Robert Wuthnow

in Be Very Afraid

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780199730872
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199777389 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


This introductory chapter begins with a brief discussion of people's responses to peril, and the need to understand both the literature — the editorials and essays, fiction, poetry, personal accounts, and reports — that has been generated to make sense of peril and the organizations that produce them. It identifies four crises that humanity currently faces or has faced in recent years: the threat of a nuclear holocaust, weapons of mass destruction, concern about a global pandemic, and the threat of global climate change. The prevailing narratives about these perils concern themselves with defining the problem, discussing possible solutions, and then calling on citizens to live up to their moral obligations to help protect the common well-being and to be good stewards of the earth. Nothing, it appears, evokes discussion of moral responsibility quite as clearly as the prospect of impending doom. The picture of humanity that emerges in this literature is one of can-do problem solvers. Doing something, almost anything, affirms our humanity.

Keywords: peril; literature; fear; threats

Chapter.  2645 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.