Contradiction? Even atheists — many of them — believe in life continuing in heaven after death

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An atheist who believes in heaven may look like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Nonetheless, there are people who do not believe in God but who do believe in an afterlife.

Atheist blogger Martin Hughes is one of them. Since he left Christianity, Hughes said he hasn't missed believing in God or in hell—but he does miss heaven, Religion News Service reports.

"I wish that there was one to go to, and that's the truth," Hughes wrote in a blog post.

He admitted that his view is probably not "atheistically correct" since a broader definition of an atheist is someone who has no belief "in any supernatural realm or phenomena," which would rule out belief in an afterlife, according to Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine and the New Encyclopedia of Unbelief.

Hughes said his version of heaven is a state after death when people would "understand everything," where there would be "deep, rich happiness that feels like Mom's sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving."

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Some other atheists share Hughes' vision. In a 2013 survey conducted by the conservative Christian Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, 32 percent of the group comprising atheists, agnostics, and people of no religion claim believe that there is life after death.

Why the apparent contradiction?

According to the Daily Mail, several prominent thinkers said the increase in the number of atheist Britons as well as the increase in those that believe in life after death maybe due to selfishness, incredulity at the finality of death, a desire to believe in infinite possibility, and hope for those without material possessions.

Meanwhile, a new study conducted in Australia showed that Australian atheists could be divided into four categories of belief.

The study, published in the quarterly journal Mortality and conducted by Andrew Singleton, a sociologist of religion at Melbourne's Deakin University, said the four categories are:

1. "Life continues in heaven"

This was the most popular view, with 20 people expressing this belief, according to the study.

2. "Continuing on ..."

Five study participants said they do not believe their actual consciousness lives on after death but that "an aspect of our being continues in some way."

3. Reincarnation belief

Nine respondents said they believe in reincarnation, either in another human or another species.

4. Death is the end

Sixteen respondents said they believe that death is truly the end.

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