Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.

12.23.2019

Afterlife After Secularization


It may have seemed like I was dead but I'm not. Back from the hiatus of a heavy workload for one last 2019 post... When looking at trend or cohort data it is clear that the United States is undergoing a wave of secularization. The country isn't "losing God" but the influence of religion and the frequency of religious practice appears to be weakening by many measures. Yet, there are two trends where this erosion isn't as evident. One of these is frequency of prayer which has remained very consistent over time in the General Social Survey (at least since 1972). The other is belief in life after death. 

This is one of the few measures where even younger Catholics show growth. Only 73% of Catholics ages 18 to 29 in the 1970s said they believed in life after death. Since 2000, 87% of Catholics of this age state a belief in life after death. In fact, in the 2010s Catholics ages 18 to 29 are more likely to believe in the afterlife than Catholics of any other age. Currently, Catholics in their 40s are the least likely to believe in life after death (79%). The other trend that is evident is that Catholics ages 60 and older have grown more confident in the afterlife since the 1970s.


The other surprising trend is that American adults without a religious affiliation have grown stronger in their belief in life after death. In 1975, 45% of adults without a religion believed in life after death. In 2018, 60% of this demographic group now believes. 


As a general trend, among all U.S. adults more believe in life after death now (82%) than in 1975 (74%). Why has this grown while belief in other religious tenets and religious practice has waned a bit? Not sure. Perhaps it is because belief in the afterlife and prayer are both rooted so deeply in hope.

Here is to hoping for many more posts in 2020... Wishing everyone reading this a very merry Christmas! 

Afterlife image courtesy of John Watson.

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