Results of My Survey, part 2

The second part of the results analysis will focus on what people reported they believe about the soul, what they believe happens after we die, and what causes people to question their belief in God. Somehow, in my mind, these three questions were all related intuitively, and I think people’s responses demonstrate that they’re related for other people as well.

Of the 147 participants, 98 people (67%) believe in a soul, while 28 people (19%) say they are unsure and 20 people (14%) say they definitively do not believe in the concept of a soul. 1 person abstained from this question.

However, on the question of what happens after we die, with 144 people responding to this question, only 41 people (28%) said that they think the soul lives on after us, and 18 people (13%) believe in reincarnation. Only 12 people (8%) believe in Heaven and Hell, and 40 people (23%) think that when we’re dead, we’re just dead. 18 people said they don’t know what happens after we die and wouldn’t speculate.

As far as the details of what people believe about the soul, only 73 (50%) respondents chose to answer this question. As this was the only question on the survey without a multiple choice option, one can posit that the lower response rate here is simply a matter of people not wanting to take the time.

Utilizing a phenomenological research method of looking for common words and themes amongst the 73 responses to the question about what people believed about the soul, I came up with six themes for the responses.

1. “Essence”: 8 people used the world “essence” to decribe the soul. These responses were fairly similar to one another: “The soul is the essence, the spirit, that is inside each of us” or “the soul is a person’s essence.” Generally speaking, these people tended to think that the soul is the essence of a human being.

2. “Energy”: 8 people used the word “energy” to describe the soul. Some people said that the soul was “spiritual energy” while another said it was “animating energy.” Another person noted the endless nature of “energy” as a scientific property and intepreted the soul as a sort of eternal energy. Several of these people were also coded under the “eternal” theme.

3. “Eternal”: 17 people had some concept of eternalness in their definition of the soul. As noted above, some said that “energy cannot be destroyed, and the soul is energy” while others simply said that the soul “lives on” or “goes on and on.” One person’s response was coded on three themes as s/he wrote: “It’s the essence of God inside us and is eternal as much as God is.”

4. “God”: 11 people referenced God (or in one case “divine”, in another “Heaven”) in their definition of the soul. Several people said the soul was the “part of God that I am” or “spark of G-d.” Others connected the soul with some sort of afterlife judgement, as in “That our soul is preserved after we die and we are ultimately judged by G-d” or “the soul lives on after death, and is reunited with G-d.” Another response chose to connect the soul with the other end of the life cycle, sayin “we were spiritually born before we were born in the flesh. That we existed in Heaven.”

5. “Universal”: 7 people said the soul was universal. Some people simply said that what they believed about the soul was that “everyone has one” while others connected the concept of the soul to a kind of universal soul, as in “I believe in a universal soul that our souls return to when we die.”

6. Scientific definitions: These collection of 8 responses includes references to “recycling” and attempts to understand the cycle in neurological, biological terms. Two people specifically referenced “recycling” to try and explain their concept of the soul, while another person got more philosophical, saying “the soul is where free will comes from.” Another person said the soul is simply “an accumulation of thoughts, feelings, knowledge” while someone else said “there is no separation between body and soul. Soul=neuroactivities.” Another person said “there is something, most likely a mix of chemical reactions and electricity that makes us who we are” and another person wrote that the soul is “an emergent property of the complex physical brain, it dies when the body dies.”

101 people (69%) said that they question the existence of God, while 45 people (31%) said they never question God’s existence. 1 person skipped this question. On the next question, however, only 35 people said they never question the existence of God, but 8 people abstained from the question. Of the reasons why people listed for questioning “the lack of definitive proof” got the most votes, with 64 people (25%) citing it as a reason. “Catastrophic events in the world” came in second, with 50 people (20%) saying this was a reason for their questioning. 43 people (17%) said “contradictions in religious texts” was a reason for them, and 36 (14%) people said “catastrophic events in my own life.”

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~ by realsupergirl on December 8, 2008.

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