Consumers' Last Rites

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:
Consumers' Last Rites

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Jessica Mitford, Pope Paul VI, and Lee Harvey Oswald unwittingly conspired to rescue a dying rite. Mitford's The American Way of Death was a searing exposé of the contemporary funeral industry. It clearly gave a boost to the memorial society movement. In turn, that movement aided cremation. The undeniable influence of Mitford, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the memorial society movement indicate that cremation benefited from economic considerations. Both the consumer and environmental considerations clearly played a part in cremation's rapid growth. The world the countercultural cremationists made was on display in the cremation of John Lennon. Lennon's wife had been influenced not only by consumer critiques of burial but also by the countercultural commitments of Mitford and the memorial societies. His cremation does highlight an important turn in American religion and culture, but that turn is not secularization.

Keywords: Jessica Mitford; Pope Paul VI; Lee Harvey Oswald; John Lennon; consumers; American religion; culture; Federal Trade Commission

Chapter.  9651 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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