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Belief without BordersInside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious$
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Linda A. Mercadante

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199931002

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199931002.001.0001

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(p.193) 8 Afterlife
Belief without Borders

Linda A. Mercadante

Oxford University Press

Although surveys say many Americans believe in afterlife, there is much diversity in interviewees’ views. They pick and choose from religious views—some of which are briefly surveyed—and also pointedly reject some Abrahamic beliefs. The vast majority shuns traditional ideas of heaven and hell, seeing these concepts as immature, manipulative, exclusivist, unfair, and so on. They come up with various views to replace or supplement Western beliefs. Although many adhere to reincarnation and some to “karma,” this is definitely an American version. Most focus on such things as endless opportunity, progress, options, choices, and helping spirits. Some believe that humans are simply “recycled,” while others promote individual continuity and past lives. Against those who say Americans are turning toward the East religiously, the chapter shows that interviewees only selectively adopt, adapt, and promote non-Western views on afterlife creating a thoroughly American amalgam. Some exceptions exist among interviewees, however.

Keywords:   afterlife, heaven, hell, exclusivism, reincarnation, karma, progress, past lives, religion, recycling

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