People choose cremation for both religious and cultural reasons. Religions like Buddhism and Hinduism both accept cremation as a standard form of honoring a deceased loved one. Although their cremation beliefs may be the same, religious opinions on the scattering of ashes can differ. Religions that practice cremation pay tribute to their dead by scattering ashes in varying religious ceremonies.
Protestant Religious Opinion
The Protestant religion was the first among Christian divisions to accept cremation as an alternative to interring or burying the dead. Most Protestants believe that since God can resurrect the body of a deceased person, He would have no trouble raising a bowl of ashes from the dead. Today, the act of cremation is so widespread within the mainstream Protestant faith that many churches have created sacred scattering grounds for families to respectfully lay their deceased loved ones to rest.
The Catholic Stance
The Catholic Church has traditionally opposed cremation on the grounds that the body is a holy temple, and so cremating a corpse is a desecration of God's work. Another traditional Catholic view towards cremation is that it represented negation in the belief of resurrection. However, in 1963, the Pope lifted the ban on cremation, although the Church continues to prefer traditional burials. Cremation is approved, according to the Catholic Church, as long as the remains are treated in a dignified manner.
Buddhist Religious Ceremonial Beliefs
Most Buddhists prefer to be cremated, and the religion's opinion regarding the scattering of cremated ashes is that the ceremony should be conducted with solemn respect. Unlike the Hindus, Buddhists do not have one certain holy place where the ashes of the deceased are scattered. Similarly, Buddhists do not have one preordained ceremony or ritual involving the scattering of ashes; the importance is releasing the deceased's spirit from the body via fire. Once the body is cremated, scattering the ashes is up to the discretion of the family.
Hindu Religious Practices
In the Hindu religion, most people choose cremation. The act of burning the body in a funeral pyre, Hindus believe, releases the spirit from its earthly body, allowing it clear passage to the afterlife. It is believed that by properly honoring the deceased by cremation and scattering the ashes, the spirit of the dead will not haunt the living in the physical plane. Hindus prefer to have their ashes scattered in the Ganges River, considered the holiest place in India to end life's final rite of passage.
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