Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Glenn H. AsquithJr.
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_9276

After a brief definition of fear, this entry will explore functions of fear, spiritual and psychological meanings of fear of God, and religious responses to fear of death. It concludes with a summary of how religious ritual addresses fear.

Definitions of Fear

The medical dictionary definition of fear is “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger and accompanied by increased autonomic activity” (Merriam-Webster.com 2012). This raises several concepts that require further examination and discussion. The first is that there is a difference between fear and anxiety.

Fear is a normal and healthy response to a real threat to one’s life or well-being. If I am walking in the woods and I am confronted by a bear, my aroused alertness allows me to make a response for survival or protection. Anxiety is the fear of something that may or may not happen. If I never go hiking in the woods because of the fear of confronting a bear, I am controlled and limited by...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Private PracticeBethlehemUSA