Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

James M. Henson

Committee Member

Ivan Ash

Committee Member

Valerian Derlega


By manipulating mortality salience (MS) in place of life-threatening events to stimulate death-related thoughts, the current research contributes to the body of research supporting Terror Management Theory. It was hypothesized that religious participants should exhibit cultural worldview defense by scoring higher in anti-atheist prejudice following the MS manipulation than would those in the control condition. Further, this research extends the current research into Terror Management Theory as a cause for conflict among out-groups and explores its effects on cultural worldviews in the area of prejudice toward atheists. This includes examining how the perception of an increasing prevalence of atheists contributes to greater prejudice, such that those receiving statistics about the prevalence of atheists should score higher on the prejudice toward atheists measure than would those not receiving the prevalence statistics. This effect should be the greatest for those who have experienced the MS manipulation and who are religious. A between-subjects factorial 2(Mortality Salience) X 2(Prevalence Statistics) X 2(Religious Status) ANOVA design using anti-atheist prejudice as the dependent measure was conducted. Results indicated that religious individuals have more prejudice toward atheists than non-religious individuals and that this effect increases following reminders of death. Statistics about the increasing prevalence of atheists in the U.S. did not have an effect on the level of prejudice toward atheists.


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