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Date of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Leslie Desmangles

Second Advisor

Tamsin Jones


In order to answer why research studies continually conclude that those who practice a religion have less death anxiety and fare better as they grow old and face mortality, this work explores attitudes concerning death. The proposed answer lies in the unique and specific rituals of repentance embedded in the Abrahamic religions, transcending the idea that belief in an afterlife and social support are the only factors involved. The religious concept of repentance requires reviewing and examining one’s personal life, a mental process found in psychological studies and confirmed by palliative care professionals to be associated with transforming personal attitudes and behavior, and helping to find the meaning and purpose of life, thus easing death anxiety. The Jewish tradition of leaving an ethical legacy, the performance of Christian liturgy, and the practice of Islamic ritual prayer, or salá, all give space for, and equip a person with, a formal way to look back, examine, and testify to others about transformative life experiences, not just at the end of life but over a lifetime. This work argues that the significance of rituals of repentance not only lies in how they facilitate the possibility of living a good and peaceful death, rituals of repentance are the only way to transform society.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. Full text access is limited to the campus community.