Sunday, May 1, 2016

Thinking About Cremation And Religion

There is a strand of thought among conservative Christians (in which tradition I spent a good part of my youth) that looks down on cremation as a means of dealing with a person's earthly remains after death.

An article (click that if you want to see it) I was reading brought that thought back to mind. Actually, the article is a rehash of a Charles Colson article I had never read.

Evidently, the fear for conservative Christians is that cremation (and especially the example cited of having one's cremains buried in a biodegradable urn that could then be planted alongside a chosen tree in order that you could "become one" with your "personal" tree), heralds a drift towards paganism.

Frankly, I have for a number of years been drifting back towards paganism. As a child I remember having a distinct animistic drift that was trained out of me both by religious indoctrination and formal education. I can't fathom having a personal tree because nature belongs to all (however, I admit there have been many specials trees in my life).

But going on,  the article closes with this thought:

Once, members of western society aspired to, in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” And our treatment of our loved one’s remains reflected our anticipation of resurrected life. Now, too many in our society aspire to little more than spending the afterlife as a pine tree, which leaves us, as Chuck said, truly lost in the woods.

Cute: "lost in the woods." But as for aspiring to nothing more than an afterlife as a tree, let's remember that regardless of what may or may not happen in an afterlife, our bodily remains will eventually be reabsorbed into the ecosystem. What has that to do with an afterlife?

Personally, the idea of bodily resurrection has lost its grip on my thoughts of an afterlife. Inasmuch as I tend to think of the continuance of our personality after we leave this plane, the idea of bodily resurrection seems superfluous.

Cremation, it seems to me, is just a speeding up of returning us to dust. If we stay dead long enough  it will happen to all. Nothing disrespectful to God here that I can see.

On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with being buried. I'm saying, I don't see why this very personal choice should be controversial. My personal choice, at least for now, is cremation, with a celebration of life over a traditional funeral service.

I have found that many people in well-established religious traditions have a tendency to - at least in their own minds - pick and choose what they really believe and think of as important. Many conservative Christians ignore tradition and opt for cremation.

The bigger issue to me is the idea that we should all be free to connect with the divine in our own way. A personally developed spiritual worldview will be more meaningful than an instilled one.

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