In the past four decades, changes in attitudes concerning religion have led to the rise in popularity of cremation among people from different regions and religious backgrounds. Today, cremation is the preferred option for over 40% Americans which is a huge improvement from the 3.5% just 50 years ago. A big contributing factor to this is the influence of immigrants who follow religions that support cremation like Hindi. Also, many Americans do not have strong religious beliefs hence they don’t feel tied to any specific method.
Studies show the way people say goodbye to the dead is closely tied to their religious beliefs. Cremation and religion go hand in hand. In this series, let’s take a look at different major religions’ views on cremation and their beliefs about death.
The only accepted funeral method for the Jewish faith has always been a burial for thousands of years. However, the rise of Reform Judaism has led to a level of acceptance of cremation amongst sections of the Jewish community. If a Jewish person chooses cremation today, most Jewish allow their ashes to be buried in Jewish cemeteries. The number of Jewish people who have gone the cremation way has risen significantly in the past 20 years. However, Orthodox Judaism is still deeply opposed to cremation.
Throughout most of history, Christianity has also been against cremation. However, after the rise of Protestant churches, most factions have eased up and are accepting cremation as an option for their congregants. While burial is currently still the preferred method for the vast majority of Christians all over the world, choosing cremation does not get in the way of having a church funeral or being placed in a cemetery owned by the church.
However, even though cremation has gained popularity among Christians especially in America, some sections of Christianity, such as Russian and Greek Orthodox churches, are reluctant to accept cremation as an accepted practice for Christians.
Islam is known as the religion with most rules and extreme commitment to following them. Cremation is deemed an unclean practice by the Islam faith and is forbidden. Even witnessing or stating approval of cremation is forbidden. The basis for this is that Muslims believe the body should be shown the same level of respect as a live person. They also believe that some parts of their body are necessary for resurrection.
Mormons, unlike most mainstream Christians, believe that their soul is inextricably connected to their body. Consequently, In general, Mormons are advised to avoid cremation. However, cremation is not forbidden under Mormonism as they don’t see it as a barrier to resurrection. Mormons who choose cremation can also receive a church memorial service and funeral.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, also known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, disagree with many other Christians by believing in spiritual resurrection as opposed to a physical resurrection. They believe the physical body isn’t needed for resurrection. As a result, members of the faith are not prohibited from choosing cremation but are advised to be mindful of local laws and customs.
Buddhists follow a set of practices and teachings built on the life of the Buddha who lived about 2500 years ago in India. Since the religion does not require the belief in a supreme being or any god, there are no set funeral practices for members of the Buddhist religion. However, Many Buddhists prefer cremation because Buddha was cremated.
The Hindu religion followers believe that when a person dies, their soul leaves their former body and moves to a new body in a process called reincarnation or “mukti”. The Hindu religious views on cremation are that it helps the soul to leave the previous body and move towards mukti. Cremation is the preferred method for most Hinduism followers.
Atheists simply have no religious beliefs. They don’t believe in the existence of a god or a soul. In America, atheism can be described as a kind of religion due to a large number of members that keeps growing. Atheists have played a key role in the rise of popularity of cremation with many of them choosing cremation based on their unique needs and concerns.
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