A new study has found that religious individuals and atheists might actually share a shocking similarity: both are among the least afraid of dying, according to at least some of the surveys and articles included in the meta-analysis.
Researchers at the University of Oxford, among other colleges, explored some of the most intriguing international studies that have explored the relationship between the levels of peoples’ faith and their fear or anxiety associated with dying.
While the assumption has long been that the more religious one is the less likely he or she is to fear death, researchers came to a “complicated” conclusion after analyzing 100 articles from between 1961-2014 that represented a total of 26,000 people.
“It shows that the very religious and atheists are the groups who do not fear death as much as much as those in-between,” the University of Oxford said in a press release, noting that the results were published in the journal Religion, Brain and Behavior.
While religious people were found to have less anxiety about dying in some of the associated studies, atheists too — at least in some investigations — are apparently not too worried about what happens in the afterlife. The press release has more:
The meta-analysis showed that while people who were intrinsically religious enjoyed lower levels of death anxiety, those who were extrinsically religious revealed higher levels of death anxiety.
The findings were mixed across the studies, with only 30% of the effects showing this finding. Surprisingly, perhaps, 18% of the studies found that religious people were more afraid of death than non-religious people; and over half the research showed no link at all between the fear of death and religiosity. This mixed picture shows that the relationship between religiosity and death anxiety may not be fixed, but may differ from context to context. Most of the studies were conducted in the United States, with a small number carried out in the Middle East and East Asia. This makes it difficult to estimate how the pattern varies from culture to culture, or religion to religion, says the paper.
In the end, there’s a complex paradigm at work, with researchers wondering whether there’s an upside-down U dynamic in which religious people and nonbelievers have lower anxiety about death, with others in between having increased fears.
More research is needed to more firmly understand the issues at hand, experts said.
“This definitely complicates the old view, that religious people are less afraid of death than nonreligious people,” said Dr. Jonathan Jong, a research associate at Coventry University’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology. “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.”
Read more about the meta-analysis here.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
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