Stephen Prothero

in Purified by Fire

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780520208162
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520929746 | DOI:

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Death changes humans in an instant into something completely new. Spirit, soul, and mind flash away, and what was once a living body becomes a new creation. The American ways of death—burial and cremation—both accomplish what anthropologists have long recognized as the key tasks of funeral rites. The American way of burial deals with the decay of the material body via preservation. The American way of cremation confronts decay by accelerating it, not arresting it. The dominance of cremation in the West came to an end around the time of Christianity's rise. This book reports the story of cremation in modern America and examines the shifting beliefs and practices of this new American way of death. In the nineteenth century, some cremation advocates boldly predicted that all Americans were fated to become cremationists. While the American way of burial persisted, an alternative, the way of cremation, had emerged.

Keywords: death; burial; cremation; Christianity; modern America; cremationists; funeral rites

Chapter.  5267 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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