Dr. Stafford Betty is a Professor of religious studies at California State University, Bakersfield. You might also know him as the author of several fantastic books about the afterlife, such as The Afterlife Unveiled: What the Dead are Telling Us About Their World and Heaven and Hell Unveiled: Updates From The Spirit World.
Recently, Dr. Betty has written an article for The Huffington Post called ‘The Looming Divorce Between Religion and the Afterlife’ that discusses the growing belief in the afterlife despite the statistical decline of participation in organized religion.
Dr. Betty cites an interesting study that was done by Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University that shows how this belief in the afterlife is rising amongst millennials, despite their decidedly low participation in religion. Twenge attributes this fact (most arrogantly, I would add) to the idea that millennials feel ‘entitled’ to get something (in this case, the afterlife) for nothing (no church); something I railed about in my March post SDSU Study: Religion Down, Afterlife Belief Up Among Millennials; Reason? Feeling “Entitled” to get “Something for Nothing”
Dr. Betty agrees that entitlement is a poor way to interpret the growing disinterest in religion and points out a few interesting observations as to why young people are ‘divorcing’ their belief in the afterlife from religion. Young people, he says, are “fascinated with the paranormal”. With the many shows on television and the internet that revolve around near-death experiences, ghosts, death-bed visions, and after-death communications, some have likely come in contact with the research and evidence of the kind that Dr. Betty is involved with.
Religion itself has to take some of the blame too. Although churches would like to point to a rise in Atheism for their dwindling church attendance numbers, belief in God or the activity of prayer has not decreased. Today’s young people are sophisticated, highly educated, socially conscious and tolerant of alternative lifestyles and they want a spiritualism to match. Religion finds itself between a rock and a hard place: stick to 2,000 year old scripture which is immovable and rooted in ancient prejudices or freewheel out into the no-man’s land of universalism?
“The Good News” used to refer to the gospel and redemption of sin through Jesus Christ. Now “The Good News” is the singular spiritual message that is coming through loud and clear in near-death experiences, death-bed visions, out-of-body experiences, after-death communications, spirit writings, mediumship and channeling: the afterlife is guaranteed for all; church not required, no savior needed. It’s all about love, baby. And isn’t that something Jesus could get behind?
That doesn’t mean we don’t have personal responsibility and consequences for our actions in said afterlife. Dr. Betty outlines this in his succinct summary of afterlife mechanics included in the article:
“…Death and what follows is entirely natural: (1) our inner being, or conscious self, or soul sheds the body; (2) our inner body hidden by the physical body up until death now shines forth as the outer, or “astral” body, in an astral environment; (3) the individual being that we are, soul and body, gravitates to its proper sector or sphere as naturally as we gravitate toward our friends and family on earth, or at least to what we are familiar with; (4) the habits we built up on earth, both good and bad, govern our otherworld experience from that point on; (5) we live our lives as the beings we have made ourselves to be, for better or for worse, but our will is as free to change over there as it is here.”
The secular study of the afterlife that Dr. Betty writes about is our movement too. The future of spiritual belief in this world is evidence-based and free the shackles of dogma and orthodoxy. Whether you are a millennial or an octogenarian, the Search for Life After Death is the desire to truly know that the afterlife is a natural extension of consciousness based on the study of real evidence, and one day – scientific proof. Religions ask you to simply take their word for it, and they actively discourage their followers from even considering the evidence, pointing to scriptural prohibitions on anything vaguely occult. In today’s world, that kind of ridiculousness just won’t fly for open-minded people of any age.
You often hear about the ‘coming great shift’ in new-age circles. It is often interpreted in various ways, from changing attitudes to changing dimensions. While I don’t subscribe to the more bombastic versions, maybe a shift really is in progress. As a child, alternative spiritual ideas were limited to what I could find in three or four dusty books in my local library. Now, new ideas and experiences spread quicker than lightning through the internet and enlightenment is shared at an exponential pace. In the short time I’ve been on earth, spirituality and belief have been revolutionized in places where free-thinking is allowed. We have a lot of work to do yet, but I’m grateful to be able to participate in some small way. With the wisdom of our elders and the energy of the young, we are well on our way.
Read the Huffington Post article by Stafford Betty: The Looming Divorce Between Religion and the Afterlife