Millennials More Probable to Believe in Afterlife

by | April 26, 2018


By Scott Douglas Jacobsen 

The National Post reported on belief in the afterlife for Millennials (Brean, 2018). They believe in it. They also do not believe in it. But they believe in the afterlife more than other cohorts of Canadians.

A survey reported the sociological trend of older generations of Canadians’ disbelief in a literal afterlife. The afterlife filled with creatures and wonders, and the dog from childhood named “Penny” or “Woof.”

Miracle stories tend to become more metaphor and allegory and less a map of another realm and the literal writ of the all-powerful. This coincides with other data. Information indicating the increased religious belief and religiosity of the older.

Two skews with more of an afterlife belief for the young. Then the increase in religious seriousness among the old. The trends hold for supernatural beliefs too. Examples given were “angels, ghosts and communicating with the dead.”

The immanence of death seems to quicken concrete, naturalistic thought. Reginald Bibby, of the University of Lethbridge, described Millennials as “far more open to a wide range of things.” 70% of the 18-to-29-year-olds believe in an afterlife.

Pre-Boomers, it comes to 59%. The main subtext of the narrative, of course. Most Canadians believe in an afterlife of some form. A form describable by Abrahamic faiths’ presuppositions and philosophy.

But not quite as well, 66% of Millennials believe in a higher power (God sometimes sold separately). 80% of the pre-Boomers believe in God or a higher power. Bibby argues for a shift in spiritual culture.

That may suffice as a first-blush explanation of the dual-inversion phenomena.

Bibby explains:

It’s not life stage… It’s not that older people have given up and figure there’s no life after death. It’s just that, in addition to those preachers and priests and others that were drilling into people in days gone by the fact that there’s life after death and you better shape up or you might go to hell, that kind of stuff, we’re just saying the life-after-death theme has been given an incredible shot in the arm from culture as a whole, and from the most unlikely places, particularly the entertainment industry.

Brean indicates the belief in an afterlife divide comes from GenX and the baby Boomers. Boomers with secular pop culture. Boomers with afterlife talk in church. GenXers with lack of attendance at church.

But Millennials work within a context of an afterlife in the culture in “video games and pop culture. It is normal again.” They contain “cartoonish cultural traditions of ghosts, mediums, psychics, fortune tellers, clairvoyants, and Ouija boards.”

Professor James Alcock, a professor of psychology at York University, notes the various meanings of “belief.” These can include confidence, faith, trust, and so on. Canadians reading the survey may respond individually to particular meanings of “belief.”

Brean interpolates an explanation into the narrative. That technological advancement permits more imaginative leaps. People can think of more possibilities. These increased possibilities bring more openness to belief in an afterlife. Church numbers continue downwards. Afterlife belief goes upwards.

Alcock opined:

In an age (ed. 19th and 20th century science) when new scientific discoveries were rapidly changing the understanding of how nature worked, it made sense for scientists to show interest in what was being reported from the séance parlours. It was possible that, just as with X-rays, radio waves, and radiation that had been hidden from human knowledge until science uncovered them, there might be a psychic dimension of nature awaiting discovery.

Brean considered this a basis to reflect more. That the belief in the afterlife of the young, but modest declines in religious faith, amount to residue. Historical religiosity as a curiosity and the afterlife as another secular possibility.

Bibby reported on the frame of the question. If stated as if death amounts to absolute finality, then the response leans more to a strong negation. An afterlife must exist. He concluded, “In fairness to people, they don’t really know.”


Brean, J. (2018, March 29). Millennials are more likely to believe in an afterlife than are older generations. Retrieved from

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

One thought on “Millennials More Probable to Believe in Afterlife

  1. Indi

    I would much prefer to have seen the actual survey data, rather than trusting the slant of the Post or even Bibby himself (who is famously Catholic). Too bad the Post didn’t see fit to link to it.


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