fear of death essay

Death is an inevitable natural occurrence that separates the body from the soul (Druart, 2000). Humans are unable to ignore it or take any action to entirely eradicate it from society. Humans have only succeeded in delaying death by implementing procedures like the treatment of diseases and the dissemination of warnings about potential life-threatening hazards. Every day, the media raises the stakes for the propagation of fear of death. There will always be news stories about people who have died or are in grave danger of dying if required precautions are not taken. The subject of death and the fear associated with it has become a subject of interests to researchers, particularly in the social sciences. Psychologists, for example, have found out that people tend to be motivated by the fear of their mortality (Taylor, 2002). The paper will scrutinize the different reasons why people fear death through visiting the academic resources and providing arguments and counterarguments
It is ironic that people continue to fear death and this has been a topic that is beyond comprehension given that it is an eventuality of life. Nyatanga (2006) pointed out that it was incomprehensible that humans fear death yet they have not experienced it yet. This motivated the researcher to exactly find out why people fear death. It should, however, be noted that revelations made by Nyatanga as well as other prominent social scientists are not the ideal of rationality. Besides, the findings cannot be used as a justification of the real truth behind the fear mystery. A common assumption made by the society as well as the scholars is that death creates a state of nothingness and non-existence to those who face it. The fear of death is more deeply rooted among the people who hold developed concepts of life in great awe. These people are aware that life must have a beginning and an end, yet the latter is not well embraced. This fear is further heightened by the meaning attached by the people on the death of their relatives and friends. There is a congruence amongst scholars that this fear is inevitable in almost every human being and can be quantified through the use of definable basis.
Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, is among the earliest intellectual to scrutinize the issue of fearing death. He argued that death is not something that human beings should be concerned about because in as long as one is alive, death is not there (Zilboorg, 1943). Epicurus is among the renowned atomists that held the belief that every living thing has material entities that must come to extinction because they are not souls. These are the same ideas behind the idea that people should not fear death if life ends at death. It is however not clear whether the death is associated with pleasure or pain. There are however other aspects that are associated with the process of dying such as diseases, distress or disabilities that should make people associate death with pain. Epicurus ideas would, later on, be proven true by modern researchers in the field of cognitive neuroscience that is carrying out studies on the brain and the mind. If an individual’s mind is the brain, then an argument can be made that there is no suffering after death because the brain stops functioning. This was a well thought argument that would be embraced by other philosophers after his death.
Scholars have always been interested in finding out what is exactly feared in death. A closer analysis of the phenomenon reveals that it is not the death that people fear. Instead, people fear what is associated with the presence of the death or its arrival. People tend to fear the consequences of the death itself which remain a mysterious subject. Myriads of losses are associated with death and cuts across the spiritual, social, emotional and psychological realm. Death has an indiscriminate nature which makes people be concerned about the control they have over their lives as well as their aspirations. Those people with a strong religious belief have their worries too. This is as a result of their beliefs failing to deliver the anticipated promises in the afterlife. Besides, staunch believers in the life after death might also have a fear of death because of the premature deaths that are considered as not being well prepared.
However, the argument that there is premature death sparks debate on whether there is a point that death is acceptable and welcomed. The idea of premature death is almost everywhere including the mainstream media, resulting to more questions by scholars who want to understand the concept of death. Rejecting the view that there is no life after death would however be ruled out by the reports of people who claim to have an experience. This was an issue that was well delved into by William who challenged the skeptics (Blum, 2007). According to William, life is what one might choose it to be like. To reinforce these ideas, he argued that one has the choice to kill and end in prison or conform to the societal norms and live contently. This principle can further be extended to the belief of hell and heaven and more importantly applied in the justifications of the fear of death.
Religious views have also been associated with impacting on the degree of fearing death. Most religions believe that life on earth is just a small portion lived by the eternal soul. For this reason, religion has to come in again and provide a solution to a puzzle that it created regarding life and eternality. It is for this reason that profound researches have been done on religion which seems to give answers to the questions that science has failed to adequately address. The fear of death is said to be decreased when one finds the right religion that guarantees an afterlife. However, different religions and their sub-groups have different perceptions on death, and this is evident in Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. Besides, it should be noted that further beyond these divisions, varying beliefs are held like that of purgatory amongst the Protestants and Catholics. It is a close analysis of these diverging views that renders the reinforcement departure from religion. The varying views on the concept of death make people wonder if the right religion has been invented.
Neimeyer et al. (1999), questioned the idea behind religion buffering against the death fears. They argued that there lacked empirical evidences to establish the nature the of relationship between the two variables. Leming (2010) further strengthened this idea by arguing that there is fear and religion are negatively related. Religion has been providing comfort in times of stress and suffering, besides, it gives a hope of reuniting with the loved ones after death. Religion has also been suppressing fear of death through offering social support as seen in the theory of terror management. From this perspective, religion succeeds in as an effective buffer for giving hope in both symbolic and literal immortality. These arguments further widen the scope of understanding how religion is associated with the fear of death.
Leming (2010), further argued that the nature of the relationship between fear and death is more complex than it is perceived. A linear association between these variables might indeed be curvilinear. The people who are on the furthest ends of the religious beliefs continuum have the least fears regarding death. Fear is mostly associated with those individuals that are moderate. The complexity is further reinforced by studies on the relation between death anxiety and religiousness. The relationship is mediated by the perception that life is purely meaningful. Ambivalence and contradictions in death and the afterlife, as well as the lack of a personal philosophy related to death, are also factors associated with the complexity. From an existential perspective, people looking for their own ways that act as a buffer against the mystery. Existentialists argue that although religion offer solutions and answers to dilemmas in life, everybody feels the urge to have a control over their lives. This is a concept that also applies to the secular ideology as argued by Power and Smith (2008). They further argued that the symbolic immortality can be achieved in secular and religious means hence mitigating the death anxiety.
The rational approach to the causes of fearing death sees no reason why people should fear something they have never experienced. This is as a result of lacking a personal appreciation of the real nature of the phenomenon. This fear of death before experiencing it has posed a great challenge in the philosophical world since the ancient times. Borrowing from the poetic works of Lecreticius, there is no individual that fears the time before coming into existence (Wallach, 1976). These ideas introduced a symmetrical argument on the concept of fearing death. Lecreticus was driven by the core idea that pre-birth (the period before existence) and death (future non-existence) are mysterious periods which should not be a worry for human beings. It is not possible to have justifications of the conditions of the future non-existence. A thin difference exists between this state and the pre-natal non-existence. From Epicurus and Lecreticus analogies, death is a phenomenon that is irrelevant to both the living and the death.
Nagel (1970) wanted to establish the causes of the fear of death and have different views from those of Epicurus. According to him, one would only establish the real association between the two periods of life if there are sufficient facts to prove any similarities or differences. Nagel stated the difference between the posthumous state of existence and the pre-natal mystery. Death deprives off people’s self, and if they had not died, they would be alive. This is a concept that was elaborated by Nagel through arguments and counterarguments. Generally, Nagel implicitly implied that there is little that human beings can say about death or death. In the process, he brought out the asymmetry between the two mysterious states of existence. From this standpoint, Lecretius’s views become relevant and persuasive, but this can be said to be so at the philosophical level because people still fear death.
Conclusively, the idea of having a fear of death has been a subject of debate for a long time probably even before the civilization era. It is plausible to arrive at a conclusion that there is no rationality behind a dying person having fears over death. It is, however, true and acceptable that those associated with the dying person have reasons to before death. This normally associated with the negative consequences that the diseased leave behind. It is also valid for the people to fear death as a result of failing to achieve the promises that religion gave in the current state of life. Philosophical perspectives have also given the issue a multifaceted approach, provoking different thoughts on the issue. Regardless of the sensitization on the need to remain unworried on the phenomenon, people will continue to fear death for years and centuries to come. However, Williams idea on life is what a person want to make of it can be used to ease the tension amongst those who liked his ideas. Human beings will continue to come up with new modern medicines to cure diseases and prolong life, but there will never be an immortality drug. Therefore, death will continue to be a mystery to the physical and the social scientists as well as other professionals regardless of their intellectual capabilities.

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Leming, M. R., & Dickinson, G. E. (2010). Understanding dying, death, and bereavement. Cengage Learning.
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Neimeyer, R. A., Currier, J. M., Coleman, R., Tomer, A., & Samuel, E. (2011). Confronting suffering and death at the end of life: The impact of religiosity, psychosocial factors, and life regret among hospice patients. Death Studies, 35(9), 777-800.
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Taylor, T. (2002). The buried soul: How humans invented death. Beacon Press.
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Zilboorg, G. (1943). Fear of death. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly.

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