I was interested in this article about the fear of death.
A team of researchers analyzed 100 relevant articles published between 1961 and 2014, containing information about 26,000 people worldwide and their feelings about death. They found that higher levels of religious belief were only weakly linked with lower death anxiety. The paper, which was published in the journal Religion, Brain and Behavior, also showed that strong religious believers and non-believers appeared to fear death less than those in between.
“It may be that other researchers would have found this inverse-U pattern too if they had looked for it,” said Dr. Jonathan Jong, a research associate at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology and research fellow at Coventry University, who led the team of researchers. “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.”
More than half of the 100 studies showed no link at all between anxiety over death and religiosity, while 18 percent found that religious people were actually more afraid of death than the non-religious.
Despite Jong’s assertion that his results confound old views, it should not really be that surprising. For many people, fear of death arises from the sense that they may encounter an awful afterlife. Because all of us have done things that are wrong, those who are religious may fear divine or cosmic retribution. The exceptions are those who are very religious and confident that they come out on the credit side of god’s ledger and those who are atheists who realize that the entire idea of an afterlife is bunk. Death may not be something that atheists look forward to but it is not something to fear.