)
__ Christian (Mainline Protestant)
__ Christian (Roman Catholic)
__ Christian (Other)
__ Hindu
__ Islam
__ Jehovah’s Witness
__ Jewish (Reformed)
__ Jewish (Conservative)
__ Jewish (Orthodox)
__ Jewish (Other)
__ Mormon
__ Unitarian
__ Other (Specify) ____________________________

2. Do you believe in a place or state of happiness after death, commonly referred to as Heaven?
    __ Yes __ No __ Not Sure

3. Do you believe happiness in Heaven is never-ending?
    __ Yes __ No __ Not Sure

4. Do you believe in a place or state of misery after death, commonly referred to as Hell?
    __ Yes __ No __ Not Sure

5. Do you believe misery in Hell is never-ending?
    __ Yes __ No __ Not Sure

6. At the end of time, what percentage of the total population of the earth most closely represents the number of those you believe will be in Heaven?
    __ 0% __ 10% __ 25% __ 50% __ 75% __ 100%

Would YOU Like to Take the Survey?

Would you be willing to take a 6 question survey about your thoughts on Heaven and Hell?

If so, please go to my website – GeorgeWSarris.com/survey – and take it online.

If you think your friends would be interested, let them know about it. Please take the survey only once to assure an accurate result. When you click “Submit,” you will see the totals listed for each question up to that point.

Heaven and Hell are issues that affect everyone. So, what do you think?

              Visit George W. Sarris on Facebook, YouTube, or his Website

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