Is there an afterlife? Two psychologists, Jesse Bering and David Bjorkland, put on a puppet show to find out. In the show a baby mouse is eaten by an alligator. The researchers then asked children what the (now dead) mouse might need.
Children below the age of ten understood the mouse was dead but believed the mouse still had emotions, like missing his mom. Children over the age of ten were more apt to believe the mouse no longer had emotions after death.
From the article:
"Bering and Bjorklund interpret these results: they think the sense that we 'continue on' is something that's with us from a very young age -- it’s how we "naturally" understand death before we're taught otherwise. Their idea is that to get to a place where you don’t believe in an afterlife, it actually takes UNLEARNING a basic belief."
And where did we get that belief? Object permanence. What babies learn - that when their mother leaves the room, she still continues to exist. We are not born with it, though. We learn object permanence and to learn it requires a leap of faith.