Death has always made people frightened. This is why a team of researchers decided to develop a study in which they would try to find which group of people has the biggest or the lowest anxiety level regarding death. The results are surprising, as the two least afraid groups are the complete opposite of each other.
Researchers discovered that both atheists and very religious people are least afraid of death. They reached this conclusion after looking at several meta-analyses. The lead researchers, Dr. Jonathan Jong from the University of Oxford, explained why this method is better.
“Meta-analyses are statistical procedures used to extract and combine the findings of multiple studies. This produces a better estimate of the consensus in a field than looking at individual studies.”
They looked at 100 articles published between 1961 and 2014. The relevant writings gathered information about 26,000 people from all over the world. After a thorough analysis, they identified a trend among people. Namely, the levels of death anxiety were the lowest among both non-believers and strong believers. Anxiety was higher in individuals who were uncertain about their religious creed.
All religions have a specific set of ideas related to death and the afterlife. As death and religion are so closely related, researchers thought that people who are strong believers must be less afraid of dying. Now, this study comes as evidence in favor of the previous suppositions. However, the big surprise came when researchers discovered that neither the atheists are afraid of death.
They think that some other researchers might have found this inverse pattern earlier if they had looked for it, but they were expecting slightly different results.
“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.”
However, the study has its limitations. Researchers used data coming mostly from the United States, while data from other countries was scarce. Thus, they cannot establish a definite pattern, as it might vary in different cultures or religions. Also, only 10 studies from all 100 showed the clear connection between religiousness and death anxiety.
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