Fear of Death Dictates Our Lives and These Are The People Who Are The Least Afraid Of It
Fear of death always looms in our black minds. It’s our ability as humans to have some foresight into the future make us realise the inevitable, or as some may call it “the forbidden fruit”. And this constant fear that shows itself in the form of anxiety, dictates our entire lives and the actions we take throughout our lives. But there are some groups of people who’ve managed to alleviate that stress. Firstly, there are the highly religious people, and then there are the people who hold no religious belief whatsoever. Studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of people in between are the ones who are suffering the most from the fear of the inevitable.
After diligent research over past studies, scientists at the University of Oxford began revolving around a concept known as Terror Management Theory (TMT). This concept theorises that the conflict between our desire to survive and the knowledge of our eventual death is the main driving force behind our cultural values, habits, and rituals.
This awareness of our own demise drives us to create behaviours that either helps us to avoid death for as much as possible, find a way to understand and accept it or even to distract ourselves from it. This desire of self-preservation is what influences our religious and political convictions, and in a major way, make us who we are. It is also the cause for why people engage in various religious ceremonies or political rallies. A scientific study has shown that both our political and religious views are linked to each other and react in the same way in the brain.
This force will also drive people to look for a group of similar-thinking individuals in order to mitigate the fear of death among themselves. To that end, the team used data from over 100 studies conducted on over 26,000 people and from 1961 to 2014. These revealed that people who had a strong religious belief were more likely to not fear death, regardless whether it was the belief in an afterlife or regular church attendance.
There were some differences here too. For instance, people who saw religion as a purpose in and of itself were less fearful of death than those who practised it more as a form of social cohesion, the sense of belonging to a group, and for personal comfort overall.
When it comes to atheists, things are a bit vaguer. Out of the 11 studies conducted that included data about atheists, 10 of them stated that they weren’t at all afraid of death. These studies, however, did not give a reason as for why.
“This definitely complicates the old view, that religious people are less afraid of death than nonreligious people. It may well be that atheism also provides comfort from death, or that people who are just not afraid of death aren’t compelled to seek religion,” said researcher Jonathon Jong from the University of Oxford.
What both of these convictions have in common, even though they seem to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum, is that both groups of people are committed to their beliefs. It’s a leap of faith they’ve made, either to believe in one form of religion wholeheartedly or to be utterly convinced by the material world. Either way, “unwavering belief” is found in both of these cases. But to be sure about this answer, more research is needed.