Case For and Against Cremation

Updated on August 17, 2018
revmjm profile image

Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher and online writer. She loves to share her teachings online.

Cremation is a controversial subject for some people. Because they have reservations about it for themselves, they frown against it for family members who have requested it.

For others, cremation is a choice they have made for various reasons. This article is not to advise readers to be cremated after death. Instead, it is to provide some facts about cremation that people might not be aware of.

Cremation: Definition

The word "cremation" is derived from the Latin word "crematus" or "cremare" that means "to burn up."

Therefore, cremation is the process by which human remains of the deceased are placed in a wooden box, and the box is put in a furnace or crematorium with an extremely high temperature so the body can be burned into ashes and bone fragments. The bone fragments are processed in a machine and they become course sand and turn light gray.

Cremation Forbidden By Some Religions

There is no biblical reference for or against cremation for Christians. That's why there are some Christians are who are leery about it. However, some religions forbid it.

  • Cremation is prohibited under the law for traditional Jews to be cremated.
  • Eastern Orthodox and some Fundamental Christian denominations do not allow cremation.
  • The Islamic religion forbids cremation.
  • Christians are divided. Some want to be cremated, but there are more who want to be buried rather than cremated. That's because that was what their ancestors chose.

Cremations on the Rise

There was once a time when cremation was taboo. Today, it is on the rise. The first known cremation in American took place in 1876. By 1918, fewer than one percent of those who died in the United States were cremated. By 1965, that number was up to 4 percent. In 2018, nearly half of all people in America are cremated. It has been estimated that the number of cremations might catch up to the number of burials and might even surpass them.

Celebrities Who Were Cremated

Jack London told his friends just two weeks before his death in 1916 that he would rather be ashes than dust. At that time, there were only 20 crematories in the United States.

Albert Einstein was cremated after his death in 1955. At his request, his ashes were scattered at an unknown location.

Walt Disney was actually cremated two days after his death in 1966. Had Disney died three years earlier, he would not have been cremated. The Catholic Church lifted the ban on cremation in 1963, and Catholic priests began to officiate at cremation ceremonies.

By the time Joan Rivers died in 2014, cremation had become commonplace. The comedian had often talked about cremation before her death.

Other celebrities who chose this method might surprise you.

  • Princess Margaret
  • John F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the 35th US President
  • Amy Winehouse, singer-songwriter
  • George Harrison, ex-Beatle
  • Tupac Shakur, rapper and actor; some of whose ashes were smoked by his friends
  • Johnny Carson, TV host
  • Bea Arthur, TV star, one of the Golden Girls
  • Richard Pryor, actor
  • Gary Coleman, actor
  • Marlon Brando, actor
  • Christopher Reeve, actor
  • John Lennon, ex-Beatle

Why People Choose Cremation

More people are choosing cremation today than in the past. That is because they have learned more about it than their forefathers.

Cremation is a personal choice made by the deceased before his death. If no arrangement has been made in advance, then it is up to the next of kin to make that decision.

Because cremation is less expensive than preparing the body for burial, some misinformed people think the person couldn't afford a burial. That is far from the truth in some cases. Cremation might not have anything to do with an insurance issue. Here are some of the reasons a person might choose cremation:

  • The person has decided not to spend unnecessary money for a burial.
  • Cremation is better for the environment.
  • Some people don't want to be discomposed.
  • Cremation is much simpler and easier on family members.

Those who choose cremation know that a body of a believer that has been destroyed by fire doesn't mean God won't resurrect it and reunite it with the soul and spirit. God is certainly able to provide a resurrected body for those who have been cremated. If God could not do this, then all believers who have died in a fire are without hope of receiving their heavenly bodies like those who died in fires and tragedies like 9-11.

A grave is a permanent place for families to visit.
A grave is a permanent place for families to visit.

Why People Choose Not to Be Cremated

Even though cremation is less expensive than a burial, most Christians plan to be buried. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • The number one reason Christians give for wanting to be buried instead of being cremated is based on the fact that Jesus was buried. They contend that since they are followers of Jesus Christ, then they want to be buried in the grave because Jesus was buried and not burned into ashes.
  • Christians use the Bible for Christian living so they believe burial is the way for their remains since no one was cremated in the Bible. They were buried in the ground. For example, Abraham bought a burial plot for Sarah and the rest of his family (Genesis 23:19-20). God Himself buried Moses in the ground (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).
  • Burning in the Bible was done by pagan nations. The pagans sacrificed their children by burning them and burned Christians alive at the stake.
  • Fire in the Bible happened because of God's wrath. God exterminated Korah, according to Numbers 16:35. God sent fire on Moab, according to Amos 2.
  • Paul favored burial. He gave a long explanation about it in 1 Corinthians 15:35-44. Paul said God will raise the body of a believer even though it has been decomposed. Paul compares the body to a seed being planted in the ground that will rise from the decaying seed.
  • Witches and other heretics were burned as a form of punishment.
  • God said the human body would return to dust. That wouldn't happen if a body is burned, but it would happen when a body is buried.
  • Christians say there is no gravesite to visit and take flowers to when a person is cremated. However, an option is to bury the urn with ashes in it in a family plot or cemetery so there will be a place for loved ones to visit.

People Were Burned in the Bible for Bad Behavior

Scripture
Occasion
Joshua 7:15-25
God ordered thieves to be burned.
Genesis 38:24
Judah ordered his own daughter-in-law to be burned because she was a prostitute, but the order wasn't carried out.
Leviticus 20:14
Man married both mother and daughter. All three were burned.
1 Samuel 31:11-13)
Saul and his sons were burned by the Israelites to prevent the Philistines from further mutilating their bodies.

Cremation: A Personal Choice

Cremation is a personal choice, and families should honor that request. It is best for people to put it in writing to avoid confusion after a family member dies. This will make funeral preparations less stressful for everyone involved.

If a person decides to be cremated, it does not cancel out having a funeral or memorial service. Either one of them or neither one of them is also a personal choice.

Do you want to be cremated or buried in a grave?

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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      3 months ago from Richmond, VA

      R Talloni, you put everything in perspective with your comments. You made it crystal clear how cremation can be viewed. Like you, I look forward to seeing God one day when I am "absent from the body and present with Him."

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      3 months ago from the short journey

      This is one a hot topic. For most people, though, respecting the human body after death is an appropriate response to the person who lived in it and the fact that humans were created in God's image. People are indeed divided on what that respect looks like when it comes to burial verses cremation, partly because of what their own family/community's perspective is on the issue.

      A quick look at alternatives to cemeteries is quite an eye-opener. I'm just thankful to know that God has made a way through His Son, Jesus the Christ, for me to step out into eternity, absent from this body at the time of its death, and present with Him.

      Many people have died–ashes to ashes, dust to dust–and the bodies have turned to coal or diamonds or coral or... This is no surprise to God, and no problem for Him. He has it covered. We do well to primarily consider our soul's condition before Him. Though I imagine this body will die one day, who knows but what I will see the Lord coming through the clouds with great power and glory?!

      However, it is a good thing, as you say, to make plans ahead of time, with the help of family members if possible, for their sake and perhaps for peace of mind before death actually knocks at our door.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      3 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Leland, thanks for the correction. I have changed it in the article. That's the beauty of HubPages. We can revise our articles.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      3 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Lori, thanks for reading and for your lengthy comments. The Bible is silent when it comes to the subject of cremation. You said you can "say confidently that cremation is a sin." That is your opinion, and I will not try to change your mind, but there is no support that cremation is a sin.

      Just as a decomposed body can be resurrected so can bodies from ashes be resurrected. Consider the people who died in fires and those who died in the events of 9-11.

    • Leland Johnson profile image

      Leland Johnson 

      3 months ago from Midland MI

      Margaret- I think Judah just ordered her to be burned, but she wasn't. Double check that one.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      3 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I was very glad to see the notification of this article. Not a topic you read much about so I think it's a good topic to address. I am a Follower of Jesus. I can say confidently that cremation is a sin but I don't want to be cremated and I can't stand the thought of my loved ones who have been cremated.

      I know practically, the burials are tremendously expensive, obscenely so, and I think the businesses who provide caskets, burials, and such take advantage of grieving people, monetarily speaking. They play on the loved ones emotions and try to sell them the more expensive things to honor their loved ones. It's sad when you have to go into debt to bury someone. Now cremation is getting more and more expensive. I live on a very small income. I don't have money to buy a burial plot or a cremation package prior to my death. Thus, my children, who are struggling families will have to bear the expenses. Practically speaking, they will have to cremate me because none of them can pay the exhorbitant prices of burial. Personally, as far as being a Christian, I think it's probably more respectful to the body to bury. Some get confused with the idea that when our bodily resurrection comes, how can a body of ashes spread in the ocean be resurrected. I say God can do anything, but it worries some people terribly. It can create shame and fear. No simple answers.

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