I never finished reading "The Denial of Death" by Ernest Becker because it's just too wordy and abstruse. But it's thesis is intriguing. From Wikipedia
"The Denial of Death"
The basic premise of The Denial of Death is that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality, which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism. Becker argues that a basic duality in human life exists between the physical world of objects and a symbolic world of human meaning. Thus, since humanity has a dualistic nature consisting of a physical self and a symbolic self, we are able to transcend the dilemma of mortality through heroism, a concept involving our symbolic halves. By embarking on what Becker refers to as an "immortality project" (or causa sui), in which a person creates or becomes part of something which they feel will last forever, the person feels they have "become" heroic and, henceforth, part of something eternal; something that will never die, compared to their physical body that will one day die. This, in turn, gives the person the feeling that their life has meaning, a purpose, significance in the grand scheme of things....Another theme running throughout the book is that humanity's traditional "hero-systems" i.e. religion, are no longer convincing in the age of reason; science is attempting to solve the problem of humanity, something that Becker feels it can never do. The book states that we need new convincing "illusions" that enable us to feel heroic in the grand scheme of things, i.e. immortal. Becker, however, does not provide any definitive answer, mainly because he believes that there is no perfect solution. Instead, he hopes that gradual realization of humanity's innate motivations, namely death, can help to bring about a better world.