Sun, Oct 26, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Americans think hell is for other people

THE GUARDIAN , LOS ANGELES

Hell, wrote Jean-Paul Sartre, is other people. But a new survey of Americans' views of the afterlife suggests that hell is for other people.

While 71 percent of Americans believe in hell, only half of one percent think that they are likely to end up there. And those who are headed that way had better be prepared for a genuinely hellish time.

While 39 percent of those surveyed see hell as "a state of eternal separation from God's presence," 32 percent subscribe to the notion of fire and brimstone, seeing hell as "an actual place of torment and suffering where people's souls go after death."

A further 13 percent saw hell as "an unknown bad outcome after death."

Heaven, fortunately, would appear to be much more crowded. With 76 percent of Americans believing in heaven, 30 percent see it as "an actual place of rest and reward" and 46 percent see it as an "eternal place of existence in God's presence."

Of those asked, 64 percent believe that they are on the way to heaven after death.

Only 5 percent of those surveyed do not believe in an afterlife at all. A further 5 percent said that they did not know whether there was one or not. A total of 14 percent said that they saw heaven as "symbolic."

The survey, which was carried out by the Barna Research Group in Oxnard, southern California, indicates that belief in the concepts of heaven and hell is just as high as it was a decade ago.

Around 100 people were interviewed for the poll which asked opinions in every American state apart from Hawaii and Alaska.

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