Is there a term for someone who proclaims they don't believe in an afterlife but they are not sure whether the supernatural exists?

I don't mean agnostic. Atheists don't believe in a deity, but an atheist could believe in an afterlife.

  • Is there a word for a fear of non-existence and NOT necessarily a fear of death?
    – user128932
    Apr 17, 2014 at 5:14
  • Your second question (in the comments) should get its own question. :)
    – MrHen
    Apr 28, 2014 at 14:10
  • 1
    @Mari-Lou: Umm, the title is the exact opposite of the question.
    – Ben Voigt
    Apr 28, 2014 at 15:47
  • @BenVoigt Sorry, but which comment are you referring to?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 28, 2014 at 18:41
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA: The question asks "is there a term for someone who... don't believe in an afterlife...?" The title you added asks for a term for someone who does believe in an afterlife.
    – Ben Voigt
    Apr 28, 2014 at 18:53

3 Answers 3


Spiritual would be the best way to describe yourself.

There is a movement to try and differentiate the terms spirituality vs religion (Sources are numerous, here's one)

Also, there is a belief system being adopted called Spiritual but not religious (SBNR) that is used to self-identify a life-stance of spirituality that rejects traditional organized religion as the sole or most valuable means of furthering spiritual growth.

However, there are several beliefs that you could identify with.

  1. Thanatism (as pointed out by another user) where the basis of belief is life comes before death, not after it (no afterlife). The term Thanatism comes from thanato, which means death. After an individual dies, their soul becomes one with nature. Thanatism is type of spiritual belief and not a religion.

    I'm a thanatist. I live life to its fullest.

  2. Esotericism or esoteric, which means that you believe in something that few others do. The term translate to 'inner-circle' and is used to define a small group of individuals that believe in the same thing.

    I don't subscribe to any mainstream religious thoughts. My beliefs are esoteric.

  3. Theosphical whereby you use your own beliefs to justify certain facts for your spiritual or religious benefit. One example of this is Christians trying to justify dinosaurs existing during the early history of the world.

    I believe in everything the Bible says except about heaven and an afterlife.

  4. Mysticism is "a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at human transformation, variously defined in different traditions." Due to its diverse interpretation, you can incorporate a believe (or lack thereof) about the afterlife.

    I don't believe in an afterlife for the soul because I'm a mystic.

  • @Mari-LouA It's been a long day.
    – Tucker
    Apr 17, 2014 at 11:26
  • And I've edited far too many posts today :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 17, 2014 at 11:29
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    @user128932 The answer to the first question is an agnostic. The answer to the second question is a tricky one because it implies some sort of fear of it, in which case thanatophobic is probably the closest word.
    – Tucker
    Apr 26, 2014 at 11:28
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    @user128932: It seems worth mentioning that "finitism" has already a well-established technical meaning among mathematicians. It refers to a philosophy of mathematics that accepts only those mathematical objects that can be constructed from the natural numbers in a finite number of steps.
    – Dan Fox
    Apr 28, 2014 at 15:02
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    @user128932 'Nullitatiphobia' = fear of non-existence. 'Nullitatis' = non-existence.
    – Tucker
    Sep 14, 2014 at 19:47

Someone needs to redefine atheism or come up with another term to describe those who believe in the soul and/OR an afterlife type existance/persistance but not in an all powerful, all knowing, God-creator. Maybe Taosim comes closest and Buddhism comes in second, but each has it's own strict tenets of belief and structure as do most religions.

I'd go with "Taoistic" for now.

  • 1
    This is closer to a comment than to an answer to the poster's question. Unfortunately, as a newcomer to English Language & Usage, you aren't eligible to post comments yet; but if you accumulate 50 points from asking and answering questions here that get upvoted (5 points per question upvote and 10 points per answer upvote), you will earn the privilege of commenting on other users' questions and answers.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 6, 2015 at 23:22
  • One can be spiritual and atheistic. Atheism only refers to non belief in a god/gods. The term "atheist" already covers the people you describe.
    – herisson
    May 6, 2015 at 23:37
  • @SvenYargs this is a great comment. would you like to add it to this answer on meta?
    – Erich
    May 6, 2015 at 23:39
  • @erich: Please feel free to make it your own and alter it in any way you like, if you feel that it may be of use on meta. I greatly appreciate your efforts to come up with thoughtful and meaningful responses to newcomers at EL&U, and to resist the urge to be dismissive of efforts that run afoul of the site's standards in some way. I have to say, though, that the "from asking and answering questions here that get upvoted" wording in my comment is a bit too awkward to become a boilerplate response. It should say something like "from questions and answers you post here that get upvoted."
    – Sven Yargs
    May 6, 2015 at 23:50

look at "thanatism". it means the belief that the soul dies with the body, hence no afterlife.

  • That isn't quite right. Thanatism states that the soul dies is returned to nature. So, when you die you become one with nature. The soul itself does not 'die' in the fatalistic sense, but merely the cognitive version of the individual that dies becomes with with everything.
    – Tucker
    Apr 17, 2014 at 8:23

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