The current research was designed to examine associations of perceived life threat (PLT) and religious coping with the development of avoidance behavior following terror event exposure. Based upon the terror management theory (TMT), we hypothesized that religious coping, through its effect on religious beliefs as a meaning system, would moderate the impact of threat, as expressed in PLT, on an individual's reaction to terror event exposure, as manifested in avoidance behavior. Participants were 591 Israeli Jewish students who were vicariously or directly exposed to a terror event in the past.
We report a significant interaction between PLT and negative religious coping. PLT was positively associated with avoidance behavior but this relationship was more profound among persons who reported high negative religious coping. Secular students reported higher rates of avoidance behavior and negative religious coping and were more likely than religious students to report intrapersonal religious conflict. Our findings suggest that terror event exposure is associated with an elevated sense of threat, which is, at least in part, associated with a weakening of prior religious beliefs.
To summarize, our findings indicate that compared to religious students, secular students practiced significantly more negative religious coping and reported significantly more avoidance behavior. Using TMT, we suggest that these findings demonstrate a moderating effect of religion; while among religious persons, religious schemas may attenuate PLT salience, secular persons were deprived of this protective factor. However, further research is needed to better understand the possible use of religious coping among nonreligious Jews.