Are atheists afraid of dying

Atheists or Believers: Who Is More Afraid of Death?

Probably everyone knows the fear of death. Most of them manage to suppress the thought of it, but one thing is certain: everyone will have died at some point. But do religious people have less fear of death because of their beliefs? This exciting question has now been researched.

Does belief in the afterlife actually take away the fear of death? British researchers from Coventry and Oxford University evaluated more than 100 specialist articles on the subject that appeared between 1961 and 2014. In total, data from more than 26,000 participants were examined.

The result

After the evaluation, it is clear that believing people are actually less afraid of death. The team led by social psychologist Jonathan Jong even found that fear diminishes with increasing intensity of belief. The definition of belief in the analysis was taken broadly: It did not matter, for example, whether religion was understood as belief in God or in life after death, or whether it was practiced through church attendance and regular prayer.

Purposeful people, i.e. people who are religious only because of their social environment, on the other hand, were more afraid of death than deeply religious followers. According to the study, whether belief can alleviate fear of death also depends on the motivation behind belief.

The surprise

For avowed atheists, the fear of death was also low. In fact, they were less afraid of it than the purposeful believers. The scientists assume here that any strong worldview can reduce the fear of death, including atheism. Another theory: It is possible that atheists are fundamentally less fearful and therefore less inclined to seek solace in a religion, according to Jong.


Both a deep belief in a religion and the firm conviction that there is no afterlife takes away people's insecurity. On the other hand, those who do not have a clear idea of ​​what will happen after death have the most problems with thinking about it.

There are still uncertainties

However, social psychologist Jong also stated that the study situation was not always clear. In half of the specialist literature, for example, no connection between religiosity and fear of death could be established. In addition, 18 percent of the analyzes even showed that religious people feared themselves more than unbelievers.

The different results could be related to the fact that the majority of the studies come from the United States and only a minority from the Middle East and East Asia. National differences in understanding of religion have made research difficult, say the researchers. Nevertheless, the study provides interesting results, as this topic has hardly been investigated in empirical research.