Teaching Death and Dying

Teaching Death and Dying

Teaching Death and Dying

Teaching Death and Dying


The academic study of death rose to prominence during the 1960s. Courses on some aspect of death and dying can now be found at most institutions of higher learning. These courses tend to stress the psycho-social aspects of grief and bereavement, however, ignoring the religious elements inherent to the subject. This collection is the first to address the teaching of courses on death and dying from a religious-studies perspective.

The book is divided into seven sections. The hope is that this volume will not only assist teachers in religious studies departments to prepare to teach unfamiliar and emotionally charged material, but also help to unify a field that is now widely scattered across several disciplines.


Christopher M. Moreman

Death is, of course, a topic of concern for every person, eventually affecting each of us. From the dawn of humankind, death has been an important issue in the lives of thinking beings, as archaeological evidence indicates a religious attitude toward the treatment of the dead from the time of the earliest humans. Religions have attempted to answer the ultimate questions of life and death and what lies beyond. Many of the major world religions, from Hinduism to Christianity, have considered matters of antemortem theology of prime importance. Others, like Judaism and Confucianism, have largely focused on this life here and now, though always acknowledging the mystery of death in their teachings. The fact of death is the greatest philosophical problem facing every human today.

Death is an unavoidable fact of life that is entirely unknown and effectively unknowable. The certainty of death does not bring with it the comfort of expectation; the fear of the unknown overpowers any such possible comfort and produces naught but fear and avoidance. The West has been described as a death-denying culture for some time, and though the meaning of this description may be debated, the fact of death’s uncertainty likely invokes a certain reaction of fear or avoidance in every person regardless of cultural heritage. “Death denial” might more aptly be described as “death avoidance,” “death ignoring,” or perhaps euphemistically as “life affirming.” The inevitable cessation of life as we know is, perhaps understandably, an unsettling thought to consider. Much more comfortable is to simply . . .

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