With more and more people opting to have their loved ones or themselves undergo cremation instead of the traditional burial, questions have been raised regarding the religious implications of this practice.
While it has become almost common practice for people to opt for their bodies to be cremated in death instead of being buried, most of the world’s biggest religious institutions are not really keen on the idea of burning the bodies of believers to ash, regardless if they are in accordance with the person’s will or not. A person may want to be cremated when they die, but their church might not allow such process to take place, since it would be against their beliefs.
The religious implications of the cremating process vary depending on a person’s personal religious view of the practice. When it comes to Buddhism and Hinduism, cremation is a widely accepted practice, and is actually encouraged by religious authorities.
On the other hand, Island and Judaism expressly prohibit anyone from having their bodies or their loved one’s bodies cremated. In Christianity, although there really isn’t a set rule stating the Church’s objection on the practice, it is generally frowned upon. Being cremated is chosen by a lot of Protestants, whereas Catholics prefer a traditional burial.
Hinduism and Buddhism
Both of these religious institutions believe that the body is but a vessel which carries the soul. Therefore, when a person’s soul leaves the body upon death, the body no longer serves a purpose.
Cremation is seen by Buddhists and Hindus as the best way to free a person’s soul from the body, as it essentially destroys the vessel where the soul is contained, thereby making it easy for the soul to transit into the beyond. Loved ones of the deceased traditionally hold funeral rites of passage before and after the body is cremated.
Islam and Judaism
In contrast, these two religions strictly prohibit cremation. The body is maintained as an important Godly creation by Jews and Muslims, and is therefore taken care of well after death. When it comes to Jews, the body is meticulously cleaned and prepared for its burial. The burial occurs within twenty four hours of the person’s death. Family and friends would offer prayers for the dead before it is buried.
The same goes with Islam. The Muslims believe that the body should also be buried within twenty four hours after death. This is in accordance to their interpretation of what Muhammad said in the Quran, where he instructs that the dead must be quickly buried.
The stance of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the religious implications of cremation changed in 1964, therefore allowing Catholics to be cremated at their will. However, before a Catholic can be cremated, they must make sure first that their remains will be buried according to the funeral rites practiced by Catholics.
Being cremated itself is accepted in the Catholic community, but practices such as scattering ashes or keeping the ashes in an urn with the family are still strictly prohibited.
Other Christian denominations have different opinions on being cremated. There are sects which are okay with the process, while there are others that prohibit it. Those that prohibit people from cremating the remains of their loved ones include the Evangelist and Fundamedalist Christians. On the other hand, Seventh day Adventists and Protestants support it.
Seventh Day Adventists claim that God does not need the physical body of a person for one’s resurrection. Protestants, on the other hand, cite the Bible when explaining their approval of the process, stating that since God created Adam from dust, He also has the power to bring them back from the dead through their ashes.