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60% of Canadians believe there's an afterlife, poll finds

Belief in an afterlife was least popular in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia.
Worshippers listen during Friday prayers at a mosque in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Three in five Canadians say they believe there is some sort of life after death, a new public opinion poll has found. 

The survey, carried out by the Angus Reid Institute and the non-partisan think tank Cardus, found only one in eight Canadians could “definitely” rule out an afterlife, though 40 per cent doubted its existence.

Belief in an afterlife varied among religion groups. Ninety-two per cent of Evangelical Christians were found to believe in life after death, making them the most likely religious group to believe in an afterlife.

Among Muslims, 87 per cent believe in a post-death paradise or hell, whereas 71 per cent of Hindus said they believe in reincarnation. For both Sikhs and Roman Catholics, 67 per cent said they believed in reincarnation or an afterlife. On the other end of the spectrum, 60 per cent of Jews doubted the existence of a life after death.

Canadian poll data showing belief in life after death has remained largely steady since the 1960s, with between 60 and 66 per cent of respondents saying they believed in some kind of experience after death. 

The one exception was at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Canadians who said they believed in an afterlife dropped to 51 per cent, with the other 49 per cent saying they either “definitely” or “don’t think” they believe in life after death.

“In the aftermath of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — the kind of once-in-a-lifetime event whose ripples are still being felt — belief in life after death reached a nadir but was still held by a narrow majority,” wrote the pollsters in a summary of their findings. 

Province by province, the latest poll found residents of Quebec were the least likely to believe in an afterlife. Atlantic Canada and B.C. were the next least likely to believe life extended beyond this one, with 42 and 40 per cent saying they didn’t believe humans get a second chance at living. Belief in life after death was highest on the Prairies.

Belief in an afterlife was most strongly associated with religious belief — 92 per cent of “non-believers” said they either definitely didn’t think they believe in life after death, whereas 97 per cent of religiously committed said they did.

Ahead of Easter, the pollsters also asked respondents whether or not they believed the resurrection of Jesus Christ was an actual historical event. The results showed Canadians are split, with 38 per cent saying the resurrection was not real, and 36 per cent saying it was. Another 26 per cent said they had no opinion. 

The poll was carried out in two parts: in February, more than 2,000 Canadians were surveyed, while in March, another 541 people from Canada’s four largest non-Christian faith groups were polled.