Atheism and life after death

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According to a study performed in the United States by researchers Wink and Scott, very religious people fear death the least.[1]

The website Skeptics Guide indicates that a significant number of atheists and agnostics believe in life after death and the website reported:

A survey compiled in 2014 by The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture (AISFC) reveals that 32 percent of Americans who identified themselves as agnostics and atheists believe in an afterlife of some kind. In addition, 6 percent of the same non-theistic group expressed a belief in a “bodily resurrection”. These numbers were taken from a sample of 15,738 Americans, all of which were between the ages of 18 and 60. According to the data, 13.2 percent of Americans identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or some other variation of non-believing.

I found these results to be quite surprising. Having been immersed in circles of atheists and agnostics for the past 20 years, the numbers revealed by this study are higher than I would have guessed, by quite a lot. What stands out the most is that 6% expressed a belief in resurrection. It could be a statistical anomaly of some sort (perhaps the respondents did not understand the question about bodily resurrection?) Why an atheist or agnostic would believe that a dead person could come back to life seems entirely contrary to their worldview.[2]

According to the original Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture report:

Mormons reported the highest rate of belief in a conscious afterlife (98 percent), followed by evangelicals, Pentecostals, and fundamentalist Protestants (94 percent). Even mainline Protestants only trailed slightly, at 93 percent. Nine in ten Muslims indicated their agreement, while varieties of Catholic American trailed them (with traditional Catholics peaking at 85 percent). Jews (58 percent) and Hindus (59 percent) were the least likely among religious Americans to believe in life after death. Predictably, those without a religious affiliation (or who called themselves atheists or agnostics) were least confident in life after death, at 32 percent. By contrast, Americans who identify as spiritual-but-not-religious, which represents nearly eight (8) percent of the population, were far more confident in life after death (79 percent).[3]

For more information, please see: Atheism and death

Atheism and Hell

See also: Atheism and Hell

The journalist and ex-atheist Peter Hitchens and fear of Hell

The journalist and ex-atheist Peter Hitchens, who is the brother of the late atheist Christopher Hitchens, said upon seeing an art exhibit of Michelangelo's painting The Last Judgment he came to the realization that he might be judged which startled him.[4] This started a train of thought within Peter Hichens that eventually led him to become a Christian.[5]

Child/teen atheist and fear of hell

A child/teen atheist wrote to the atheist psychologist Dr. Darrell Ray:

Dear Darrel,

I have recently decided that I am an atheist. The problem is that I am now much more anxious about my own mortality, and the mortality of the people I care about. It is scary to suddenly feel like there isn’t a God looking out for us, and that there will just be nothing after we die. Also I can’t help being afraid that if I am wrong I will go to Hell. How should I cope with these fears?[6]

Atheist posting at the forum about his fear of death

Last Judgment by Johann Georg Unruhe - Damned souls going to Hell.

In December 2012, an atheist posted in the forum:

I have been an atheist for about a year and a half. I wasn't heavily indoctrinated or raised religious but I did believe in god for the first 16 years of my life. I always believed in a hell but I thought that only murders and people like that went there. It wasn't until I went through this like 6 month religious phase that I learned all the rules and that a lot more things can get you sent to hell then I thought. During this time my anxiety and ocd got really bad. Now I am an atheist but I still suffer from a fear in hell.

I get negative thoughts about satan and hell and I don't believe in god but I worry "what if I'm wrong?". It's really frustrating because I feel like a hypocrite that I don't believe in god but I keep getting worried and anxiety about what if I'm wrong.

I was just wondering if any of you feel the same thing I do or any tips on how to get over it.[7]

There are no atheists in Hell

Christian author Dr. R.T Kendall writes in book He Saves: The Assurance of Salvation through Faith:

For There are no atheists in hell. They may have been atheists before they went to hell. But once they are in hell they become total believers in the existence and justice of God.[8]

Atheists and belief in ghosts

Ninety-four percent of Pentecostals believe in an afterlife according to a survey of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.[9]

The atheist Hemant Mehta is an author, popular atheist blogger, and atheist activist.

In a video entitled Yes, atheists CAN believe in ghosts, although Mehta disagrees with them, Mehta points out that there are atheists who: believe in ghosts, believe they have a soul, read tarot cards and read their horoscopes daily.[10] According to Mehta, merely not believing in the existence of God, strictly speaking, does not close the door to other supernatural beliefs.[11]

Atheist philosopher of A.J. Ayer's near death experience

See also: Atheism and death

Michael Liccione wrote:

Most students of philosophy will recognize the name of A.J. Ayer, who died in 1989. An atheist, he was one of the best-known representatives of a school of thought known as “logical positivism,” which holds (among other things) that religious claims are meaningless because they are not empirically verifiable.

It’s therefore interesting to note that Ayer, a year before his own death, reported having a near-death experience...

“One of his doctors later claimed Ayer had confided to him, ‘I saw a Divine Being. I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise all my books and opinions.’"[12]

Technology and atheists who fear death

See also: Religion's/Irreligion's effect on death anxiety

Naturalism as a philosophical stance rejects the possibility of supernatural phenomena, describing such phenomena as misunderstood natural phenomena or falsehood. This preconception necessarily precludes the existence of God.

Atheists who strictly hold to naturalism and possess death anxiety, sometimes turn to pseudoscience such as cryonics and transhumanism (see: Atheism and cryonics and Atheism and transhumanism).

New atheists Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers and an afterlife

Richard Dawkins said, ""A serious case could be made for a deistic God." [13][14]

See also: Richard Dawkins and agnosticism

The new atheist and agnostic Richard Dawkins said, "A serious case could be made for a deistic God." [15][16] Most deists believe in an afterlife.[17] At the same time, deists maintain that no one knows for sure what happens after death.[18][19]

Previously, in 2002, Richard Dawkins publicly argued for the position of militant atheism and declared that he will not feel anything after death.[20][21] A 2012 study by the General Social Survey of the social science research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found that belief in God rises with age, even in atheistic nations.[22] On the other hand, Dawkins flip-flops between being an agnostic and an atheist as far as his public persona (see: Richard Dawkins and agnosticism).

The new atheist PZ Myers dreamt about dying and standing before the pearly gates of heaven.

See also


  1. Fear of death: worst if you’re a little religious?, World of Science]
  2. Survey: 32% of Atheists & Agnostics Believe in an Afterlife
  3. Study, Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture: Do people still believe in life after death?
  4. Interview of Peter Hitchens - Video at Vimeo
  5. Interview of Peter Hitchens - Video at Vimeo
  6. Google cache of How do atheists handle the fear of death at:
  7. I have a fear of hell, forum, posted 28-12-2012, 04:50 AM
  8. He Saves: The Assurance of Salvation through Faith by Dr. R.T Kendall, Cross Books Publishing, 2013
  9. Study, Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture: Do people still believe in life after death?
  10. Yes, atheists CAN believe in ghosts
  11. Yes, atheists CAN believe in ghosts
  12. [Atheist Philosopher Describes His Fascinating Near-Death Experience]
  13. Richard Dawkins’ "Clear Thinking Oasis" is Getting a Bit Muddy by Wesley J. Smith, First Things, November 7, 2008
  14. Dawkins' deism and Jesus
  15. Richard Dawkins’ "Clear Thinking Oasis" is Getting a Bit Muddy by Wesley J. Smith, First Things, November 7, 2008
  16. Dawkins' deism and Jesus
  17. What Do Deists Think Happens After We Die
  18. Deism and death
  19. What Do Deists Think Happens After We Die
  20. Mailvox: Richard Dawkins is not an atheist!
  21. Belief in God rises with age, even in atheist nations