The god of death

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One of the common ideas for why religion appeared is that it is a way of assauging fear of death. Chris of Mixing Memory reports on research which tests this hypothesis. Here is Chris’ summary:

In summary, then, when fundamentalists had their beliefs in Biblical inerrancy successfully challenged (i.e., they were presented with Biblical contradictions, and thus changed their minds about the existence of such contradictions), thoughts of death became more salient for them. So it does appear that religious beliefs, for fundamentalists at least, serve to minimize existential anxiety.

But this science, so not everything follows our intuition:

Strangely, the participants who were least likely to complete the stems with death-related words were the low fundamentalist participants who had read the passage about Biblical contradictions.

So for some religionists death and faith seem closely coupled, but not all religionists. At least if psychological experiments give us any window into the soul.


  1. They should test whether identity and community is more, or less important for both types.

  2. I am struck by seeing more than one otherwise highly intelligent unbeliever — Randall Parker comes to mind — who are fixated on the unrealistic possiblity of life-extending technologies reaching the point that we don’t have to die, ever. The fear of death manifests itself in various ways.

  3. Luke, definitely. I’d bet that if you ran a similar study with atheist fundamentalists (and I think we all know a few of those), you’d get similar results. It’s not so much about religion as it is about world-view and values in general.

  4. Excellent observation, Luke.

  5. don delillo hits this pretty hard in ‘white noise’.. guy invents a pill that removes fear of death.. goes crazy and watches too much tv i think.. i can’t remember.. i think he gets shot.. ah thank you sparknotes.. 
    dylar is the anti-fear of death drug.. i should rap about that.. 
    i see through fake emcees made of mylar 
    stressed out shakin in boots droppin dylar 
    depressed now no bdnf now messin round 
    not a lotta product migrating to the hilar