Does the Belief in Religion / Spirituality Influence an Individuals' Grieving Outcomes, Death Anxiety, and Post-Loss Depression?

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Atheism, or the absence of belief in the existence of deities, has been on the rise in the United States (Pew Research Center 2014). Although not all religions believe in the afterlife, the belief in religion gives an individual a sense of community and answers the questions of meaning. One of those questions of meaning may be, where do we go when we die and how do I move forward after I have lost someone? Losing someone and grieving their death is one of the hardest things someone might encounter in their life. Many religions grieve in a particular way, but how do atheists grieve? In other words, does the belief in the existence of deities, or lack thereof, influence an individual's grieving outcomes and outlook on their own mortality? This research will examine whether there is a positive correlation between religious affiliation, grieving outcomes, and post-loss depression. The design of this experiment will include a literature review including examining national survey data, analyses of religiosity, and death anxiety survey data. After compiling this data, I will present the findings and run statistical analyses to observe if any trends are present comparing atheists to all others of some faith. My hypothesis is that atheists have decreased grieving outcomes and an increased post-loss depression compared to those of faith (i.e. monotheistic religions, Polytheistic religions, general spirituality, etc.) Furthermore, I hypothesize that atheists will have increased death anxiety. This study should give insight into how much, or little, the belief in some form of religion or spirituality has on an individual's coping mechanisms and grieving outcome. This research may provide insight into how individuals manage death anxiety and loss in the absence of religious institutions, which is still a matter of debate.

First Advisor

Saige Kelmelis

Research Area

University Honors

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