Heaven and hell? Yes also | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Heaven and hell? Yes also

/ 01:32 AM November 12, 2011

This continues from last week’s piece, which reported that 81 percent  of Filipino adults believe in life after death, as surveyed nationwide by SWS in December 2007, in the Philippine round of the 40-country International Social Survey Program (www.issp.org) module on religious beliefs for 2008 (done slightly ahead of schedule).

That put the Philippines second only to predominantly Muslim Turkey, where 94 percent believe in an afterlife.  The average for all countries is 53 percent. The lowest level is 26 percent (Czech Republic).  On this matter and many others, Filipinos are more like Americans (75 percent) and Mexicans (74) than Spaniards (43).

This survey reveals fascinating contrasts between the hyper-religiosity of Filipinos and the hypo-religiosity of many other peoples—particularly Spaniards, whose forebears brought Christianity to our shores.  Discovering our differences from others is a way to better understand ourselves.

Belief in heaven. Among Filipinos, 81 percent say Definitely Yes, and 12 percent say Probably Yes, or a total of 93 percent, to believing in heaven (langit).  Only 7 percent say Definitely/Probably No, or can’t choose.


For all ISSP countries in general, however, only a bare majority of 53 percent definitely/probably believe in heaven; 37 percent don’t believe in it, and the rest cannot answer.

The percentages of belief in heaven are: Turkey 97, Philippines 93, Dominican Republic 86, South Africa 85, United States 83, Venezuela 80, Ireland and Mexico 79, Chile 78, Poland 67, Italy and Uruguay 61, Cyprus 60,Israel 59, Taiwan 56, Croatia, Slovak Republic and Great Britain 54, New Zealand 49, Portugal and South Korea 48, Switzerland 46, Australia and Spain 42, Ukraine 41, Austria 40, Finland 37, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Russia 36, Slovenia 35, Hungary 34, Sweden 33, Norway 32, Germany 31, Denmark 26, France 24, Czech Republic 22, Belgium 19.

Note that Filipinos are in second place, just below Turks, 10-14 points above Americans and Mexicans, and a huge 51 points above Spaniards.

Yes, there are more Filipinos who believe in heaven (93 percent) than in afterlife (81 percent).  Tabulations show that 77.7 percent believe in both afterlife and heaven, 15.1 percent believe in heaven but not afterlife, and 3.6 percent believe in afterlife but not heaven.  The rest believe in neither afterlife nor heaven.


Rationalizing the fact that some believe in heaven but not in afterlife calls for a theory about beliefs. My guess is that some Filipinos think that there is a heaven for good people, who deserve an afterlife; but also think that they themselves, for some reason, do not deserve an afterlife.

Others can surely offer better theories.  I only maintain that one should look for a theory to fit the facts, rather than doubt the facts or twist them to suit one’s theory.  Remember, there are no “wrong answers” to a survey.


Belief in hell. Among Filipinos, 64 percent say Definitely Yes, and 17 percent say Probably Yes, or a total of 81 percent, to believing in hell (impiyerno).  Only 9 percent say Definitely/Probably No, or can’t choose.

For all countries together, 42 percent believe in hell, while 48 percent do not, and the rest can’t choose. Thus belief in hell is less common than belief in heaven.

The percentages of belief in hell are: Turkey 96, Philippines 81, Dominican Republic 76, South Africa, Mexico and United States 71, Chile and Poland 60, Taiwan 59, Cyprus and Israel 57, Venezuela 54, Italy 53, Ireland 50, Croatia and Slovak Republic 47, South Korea 46, Ukraine 40, Great Britain 39, Uruguay and Portugal 37, Russia 35, Latvia and New Zealand 34, Slovenia 32, Japan 30, Spain 29, Austria 28, Australia 27, Hungary 29, Switzerland 25, Finland 21, Germany 20, Czech Republic and the Netherlands 18, Norway 16, France 15, Sweden 11, and Belgium and Denmark 10.

By coincidence, Filipinos who believe in hell (81 percent) are as many as those who believe in afterlife (81 percent).  Tabulations show that (a) 69.3 percent believe in both afterlife and hell, (b) 11.3 percent believe in hell but not afterlife, and (c) 11.4 percent believe in afterlife but not hell.  The rest believe in neither afterlife nor hell.

Does group (b) see hell as punishment for evildoers after death, yet not see afterlife for themselves, being not so evil as to deserve hell (nor so holy as to merit heaven)? Does group (c) simply trust God’s goodness to be saved from damnation?

Many have no prayer, no religion, no God. In the 40 countries as a whole, 31 percent say they never pray.  The top 10  percentages: Czech Republic 64, Sweden 49, Norway 48, Denmark 47, France 46, the Netherlands 45, Germany 42, Australia 40, Belgium 39, Russia 38. Note: Spain 36, United States 10, Mexico 9, Philippines 0.3.

Twenty-one percent say they have no religion. The top 10: Japan 62, Czech Republic 61, France 45, Australia 43, the Netherlands 42, South Korea 40, Latvia 39, New Zealand 38, Germany 34, Great Britain 33. Note: Spain 21, United States 16, Mexico 8, Philippines 0.

Nineteen percent are either atheists or agnostics. The top 10: Czech Republic 52, Sweden 39, France 37, Germany 36, the Netherlands 34, Belgium 33, Norway 32, Great Britain and Hungary 30, Australia 29. Note: Spain 20, United States 8, Mexico 5, Philippines 4.

Observe that Czechs and Filipinos are poles apart—even though the Holy Child of Prague is a twin of the Santo Niño de Cebu.

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Contact SWS: www.sws.org.ph or [email protected].

TAGS: beliefs, Filipinos, Religion, survey

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