More than you probably think, even if, statistically speaking, you, whoever you are, are far more likely than not to be one of them.
As of 12:30 a.m. Mountain time on Tuesday, a TODAY Show poll closing in on 80,000 respondents reveals that almost three times as many visitors–the overwhelming majority of whom are undoubtedly Americans–believe in Heaven as not. About 10 percent of voters answered “No, but I sure hope so.” That nearly seven times as many people claim to be certain of something unknowable as claim to not know and merely hope is astonishing on its face. And this is with PZ Myers presumably driving huge numbers of atheists to the poll earlier today.
But then again, belief is belief and it’s likely–or so I tell myself–that people are more comfortable answering “yes” even with a “maybe” option available because there’s no downside. It’s like a watered-down form of Pascal’s wager.
This kind of shit is unsettling to me. I don’t care what people choose to believe to the extent that I would seek to uproot them, but I am intent on challenging people’s beliefs–regardless of whatever value I assign them–because it’s worth investigating the process of belief itself. To that end, I would like at ask the two-thirds of people who answered this poll “yes” a few questions, such as: How do you envision this Heaven? Is it a physical place? Is it really “in the clouds” somewhere? Are there really angels flying around playing harps, or is it more metaphysical than that–a kind of personal space in nothingness where everyone gets to comfortably hang out with their dead relatives and friends for all eternity? I have no doubt that this would ultimately lead to dead ends and much annoyance on the part of those being
browbeaten surveyed, but in my view anyone who answers something in the affirmative ought to be able to fully explain themselves. Otherwise, “yes” really means “damned well better be the case,” which is something else entirely.
Then again, this poll accompanied a marvelously silly story about a four-year-old kid with the unlikely name of Colton Burpo who claims to have seen Jesus during a “near-death experience” on a surgeon’s table and, with the help of his pastor father, has written and published a book about his experiences at the ripe old age of eleven. So there’s no telling what kind of star-struck drones flocked to the poll after chugging this mind-dissolving audiovisual kool-aid.