Fear not: Religion and emotion regulation in coping with existential concerns

Allon Vishkin, Maya Tamir

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This chapter proposes a model to identify how religion can help individuals remain calm in the face of existential concerns. Adopting an emotion regulation perspective and focusing on the existential concern related to death awareness, we propose that there are two routes by which religion can promote effective coping with fear of death. One route is problem focused and has been studied extensively within the framework of terror management theory. In that route, fear of death leads to greater endorsement of beliefs consistent with religious worldviews, and these beliefs can indirectly decrease fear of death. Another route, which is yet to be fully explored in existential science, is emotion focused. Inasmuch as religion is associated with secondary control, religion increases the likelihood of engaging in emotion-focused coping. Furthermore, inasmuch as religion is associated with adaptive beliefs about emotion, clearly defined emotion goals, and effective emotion regulation strategies, religion increases the effectiveness of emotion-focused coping. By increasing the likelihood of engaging in emotion-focused coping and its potential effectiveness, religion can directly decrease fear of death. We review evidence for the model and discuss its broader implications for coping with existential concerns.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Science of Religion, Spirituality, and Existentialism
EditorsKenneth E. Vail III, Clay Routledge
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780128172049
ISBN (Print)9780128172056
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Religion
  • coping
  • death awareness
  • emotion regulation
  • terror management


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