Abstract

Ernest Becker analyzed human death anxiety and explained how it governs our ideologies and behaviors—something now confirmed by thousands of psychological experiments in terror management theory. This anxiety is managed through what he terms “hero systems,” cultural ideals we create to give us a sense of meaning. Most hero systems deny that we are, like all animals, creatures in a mortal body. This denial of our basic biological nature has caused humans to stand against their world, leading to an assault on the planet and nonhuman animals. Becker believed pacifism/nonviolence was the only hero system capable of keeping humans from destroying the earth and each other. But “reverence for life” transcends concern for humans alone and extends safeguards to all life, making it a vital solution to many of our modern problems.

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