ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2012) — New University of Otago research suggests that when non-religious people think about their own death they become more consciously skeptical about religion, but unconsciously grow more receptive to religious belief.

The Department of Psychology research also found that when religious people think about death, their religious beliefs appear to strengthen at both conscious and unconscious levels. The researchers believe the findings help explain why religion is such a durable feature of human society.

In three studies, which involved 265 university students in total, religious and nonreligious participants were randomly assigned to "death priming" and control groups. Priming involved asking participants to write about their own death or, in the control condition, about watching TV.

In the first study, researchers found that death-primed religious participants consciously reported greater belief in religious entities than similar participants who had not been death-primed. Non-religious participants who had been primed showed the opposite effect: they reported greater disbelief than their fellow non-religious participants in the control condition.

Study co-author Associate Professor Jamin Halberstadt says these results fit with the theory that fear of death prompts people to defend their own worldview, regardless of whether it is a religious or non-religious one.

"However, when we studied people's unconscious beliefs in the two later experiments, a different picture emerged. While death-priming made religious participants more certain about the reality of religious entities, non-religious participants showed less confidence in their disbelief," Associate Professor Halberstadt says.

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Please post a link to the study, if you can access it. Humans are self-deluding machines, so I won't judge the outcomes before seeing how "unconscious" opinions were accessed.

I had a serious motorcycle accident in April and it was lights on/lights out (knocked unconscious for about 4 hours). Surviving was extremely painful and difficult (still is), but if I had died during the crash?... Nothing to it!

Yes Edward, that is what I mean. 

Got it. Yeah this looks legitimate. I would like to see replicated studies, but as I said, humans are self-deluding creatures. As card carrying intellectuals, we constantly in a battle with primitive impulses. If my impulse to hit someone were measured when I was in an agitated state, I'm sure I would get positive results.

We all accept that we are going to die----death being as inevitable as taxes so it is said.

The matter, rather, is when?

When one is young or middle-aged and in good health, one scarcely thinks about it. It is a distant problem, to be dealt with later.

But when you are elderly, and have been told by doctors how you are going to die (barring some unforeseen accident intruding on the predicted drama), then the problem gathers strength and concentrates the mind.

That is my situation. I have advanced prostate cancer, and nothing can be done about it except to load me with more and more medicines over the next 5 to 10 years. Then phut.

So the warning has spurred me to work harder than ever, to get about 12 to 14 books finished and published while I feel more or less right. For some of them, it means ongoing research--including getting out for fieldwork and visiting libraries. The first book has been printed, and is being bound for publication next month (by B.A.R., Oxford) and the next four (on atheism) are practically ready (two finished). They will be e-books. Another four to six months of work should do for them. And there are others started and partly done, or exist as theses to be written up in a new format.

But the point I had in mind when starting to write in this thread is that, as and when I can, I am preparing, and ever lengthening, a huge digital autobiography because this is something that will live after me, and will be of best interest to the descendants I leave behind (3 children + wives/partners, 6 grandchildren, and their future children).

An autobiography is something that we all have in us, and I suggest that we owe it to our descendants to get it done. It can be a personal thing but precious too. My story is an interesting one that I want my descendants to know. 

So I have no fear of death itself, but only fear that time may run out before I can finish. And certainly i have not the slightest silly fancy about some god waiting maybe around the corner. That sort of just-possible creator-god doubt may belong to Richard Dawkins, but it is not for me. 


Hang tough Doc! Not sure how I would deal with that one. It is a slow cancer... No surgery?

Surgery is done only when the cancer is "early stage". 

Mine was called "advanced" because it was found too late for that

i.e. removing the prostate does not help because there has already been an escape of cancer cells into other zones of the abdomen. Although they are currently microscopic, some will grow into tumours, either on lymph nodes and channels or on bone (often pelvic bones)--or maybe elsewhere like kidneys or liver. 

Ugh... So sorry, Doc. We are all right behind ya though, whether we let ourselves think about it or not. Hang tough Brother!

I am so sorry to learn of your health condition and pleased to learn of your books. Please let me know when they are available. You have challenges that hopefully will keep your mind busy and spirits high. The book treasures you leave behind will surely give immortality. 

Thank you Joan.

One book in my set of four involving atheism is a new book of atheist-related quotations. It is nearly ready and I am always glad to add more. 

May I ask whether you have any possibly useful quotations written by yourself that I could introduce?

This offer I extend to other members of Atheist Nexus too.

Memo. I shall be away lecturing on archaeology in Sardinia, leaving Saturday 14th, so I shall see no replies for quite a while. Terry

I'm death priming my Mustang.




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