Culture, Ideology, Morality, and Religion: Death Changes Everything
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
University of Wisconsin - Madison - Center for Investigating Healthy Minds
THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF MEANING, MORTALITY, AND CHOICE, M. Mikulincer, P. R. Shaver, eds., Washington, D.C.: APA Press, 2011
In this chapter, we consider how the reality of death changes the way human psychological motives operate. Relying on terror management theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991), we argue that humanly constructed meaning systems, such as culture, ideology, morality, and religion serve important death-denying functions. Clearly, these systems also function to solve practical problems and help with survival and reproduction. Yet TMT posits that the human awareness of death added urgency to the way humans hold on to these sources of meaning, and changed the sorts of meanings that people sought to attain. We start with a brief overview of TMT and a discussion of how culture, ideology, morality, and religion are affected by awareness of mortality. The second part of the chapter addresses recent conceptualizations that have been proposed as alternatives to TMT, that argue that the problem of death is a specific case of a more general threat. We explain why we consider awareness of death a unique force for the human psyche that is responsible for changing the pursuit of meaning, value, and security in ways that affect the functioning of culture, ideology, and religion.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: death anxiety, existential motivation, terror management theory, culture, ideology, morality, religion
Date posted: April 5, 2011 ; Last revised: June 8, 2011