...what Becker proposed is that humans are unique because we’re the only creatures that know that we will someday die and that our death can occur at any time, that we can never control, and that we’re basically animals — breathing pieces of defecating meat — no more significant than lizards or potatoes. And if that’s all we thought about, according to Becker, we wouldn’t be able to stand up in the morning. What he says is that the way that we manage death-anxiety is by embracing culturally constructed beliefs that give us a sense that we are valuable individuals in a meaningful universe. And, according to Becker, the fear of death underlies almost everything that we do but we’re often quite unaware of it because it manifests itself in our need to preserve faith in our culturally constructed beliefs and, in a sense, that we’re valuable individuals.
Sheldon Solomon on Fear of Death