Call or Text 24/7 (512) 222-8000

Irreligion’s Role in Today’s Cremation Trends

Religion has always been tied to funeral services and it’s affecting cremation. Here’s how the rise of irreligion is affecting funeral services and cremation.
How Cremation is Impacted by Irreligion Today
How Cremation is Impacted by Irreligion Today

Table of Contents

A lot of things are changing in death care, which we believe is a very good thing. For too long the options were limited and people felt like they had to settle for impersonal, expensive funeral services. When Cremation.Green began years ago the concept of eco-friendly funeral services was completely new to people, and we stuck out for doing disposition differently. Today, the majority of people are aware of the environmental impact of funeral services and want eco-conscious options. 

Many factors are influencing the changes that are occurring in death care today. One of the biggest influencers is religion, or more accurately, lack of religious belief. As far as anthropologists know, religious beliefs have always been closely tied to disposition and funeral rites. For many, it’s considered the transition from this world to the next, so it makes sense that religious beliefs would direct how disposition is performed. 

However, today there are two clear changes in religion that are impacting cremation trends and the way we approach funerals in general. Christian religions are becoming more accepting of cremation, but even more influential is that more Americans are identifying as irreligious.  

Christian Religions Are More Accepting of Cremation to Remain Influential in Funerals

For many years burial was the only acceptable form of disposition because Christianity was the primary religion and burial was the norm, even though the bible says little about cremation but doesn’t ban it. Many Chrisitian faiths promoted burial as the only form of disposition that would be allowed by the church. Of course, at that time many cemeteries were part of church property so it was beneficial for the church to push burial as the best (or only) option. 

However, other religions have actually stated that cremation is the preferred or only allowable form of disposition. And a religion can change its view on disposition practices, which is what’s currently happening.

Christianity is the perfect example of the fluctuating viewpoint on cremation and how it affects the funeral services people choose. In recent years, some churches have gone from staying relatively quiet on the matter to making formal statements about using cremation. There is actually an official publication on the Church of Latter-Day Saints view of cremation, which established once and for all that cremation is allowed but burial is preferred. 

More recently, the Catholic church has changed its stance on cremation. At one time it was believed that cremation wasn’t acceptable at all and only burial could be used for Catholic funerals. However, the Vatican formally announced for a cremation to be acceptable in the eyes of the church, the cremation must occur after a funeral mass and the cremains must be kept in a sacred place. At the end of 2023, the Vatican clarified and expanded sacred places for cremated remains, showing even more acceptance for the practice.

As Christian faiths have become more accepting of cremation and the religious stigma is waning, it is only logical that more Christians would choose cremation. There’s one less social barrier for people to grapple with, and it’s much more affordable than burial. 

Some would argue that Christian religions have become more accepting of cremation so that they can remain an influential part of funeral services. This makes sense from a practical standpoint. If more people prefer cremation for practical reasons outside of religion it is logical for churches to be open to the idea. Because fewer people are already identifying as religious, and lifestyle limitations is one of the reasons. 

More People Are Less Religious Today

There’s another undeniable factor at play – fewer people are identifying as religious or belonging to a particular religion. It’s something now being referred to as irreligion, or lack of religious belief. It’s a belief that is becoming more common.

The General Social Survey and Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) have been tracking religious change in America for decades. Here’s a look at how the U.S. population has shifted toward irreligion over the years: 

1972 – 5% religiously unaffiliated

1993 – 9% religiously unaffiliated

1998 – 14% religiously unaffiliated 

2013 – 21% religiously unaffiliated

2023 – 26% religiously unaffiliated

Another 17% of people reported “nothing in particular” for their religion, 4% identify as atheist and 5% are agnostic. What’s even more notable is that people identifying as atheist or agnostic have doubled in the last 10 years, and 18% of religiously unaffiliated people said they left a religious tradition. That means more people are moving away from religious traditions and are choosing disposition services based on other reasons. 

This decline in religious affiliation is the biggest reason for the increase in cremations over the last decade or two. Pair that with concerns over the rising cost of disposition and it’s clear that the cremation rate won’t be declining.  

Foreign Religious Beliefs and Dying in Another Country

Something that is becoming a growing concern for some people is dying away from their place of origin and the repercussions that could have on their disposition. When a person dies in another country things might be handled very differently than they are in the U.S. 

You may not be able to have the body transported back and have to accept whatever disposition is legal in the country where the death occurred. Often cremation is used because the cremated remains can be shipped, but if a country doesn’t allow cremation that’s not possible. 

Below is a quick rundown of religions that allow cremation, as well as the religions that forbid it. Keep this information in mind when you are traveling just in case. 

Religions That Allow Cremation

  • Christianity 
  • Catholicism (stipulations with how cremated remains can be handled)
  • Hinduism 
  • Buddhism

Religions That Do Not Allow Cremation

  • Islam
  • Orthodox Judaism 

At Cremation.Green we respect the beliefs of everyone who comes to us for assistance arranging an eco-friendly cremation. We are true believers in disposition freedom that allows anyone to choose safe forms of death care that align with their values. 

You can call, text or email us at any time to receive personal assistance.

Picture of Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
Share This Post
More To Explore