Dying for Beginners: Theos’ work on Death, Dying and the Afterlife

An introduction to Theos’ work on death, dying and the afterlife.

Dying for beginners

Theos exists to enrich the conversation around the role of religion in public life, and one of the main ways in which people have historically engaged most directly with faith and belief is as at moments of grief and loss. 

But our society keeps death at arm’s length and out of sight. We are not exposed to the ordinary process of dying, not prepared for our own deaths, and increasingly likely to grieve behind closed doors too, as more and more people choose not to have a funeral at all. 

This is partly due to the exorbitant ‘cost of dying’, but also reflects a more profound loss of conviction about the importance of shared ritual space. As formal religious affiliation continues to decline, we are losing a sense of the sacredness of both life and death. In the gap that is opening up, economic considerations, personal preferences and technological solutions gain prominence. This is a profound transformation in the way we approach death and dying: market forces are radically shaping how we grieve even our most personal losses, and in ways that most of us don’t even notice. This leaves us poorer as individuals and as a society. 

In a pluralist world, the Church is rightly one of many voices in this conversation but it still has a vital role to play – offering not only its physical space, but also its spiritual and pastoral resources. In particular, Christianity holds together the full range of emotions we experience in loss, from grief ‘at the foot of the cross’ and celebration of life, through to the hope of resurrection. 

Theos has produced and curated a suite of essays, research reports, lectures and animations on this topic. Explore them below – whether it’s musician Nick Cave & journalist Sean O’Hagan talking about death on The Sacred podcast, our two major reports on trends in (and emotional responses to) death, dying and the afterlife, an account of the physical dying process narrated by bestselling author and palliative care specialist Dr Kathryn Mannix, or the 2023 Theos Annual Lecture entitled “Dying for Beginners”. 


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Marianne Rozario

Dr Marianne Rozario is Senior Researcher and Projects Lead at Theos. She is the co–author of Ashes to Ashes: beliefs, trends, and practices in dying, death, and the afterlife. She has a PhD in International Relations exploring the notion of Catholic agency in international society through the University of Notre Dame Australia, and a MA (Hons) in International Relations from the University of St. Andrews. She is a Lecturer on the MA Social Justice and Public Service in the Faculty of Business and Law at St Mary’s University.

Madeleine Pennington

Madeleine is Head of Research at Theos. She holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford, and previously worked as a research scholar at a retreat and education centre in Philadelphia. She is the author of ‘The Christian Quaker: George Keith and the Keithian Controversy’ (Brill: 2019), ‘Quakers, Christ and the Enlightenment’ (OUP, 2021), ‘The Church and Social Cohesion: Connecting Communities and Serving People’ (Theos, 2020), and ‘Cohesive Societies: Faith and Belief’ (British Academy, 2020). Outside of Theos, she sits on the Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations.

Nathan Mladin

Nathan joined Theos in 2016. He holds a PhD in Systematic Theology from Queen’s University Belfast and is the author of several publications, including the Theos reports Data and Dignity: Why Privacy Matters in the Digital Age, Religious London: Faith in a Global City (with Paul Bickley), and ‘Forgive Us Our Debts’: lending and borrowing as if relationships matter (with Barbara Ridpath).

Emily Downe

Emily is Creative Content Designer at Theos. She graduated with a MA in Documentary Animation from the Royal College of Art and achieved her BA in Illustration Animation at Kingston University. Alongside working as Creative Designer at Theos, she works independently as an animation director.


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