Ernest Becker's psychology of religion forty years on: A view from social cognitive psychology

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This article distinguishes between three projects in Ernest Becker's (1924-1974) later work: his psychology of "religion," his psychology of religion, and his psychology of Religion (with a capital R). The first is an analysis of culture and civilization as immortality projects, means by which to deny death. The second, which overlaps with the first, is a characterization of religion-as-practiced (e.g., by adherents of the world religions) as a particularly effective immortality project vis-à-vis death anxiety. The third is less social scientific and more theological; Becker argues for a view of God that is in the tradition of Søren Kierkegaard and Paul Tillich (and, arguably, Pseudo-Dionysius, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas). Focusing on the second of these projects-as much has already been written on the first, and little can be said about the third-this article evaluates Becker's claims about religion-as-practiced in light of recent developments in social cognitive psychology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-889
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Early online date18 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Death
  • Death anxiety
  • Ernest Becker
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Psychology of religion
  • Terror management theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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