This might be a better question for a psychology forum, but I'll try here first.

I've observed many Christians who spend much of their lives talking about how they don't fear death because they know they're going to Heaven. But when the time approaches, they suddenly seem very scared.

I'm also read that conservatives tend to be more afraid of death than liberals (in the U.S.. at least).

Can anyone suggest a philosophical explanation for this paradox?

In response to the person who asked for references, here are a couple intriguing ones:

Yale Experiment

Psychology Today

Yes, Yale and the Washington Post are both a little flaky. But if you type conservatives + fear + death into Google, and you'll get over nine million hits.

To me, it looks like more of a psychological question in general, but I'm interested in knowing if anyone can suggest a philosophical link.

(I might have the cart before the horse. Maybe I should first ask IF Christians fear death more than atheists, Buddhists, etc. If no one offers an answer, I might ask that next.)

closed as primarily opinion-based by virmaior, Eliran, Mark Andrews, Overmind, Bread Mar 28 at 10:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • This question is too broad, sir. I would say one thing though: as terrifying as the thought of death should be to anyone, it seems a complete waste of precious energy to obsess over it. I know (and know of) so many Christians who humbly and graciously accepted the inevitable. – Bread Mar 28 at 2:08
  • @Bread - I never asked if it makes sense to obsess over death. I'm asking if certain people DO obsess over it more than others. More important, WHY are they more obsessed with death? – David Blomstrom Mar 28 at 2:56
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    Christians are a diverse people. Many aren't real and most are not even by choice. – christo183 Mar 28 at 4:57
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    Christians more afraid of death compared to what ? Which type of Christians ? The question is too unclear, too broad and opinion-based. – Overmind Mar 28 at 9:01
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    This certainly doesn't match my experience of Christians. It doesn't match the lives of 19th century Christian missionaries from the Student Volunteer Movement which sent nearly 10 thousand young missionaries, who apparently went knowing that 80% would die with 2 years from tropical diseases. – curiousdannii Mar 28 at 10:08

In the section, "Religiosity's effect", of Wikipedia's "Death anxiety" article are the following references:

The thought of death causes a different degree of anxiety for different individuals, depending on many factors.

A 2012 study involving Christian and Muslim college students from the US, Turkey, and Malaysia found that their religiosity was positively correlated with an increased fear of death.[31]

Other studies have found a strong sense of religion in a person's life can be related to a lower sense of anxiety towards death.[32] Although there has been no association discovered between religiosity and death anxiety,[32] it has also been shown that death anxiety tends to be lower in individuals who regularly attend religious meetings or gatherings.[32] On a recent study, one hundred and sixty-five church participants have been asked to fill out the "Intrinsic Religious Motivation Scale, the Revised Death Anxiety Scale" and the results were analyzed using factor analyses, Pearson correlation, and linear and quadratic regression. All found an inverse relationship between intrinsic religious motivation and death anxiety. In short, the more religious you are, the less anxious you are about death because you may associate death with another beginning that is promised through many religions.[32] The study also found that gender did not have an effect on religiosity and total death anxiety.[33]

Wikipedia cited three references:

  1. Ellis, L.; Wahab, E. A.; Ratnasingan, M. (2013). "Religiosity and fear of death: A three‐nation comparison". Mental Health, Religion & Culture. 16 (2): 179. doi:10.1080/13674676.2011.652606.

  2. Wen, Y. (2010). Religiosity and death anxiety. The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, 6(2), 31-37. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/867401301

  3. Wen, Ya-Hui. The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning6. 2 (Dec 2010): 31-37.

From this it is not clear that religious people and in particular Christians are more afraid of death. Wen's research, based on Wikipedia's review of it, suggests that may not be the case.

Regarding conservatives fearing death more than liberals, neither of the two articles cited reference either "death" or "dying". They both do claim that conservatives respond more quickly to threats.

  1. John Barge writes in The Washington Post, "Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do."

  2. Bobby Azarian write in Psychology Today, "Essentially, to many conservatives the world looks like a much scarier place."

Viewing the world as scarier or reacting more strongly to physical threat than liberals does not mean that conservatives fear death more than liberals.

Bobby Azarian. "Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives' Political Attitudes". Psychology Today. December 31, 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201612/fear-and-anxiety-drive-conservatives-political-attitudes

John Barge. "At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions." Washington Post. November 22, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/11/22/at-yale-we-conducted-an-experiment-to-turn-conservatives-into-liberals-the-results-say-a-lot-about-our-political-divisions/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1b43549ca0a5

Wikipedia contributors. "Death anxiety (psychology)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Mar. 2019. Web. 28 Mar. 2019.


T Issac Tambyah has translated the tamil saint Thayumanavar into English verse. The translation is excellent BTW.

Because he is a Christian and his subject a Hindu he writes a looong introductory apology... In which among other things he says

For a Hindu the wages of sin is life. For a Christian it's death


I guess why he is saying this is to suggest that Hinduism and Christianity are absolutely incompatible

I guess what he is saying is that for a Christian death and punishment are intimately linked whereas for a Hindu (all oriental faiths actually) punishment is an endless enslavement to the karmic wheel.

  • It will take me a while to absorb that, but it sure makes Hinduism tempting. ;) – David Blomstrom Mar 28 at 3:23
  • @DavidBlomstrom I guess you are being quasi facetious. For the flip side of the quasi I'm making a small addition – Rusi Mar 28 at 3:31

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