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The role of religion in death attitudes: distinguishing between religious belief and style of processing religious contents

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Dezutter, J.; Soenens, B.; Luyckx, K.; Bruyneel, S.; Vansteenkiste, M.; Duriez, B.; Hutsebaut, D.

Although it is widely assumed that religiosity plays an important role in individuals’ attitudes about death, research to date has failed to reveal consistent associations between religiosity and death attitudes. Drawing from D. M. Wulff’s (1991) multidimensional model of religiosity, the authors examined associations between religious attitudes as measured by the Post-Critical Belief Scale and death attitudes as assessed by the Death Attitude Profile–Revised. In total, 471 Dutch-speaking Belgian adults completed both questionnaires. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were used to asses the unique contribution of the religious attitudes in the prediction of the death attitudes. First, results show that religious people are more likely to endorse an approach acceptance attitude toward death, indicating that religiosity as such is related to belief in an afterlife. Second, people holding a literal attitude toward religion report more death anxiety, indicating that the processing of religious contents is related to defensiveness toward death. Finally, the specific combination of the two dimensions seems important in the prediction of a neutral acceptance attitude. The relevance of our findings for future research on religiosity and death attitudes is discussed.

Research abstracts