Cremations and Religion
With more people choosing cremation services offered in Phoenix, AZ, it’s interesting to see how different religions used to view cremations and how they view them now. Even though religious beliefs have less of an impact now on final disposition choices for some people, it’s interesting to realize that, for many people, religious beliefs have always had an impact on funeral planning.
Many of the world’s major religions have well-defined views about cremation. Today, while people may choose a different view that that of their faith, they don’t believe their choices will affect their eternal rewards.
Religious beliefs about cremation can change over time because of general trends in society and culture. They also can be altered by an application of simple logic and common sense, as well as for practical reasons, such as those the unavailability of land (in urban areas, in island countries, and in very small countries) for a traditional burial.
The choice to be cremated is an individual one, and not a religious one. Among Christians, there has been, in the past, a biblical shroud thrown over cremation to suggest that it is against teaching in scripture. However, the Bible does not forbid cremation as a final disposition choice. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say anything about cremation as a funeral choice at all.
So, where did this idea that Christians shouldn’t be cremation begin?
Constantine, the emperor of Rome from 306 to 337 AD, made Christianity the official religion of Rome in 325 AD with the Nicene Creed. At that point, all cremations came to be associated with pagan worship.
However, the cremations that pagans had and the cremations for final disposition are drastically different from each other. While those who had already died are cremation in final disposition, pagans offered living people as sacrifices to be burned in worship to their gods.
These sacrifices included both adults and children. This type of cremation is the only type mentioned in the Bible, and it is both condemned and prohibited by God.
Christianity, however, discouraged all cremations for almost two centuries. However, from the 1970’s, cremations have become very popular, and they are predicted to outpace burials going forward.
The Catholic Church prohibited cremations until the early 1960’s. In an updated policy from Pope Frances in 2016, cremations are allowed. However, cremation remains cannot be scattered nor can they be kept in an urn in the deceased’s home. Instead, they must be kept in a place the church deems as sacred.
Protestant churches have not position on cremations today. Cremation doesn’t carry a stigma anymore, so many Protestants are choosing it when they are making funeral arrangements.
In most cases, the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t allow cremation. However, there are exceptions, but a priest must them.
Judaism has prohibited cremation in the past. However, today, the type of Judaism that is practiced determines whether cremation is allowed or not. Cremation is prohibited for Orthodox Jews. Burial is preferred for Conservative Jews, but cremation can be done. Cremation is considered okay for Reformed Jews.
Islam prohibits all cremations. Burial is the only sanctioned final disposition for the dead.
Buddhism allows cremation as a means of final disposition. Funeral rituals in Buddhism are identical when a person is buried or cremated, and the rituals are more important than the means of final disposition.
In Hinduism, cremation is preferable to burial. The only exceptions are saints, babies, and children, who are considered to be detached from their bodies. In Hinduism, this means that they are completely pure, and can, therefore, be buried.