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Cremation among present-day Judeo-Christians.
|Tt can be more economical, because a simple container can be used in place of an
expensive casket. That leaves more money for the survivors.
|The cost associated with the purchase and perpetual care of a grave site or
tombstone is avoided.
|It allows scattering of the remains in a place of significance to the deceased.
|Some people would rather have their body disposed of quickly by heat rather than allow
it to decay in a grave.|
|Cemetaries often occupy large areas of urban real estate that can be better used for other functions.|
Some factors that favor burial:
|God selected burial at Moses' death (Deuteronomy 34:6). |
Most of the reference to burning of a body in the Bible are instances of:
|St. Paul appears to favor burial. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, he discusses how God
will raise the decomposed body of a believer. The symbolism used is that of planting a
seed and having new life rise from the decaying seed.
|The Christian church has advocated burial since its inception. They reserved burning for
Witches and other heretics. They exterminated tens of thousands of them, mainly during
the 15th to 18th centuries in Europe and into the 19th century in South America.
|Cremation can be an aid to murderers. Once a body has been cremated, it cannot be
exhumed and analyzed for poisons.
Various Christian groups have taken a variety of positions on cremation:
|The People's Gospel Hour condemned the practice.
|The Roman Catholic Church used to condemn the practice. In fact, the
only German Catholics formally excommunicated by the Church during World War II were not prison
guards at extermination camps or other mass murderers; they were
three individuals who promoted cremation. 1
|RBC Ministries suggested a cautious approach. 2
|The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America opposes cremation. They state that:|
"The Church considers cremation to be the deliberate desecration and destruction of what God has made and ordained for us. The Church instead insists that the body be buried so that the natural physical process of decomposition may take place. The Church does not grant funerals, either in the sanctuary, or at the funeral home, or at any other place, to persons who have chosen to be cremated." 9
|Most Christian groups now take a neutral stance.
According to the Being Jewish website:
These beliefs are reinforced by recent memories of the millions of Jews who were cremated in the death camps of Nazi Germany. However, some rabbis in the Jewish Reform movement support cremation if it is the wish of the deceased. 4
As North American society becomes progressively more secular, it is expected that cremation will continue to gain in favor, and become the normal method of disposing of bodies. A second factor is ecological sensitivity: some people do not want their remains to utilize badly needed land.
The number of cremations in North America has increased dramatically in recent years. The creation rate was only 5% in 1962. 5 As of 1996, about 21% of Americans and 36% of Canadians are cremated at death. Percentages vary from 75% in BC, to 61% in HI, 50% in WA,... 7% in LA, 4% in GA, 3% in MS and 1% in Newfoundland. 6 The high number in British Columbia is partly caused by the large transient population in the province, and the presence of many Hindus and Sikhs who are almost always cremated. Back in 1998, Cremation was predicted to be the most common method of disposing of bodies in Canada by about 2015 CE. 6 In reality, it happened very early in the 2000's.
The following chart shows data from the Cremation Association of North America (CANA): 7,11
|United States Data|
|Year||Number of cremations||% of all deaths|
|2015 projected figure||46.0|
|2025 projected figure||58.8|
Their projected figures show that about the year 2020, cremation will be more popular than burial in the U.S. We have requested more recent data from CANA.
The Cremation Info website indicates that the earliest cremation records in the U.S. show that only 41 cremations were performed during 1876 to 1884. The number of cremations and the percenage of cremations appear to have increased continually since that time. 8
|Year||Number of cremations||% of all deaths|
|1929 to 1933||141||0.13%|
|1939 to 1943||6,319||1.1|
|1949 to 1953||12,225||1,9|
Data for the year 2000 is the most recent available as of early 2011. It appears that cremation became more popular than burial in Canada circa 2001.
There are over 30,000 funeral homes in the U.S. and Canada offering cremation services. There are also hundreds of cremation or memorial societies. The Internet Cremation Society 1 has links to many cremation service providers.
CremationOption.com describes the modern cremation process and discusses its environmental and social impact in comparison to burial in a casket.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Copyright © 1997 to 2012 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-JUL-21
Author: B.A. Robinson
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