Friday, October 24, 2003

Heaven or Hell?

From Barna Research Online comes a new study: Americans Describe Their Views About Life After Death

"Although the lifestyles, values, and self-perceptions of most adults have undergone significant change – and millions of Americans have embraced many elements of a postmodern worldview – the vast majority continues to believe that there is life after death, that everyone has a soul, and that Heaven and Hell exist"

We're into 2003 and people still believe in the afterlife?

"Belief in life after death, like the existence of God, is widely embraced: 8 out of 10 Americans (81%) believe in an afterlife of some sort. Another 9% said life after death may exist, but they were not certain. Just one out of every ten adults (10%) contend that there is no form of life after one dies on earth.

Moreover, a large majority of Americans (79%) agreed with the statement “every person has a soul that will live forever, either in God’s presence or absence.”

Only 10% believe there is no life after death, the vast majority of Americans believe we have an immortal soul.

"The survey also explored peoples’ views of Heaven and Hell. In all, 76% believe that Heaven exists, while nearly the same proportion said that there is such a thing as Hell (71%). Respondents were given various descriptions of Heaven and asked to choose the statement that best fits their belief about Heaven. Those who believe in Heaven were divided between describing Heaven as “a state of eternal existence in God’s presence” (46%) and those who said it is “an actual place of rest and reward where souls go after death” (30%). Other Americans claimed that Heaven is just “symbolic” (14%), that there is no such thing as life after death (5%), or that they are not sure (5%).

While there is no dominant view of Hell, two particular perspectives are popular. Four out of ten adults believe that Hell is “a state of eternal separation from God’s presence” (39%) and one-third (32%) says it is “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.” A third perspective that one in eight adults believe is that “Hell is just a symbol of an unknown bad outcome after death” (13%). Other respondents were “not sure” or said they that they do not believe in an afterlife (16%)."

Most Americans believe in Heaven and hell but they don't agree on what they are. 14% believe Heaven is symbolic - symbolic of what I wonder? The definition of hell is mostly split between an actual place of torment and suffering for people's souls (ouch, do souls have pain receptors?) and a state of eternal seperation from God's presence. I guess that means we're in a temporary hell right now because God is surely seperated from us. Surveys are vague and don't allow explanations but it would be interesting to hear what people actually believe.

"Most Americans do not expect to experience Hell first-hand: just one-half of 1% expect to go to Hell upon their death. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) believe they will go to Heaven. One in 20 adults (5%) claim they will come back as another life form, while the same proportion (5%) contend they will simply cease to exist."

See, only one-half of 1% expect to go to hell when they die. That doesn't really surprise me, people tend to view themselves as basically good regardless of their behavior. It's human nature. Moral relativism is so prevalent now that people also attribute that trait to God.

"One in every four adults (24%) admitted that they have ”no idea” what will happen after they die."

Alright. I can understand that.

"Among those who expect to go to Heaven, there were differences in how they anticipate such an end would be attained. Nearly half of those who say they are Heaven bound (43%) believe they will go to Heaven because they have “confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.” Others felt they will get to Heaven because 'they have tried to obey the 10 Commandments' (15%) or because 'they are basically a good person' (15%). Another 6% believed their entrance to Heaven would be based upon the fact that 'God loves all people and will not let them perish.'”

No agreement there. At least no one said you get to heaven by blowing yourself and as many infidels as possible into ground meat. 6% believe God loves all people and will not let them perish. Does that include Hitler, Stalin and their ilk? I wonder.

"One of the intriguing findings from the research is that education and income are negatively correlated with belief in Heaven and Hell. In other words, the more education a person gets or the more income they earn, the less likely they are to believe that Heaven or Hell exists"

Our educational system is anti-God from the ground up - no surprise there, and if you have an abundance it's easy to forget where it all came from. The less you have the more thankful you are for every penny. I don't know why that's so intriguing though.

"Although a comparison of current beliefs to those held over the past two decades shows that Americans’ views about life after death have been relatively stable over time, new perceptions about the hereafter are being grafted into the traditional perspectives. For instance, nearly 1 in 5 adults (18%) now contends that people are reincarnated after death. And one-third of Americans (34%) believe that it is possible to communicate with others after their death. As evidence that this belief is gaining traction, consider that nearly half (48%) of all Busters (ages 20-38) embrace the concept of communication with the dead, while just 35% of Boomers (39-57) and 15% of Elders (ages 58+) do so."

Belief in communication with the dead is increasing rapidly, maybe from watching TV and movies. I know there has been at least one popular show that has a guy who claims to talk to the dead. I couldn't come up with a name to save my life though.

"George Barna, the president of the company that conducted the research, pointed out that “Americans’ willingness to embrace beliefs that are logically contradictory and their preference for blending different faith views together create unorthodox religious viewpoints.” For instance, he noted that among born again Christians - who believe that they will experience eternal existence in Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins to God and are depending upon Jesus Christ to spare them from eternal punishment or rejection - 10% believe that people are reincarnated after death, 29% claim it is possible to communicate with the dead, and 50% contend that a person can earn salvation based upon good works.

“Many committed born again Christians believe that people have multiple options for gaining entry to Heaven. They are saying, in essence, ‘Personally, I am trusting Jesus Christ as my means of gaining God’s permanent favor and a place in Heaven – but someone else could get to Heaven based upon living an exemplary life.’ Millions of Americans have redefined grace to mean that God is so eager to save people from Hell that He will change His nature and universal principles for their individual benefit. It is astounding how many people develop their faith according to their feelings or cultural assumptions rather than biblical teachings.”
Emphasis mine.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

"Half of all atheists and agnostics say that every person has a soul, that Heaven and Hell exist, and that there is life after death. One out of every eight atheists and agnostics even believe that accepting Jesus Christ as savior probably makes life after death possible. These contradictions are further evidence that many Americans adopt simplistic views of life and the afterlife based upon ideas drawn from disparate sources, such as movies, music and novels, without carefully considering those beliefs."

They are right on the money there.

God says in Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

On the one hand is death and on the other eternal life. Death obviously doesn't mean eternal life in hell in that context. Death is the opposite of life. Cessation of being.

Sidenote: 1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

This is interesting: John 3:13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

Jesus said no man has ascended to heaven except Jesus Himself.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.

John 11:11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." 12 Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.

The Bible speaks of the dead as knowing nothing and describes the state of the dead as sleeping. But why sleeping if they are dead? Will they awaken?

Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.

1 Corinthians 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

God put in man a spirit essence which gives us awareness and understanding far beyond any other animal but is not conscious in and of itself. In addition, the spirit of God must be added to the human spirit in order to understand God and His ways. Further reading about death and eternal life, Heaven and hell, the Bible, Jesus or the Gospel (Gospel means plainly "Good News, " don't let the religiosity of the term fool you) can be found by clicking the links. Hard copies of most of them are available completely free of charge or begging here. Don't believe me and don't believe anyone - believe your Bible.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Oh, it was Satan who said: Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Mixing truth and lie, you shall not surely die right now, but you will be under penalty of the law - death - living dead - and oh, what a wonderful world it would be if we didn't "know evil."

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