Nine Things You Didn’t Know Could Happen in the Afterlife

By Milica Z. Bookman

Do They Take Credit Cards in Heaven Economics in the Afterlife What happens to us after we die? We all ask ourselves that question, sooner or later. According to polls, 81% of Americans believe there is an afterlife and 9% are not sure. These numbers are roughly similar across the globe.

What kind of afterlife do all these people envision? In addition to the reassuring beliefs offered by religions, here are nine things that the afterlife might hold for us.

  1. We might spend eternity sorting out the socks that were lost in dryers during our lifetimes (as per Jack Nickolson in the movie Heartburn).
  2. And, we might sort those socks in our own homes, which we might be able to hold on to, even after death. After all, that is what Casper the Friendly Ghost managed to do in his property dispute with the evil Carrigan (in The Story of Casper).
  3. Speaking of homes, Ernest Hemmingway believed that he would have a really big home after he dies. There would be nine floors, one for each of nine mistresses.
  4. Hemmingway is not alone in planning for a sexually active afterlife. From the Ancient Egyptians (whose Book of the Dead described it), to contemporary Chinese men (who seek to be buried with Viagra), sex in the afterlife continues to be a topic of heated debate.
  5. What about marriage? Sure, say the Mormons. “Forever” takes on a new meaning in their marriage ceremonies, and couples make spirit children.
  6. No matter how many spouses or children we have in the afterlife, we will need money, lots of it. We might need it to pay for transportation (as the Ancient Greeks did) or to bribe government officials to decrease our sentences (as per Chinese folk religion).
  7. What if the cash we take with us, or that our families send us later, is not enough for our afterlife needs? Will we have a chance to work, to earn? Many cultures believe yes. What’s more, our occupations carry over to the other side (according to the Maya of Central America). But what if we’ve become bored with our earthly occupations, and want a career change? Have no fear, the afterlife described by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps in the 1800s allows for re-education and retraining so that souls can, in fact, do something new.
  8. Does all this really happen after death? Sure, say the Ancient Egyptians. Life after death is just like life on earth. The Lapps of Northern Scandinavia add a twist to that: in the afterlife, everything is as before, except upended- people, trees, buildings, animals are all upside down.
  9. That’s probably easier to handle than the hell South African Zulus envision, where the dead walk and talk backwards. Forever.

This short tour of answers to the question, “what follows death?” shows that when it comes to the afterlife, the human imagination is truly boundless.

Milica Z. BookmanMilica Z. Bookman is a professor of economics at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, USA. She earned degrees from Brown University (A.B.), the London School of Economics (M.Sc.), and Temple University (Ph.D.).  She is also the author of numerous articles and several books. Her newest book is Do They Take Credit Cards in Heaven? Economics in the Afterlife.  For more information please visit her website:

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