On Faith and the Fear of Fatality: A review of recent research on deities and death

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Although speculations about the role of fear—and fear of death in particular—in the evolutionary and psychological origins of religion have been around for millennia, it is only in the last decade or so that systematic empirical investigations on the matter have been undertaken. In this paper, we review this recent body of correlational and experimental research to assess theoretical developments in the evolutionary and cognitive psychology of religion, and in Terror Management Theory. While these existing theories about the anxiety ameliorating functions of religious belief are still significantly under-determined by data, the systematic and scientific study of religion has benefited greatly from insights about the multidimensionality of religiosity, the importance of implicit levels of cognition and affect, and the dangers of biased sampling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-214
Number of pages22
JournalJournal for the Cognitive Science of Religion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2014


  • death anxiety
  • religion
  • implicit attitudes
  • unconscious emotion


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