transcendence and ontological security

Ter Borg held that the human being is an animal transcendens whose ability to think beyond the here and now leads it to contemplate its own insignificance and finality. He referred to the psychological state resulting from such anxiety-provoking deliberation as "ontological insecurity". He added, crucially, that only the development of systems of meaning, of symbolic systems can alleviate this deficient condition. Unsatisfied with merely identifying religion-like phenomena such as football, art, and psychotherapy as invisible or implicit religion, Ter Borg sought to understand how sense-making, religious and non-religious alike, function in the social world. He outlined a general theory of sense-giving. This included, as one of its cornerstones, the identification of a catalogue of maintenance mechanisms by which (adherents of) symbolic systems seek to maintain ontological security. He divided these maintenance mechanisms into two groups: integration mechanisms, such as ritualization and compartmentalization that strengthen the symbolic universe from within; and defence mechanisms, such as taboos, discrimination and denial that mitigate external threats to the plausibility of the meaning system. Ter Borg highly valued tolerance towards the other(s) meanings and meaning system, whilst criticizing systems of meaning which entail tyranny, cruelty or intolerance.

From the description of ter Borg's work by Markus Davidsen in Implicit Religion.