Elbow Room No Problem in Heaven
Nine in 10 Americans Believe in Heaven, but a Quarter Say It’s Christians Only
Dec. 20, 2005

Belief in Heaven
  Belief in Heaven If Believe, Think They Will Go If Believe, Spiritual Only
All 89% 85% 78%
Evangelical Protestants 99% 94% 78%
Non-evangelical Protestants 96% 84% 83%
Catholics 96% 84% 84%
Very Religious 98% 90% 75%
Somewhat Religious 96% 86% 77%
Not Religious 72% 77% 81%
Have No Religion 51% NA* NA*
*Sample Too Small

Vast majorities of Americans believe in heaven and think they’re headed there. But elbow room won’t be a problem: About eight in 10 believers envision heaven as a place where people exist only spiritually, not physically.

Eighty-nine percent in this ABC News poll believe in heaven, which is consistent with data going back 30 years. Among believers, 85 percent think they’ll personally go there — mainly in spirit, since 78 percent say it’s a place where people exist only spiritually.

Who gets in is another matter. Among people who believe in heaven, one in four thinks access is limited to Christians. More than a third of Protestants feel that way, and this view peaks at 55 percent among Protestants who describe themselves as very religious.

Among all adults, 79 percent are Christians, 14 percent have no religion, and the rest, 5 percent, are non-Christians. Among Christian groups, Catholics account for 21 percent of adults; evangelical Protestants, 19 percent; and non-evangelical Protestants, 13 percent.

There are fewer differences among religious groups on the question of whether heaven is a physical or spiritual place. Belief that it’s a physical place peaks at 22 percent among Protestants who describe themselves as very religious.

As noted, people without a religion are the least likely to believe in heaven (51 percent do, 46 percent don’t), followed by people who describe themselves as not religious (72 percent of them do believe, 26 percent don’t). Non-religious people who do believe in heaven are slightly less likely than others to think they’ll personally go there, but it’s a still high 77 percent.

Another way to look at views on heaven is among all Americans, rather than just those who believe in heaven. Among all Americans, 75 percent think they’ll go to heaven. The rest include 5 percent who believe in heaven but don’t think they’ll get there; 9 percent who believe but aren’t sure they’ll get in; and 10 percent who don’t believe in heaven.

Christians View Heaven as Exclusive
Similarly, among all Americans, 21 percent think that only people who are Christians can go to heaven. Among the rest, 60 percent think both Christians and non-Christians can get in, 7 percent are unsure and 10 percent don’t believe.

There’s a difference between the sexes: Eighty percent of women think they’re going to heaven, compared with 69 percent of men. That’s both because men are slightly less apt to believe in heaven in the first place, and among those who do believe, slightly less apt to think they’re headed there.

But it’s religion, again, that seems to be the driving force in the difference between the sexes: Women are 12 points more likely than men to describe themselves as religious, and being religious helps fuel belief in heaven, and the expectation of getting there.

8 thoughts on “737”

  1. It has never mattered to me that thirty million people might think I’m wrong. The number of people who thought Hitler was right didn’t make him right. Why do you necessarily have to be wrong just because a few million people think you are?
         — Frank Zappa

  2. I have to agree, after glancing at your post again–that quiz is a complete waste of time and effort that could and should have been spent on doing something worthwhile. Who cares how many people in the world believe one way? It doesn’t make that belief right.


  3. Oddly, I’ve been feeling the exact opposite. I’m constantly surprised by how few people even consider what’s going to happen to them after their lives are over. Maybe I just talk to all the wrong people, but very few I know care to engage in any kind of philosophizing about the afterlife, unless they’re “evangelical” christians, and even then, they don’t seem to know as much about philosophy as they think they do. People who can admit to knowing nothing, as Socrates would surely agree, are the ones who seem to be more aware of the world than people who believe they know the Truth.

    I still think belief or discussion of the spiritual realm, that is, existence preceding/after death, is really important. I definitely recognize your point, though–some people’s heads are stuck in the clouds (for which Greek playwright Aristophanes would blatantly mock Socrates in his Clouds). If too many people were busy philosophizing about silly things that have no precedence, yes, the world would continue going to shit as it is now, with nothing actually getting accomplished.

    Perhaps it is just me–that I don’t know ENOUGH people who care to think or consider where they might go when they die.


  4. I’d like to see that, too. And if possible, to get a comparative look across various religions that have a paradise-equivalent and/or a hell-equivalent.

  5. i’m constantly astounded by how important this unproven concept of heaven and hell is to people. there are a lot of proven facts which are facing all of us at this very moment, which are far more important to our daily lives, but people ignore them and focus on the unproven conceptual stuff instead, as though if they ignore the important stuff, maybe it will disappear or something… 8/

  6. Heaven and Hell are such stupid theological concepts. I always preferred the Hindu/Buddhist view of Heaven and Hell Realms being these temporary states that are manufactured from our own psyche and karma during our lives, where our egos “get what they deserve” until it’s time for us to go back to Samsara.

  7. presumably, if you believe in a “heaven” then belief in a “hell” is implied, and i would guess that you could infer a lot from the poll about heaven regarding such a belief.

    what i wonder about is how people who are very religious but a religion other than christian (muslim springs to mind) would respond to a poll like this. i wonder how many muslims believe that non-muslims will get into heaven there are, and how that number compares to the number of christians that believe non-christians will get into heaven.

  8. I would like to see a similar poll about hell, and some cross analysis between the two. I imagine some conundrums could be exposed. One needs to be a Christian to get in to heaven, what about hell? Could the numbers expose a situation where only people who believe in Jesus, just not very well, can get into hell?

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