funeral homes

In America, cremations now outnumber burials — what's religion got to do with it?

In America, cremations now outnumber burials — what's religion got to do with it?

My hippie wannabe wife insists that she wants to be cremated when she dies.

"I think it's environmentally friendly," my bride tells me. "Countless acres are filled up with remains inside caskets.

"Plus, it will allow me to spare you guys a lot of expense and possibly trauma and heartache," she adds.

Rather than be buried in a cemetery, Tamie says she wants to be "mixed in with the roots of a tree and planted in the mountains in the breathtakingly beautiful area where six generations of my family have made memories together. I think it would be nice to contribute to nature rather than be a burden on it."

Well, alrighty. 

As for me, I want to be dressed in my Sunday best and await the resurrection with what's left of my skin and bones fully intact. I don't like flames. So it sounds like my wife of 27 years and I will — at some point hopefully many years in the future — spend the first part of eternity apart.

In all seriousness, we are both people of strong Christian faith — but we come down on different sides of the cremation vs. burial question. 

I bring up the topic because of a fascinating Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story this week that noted cremation is becoming the new norm in America:

When Scott Beinhauer’s forebears expanded their funeral business in 1921 with a location just south of the then-new Liberty Tunnel, they added a rare piece of equipment: a crematory.
For nearly a century it stood as the second-oldest crematory in use in the nation, although it would have received only occasional use for its first few decades, when more than 95 percent of Americans were still opting for burial.
That began to change in the 1960s, and now the nation has reached a cultural tipping point, with cremations outnumbering burials. The Memorial Day tradition of paying respects for the departed are increasingly taking place in columbariums rather than graveyards.

Longtime GetReligion readers will be thrilled to know that the byline atop the Post-Gazette trend piece belongs to Peter Smith, one of the best religion writers on the planet.

That means — hurrah! — that the writer definitely gets religion, and that makes this story a joy to read. Well, as much a joy as a story about dying can be ...

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Ghosts in news about those monks and their simple caskets

So, in one level, my primary task in this post is to point GetReligion readers toward a very interesting business story in The New Orleans Times-Picayune. It is also interesting to note that this business story focuses on an important collision between big business and the free exercise of religion.

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