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Dreaming on: dying behaviour and the romantic-individualist ethos


Metzger, Gaudenz Urs (2023). Dreaming on: dying behaviour and the romantic-individualist ethos. Secularism & Nonreligion, 12:158.

Abstract

Over the last two decades and, most recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a growing interest in studying topics related to dying and death in various fields of research. Research has started to explore, in more detail, death and bereavement among nonreligious people in contemporary Western societies. It is now well established that this large social group finds its own meaningful ways to come to terms with grief, loss and finitude. However, these studies typically do not include the perspectives of those living with life-threatening illness and facing death. Drawing on one and a half years of ethnographic research conducted among patients receiving palliative care in Switzerland, this study explores how a nonreligious orientation and other facets of human existence influence emotions and meaning making while dying. This is exemplified by the case of an atheist who I picked from the totality of fieldwork encounters in order to illuminate the nuances and complexities of living with terminal illness. The study found that secular and individualist values make it difficult to find closure and accept death. At the same time, the results show that the identification with the secular features of a worldview can increase well-being by ensuring a sense of permanence in actions and meaning-making habits in dying. Furthermore, this article makes the case for studying attitudes towards dying and death in relation to time and life situation.

Abstract

Over the last two decades and, most recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a growing interest in studying topics related to dying and death in various fields of research. Research has started to explore, in more detail, death and bereavement among nonreligious people in contemporary Western societies. It is now well established that this large social group finds its own meaningful ways to come to terms with grief, loss and finitude. However, these studies typically do not include the perspectives of those living with life-threatening illness and facing death. Drawing on one and a half years of ethnographic research conducted among patients receiving palliative care in Switzerland, this study explores how a nonreligious orientation and other facets of human existence influence emotions and meaning making while dying. This is exemplified by the case of an atheist who I picked from the totality of fieldwork encounters in order to illuminate the nuances and complexities of living with terminal illness. The study found that secular and individualist values make it difficult to find closure and accept death. At the same time, the results show that the identification with the secular features of a worldview can increase well-being by ensuring a sense of permanence in actions and meaning-making habits in dying. Furthermore, this article makes the case for studying attitudes towards dying and death in relation to time and life situation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Institute of Religious Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:200 Religion
Uncontrolled Keywords:Religious Studies, Anthropology, Dying and Death, Atheism, Nonreligion, Palliative Care
Language:English
Date:9 February 2023
Deposited On:27 Feb 2023 10:47
Last Modified:28 Jun 2024 01:43
Publisher:Ubiquity Press
ISSN:2053-6712
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5334/snr.158
Related URLs:http://www.secularismandnonreligion.org/ (Publisher)
Project Information:
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)