Its is said that the origins of Western culture include the Greek philosophy, the Roman law and the Catholic and Protestant Christianity. Using Christianity as basis to explain the beliefs of the West Society, it could be said that there is belief in life after death among the Western people. This is being compare with Buddhism and Confucianism in the East. Their beliefs on life after death would sound therefore to be explained by the origin of their religions.
It is a fact that funeral rites and customs, observances are connected with death and burial practices by different cultures and it is here where they expressed their beliefs as life after death is concerned. This must be so in the sense that funeral rites may either dispose of the body by either burial or cremation. One of the arguments of the Catholics, which are part of the Western Culture against the practice of cremation, is the implied denial of the belief on resurrection, which is a life after death belief.
For cultures that believe therefore in the resurrection their rituals must be consistent with their beliefs. Encarta Encyclopedia, (2007) could only agree by stating that the study of the customs in which the dead are treated in diverse cultures leads to a better understanding of the many diverse views about death and dying, as well as of human nature. It added that funerary rites as well customs are responsible of the body, but also with the well-being of the survivors and with the persistence of the spirit or memory of the deceased. ” (Encarta Encyclopedia, 2007)
To understand the seeming unclear division of western and eastern culture in treating the practice of cremation differently, it proper to understand its history. Most archaeologists believe that cremation was first invented in the stone age approximately 3000 BCE. It was most likely first used in Europe and became a common method of disposing of bodies by 800 BCE in Greece. However, other societies had different methods of disposition. In Israel, tombs or vaults were used for burial only and cremation was shunned. The body was exposed to the air in the tomb and simply decomposed.
The early Christian church also rejected cremation and buried their dead in graves or catacombs (underground vaults) It could then be argued that although the culture include those of the Greek, it could be observed that the present practice of cremation by even some of the Christian groups had its root in the Greeks who had invented cremation long before. To argue therefore the western culture is becoming a society of direct cremations making people disposable like many things in today’s society is simply without basis in history.
If cremation is being practice today by the West, it had been done before. The West then may be just returning to old practice. To ask whether other cultures funeral rituals are more emotionally healing or generally more beneficial than the customs the West society is used to is also to deny the characteristic of relativity of culture. What the Americans or other people from the West believe is beneficial to them that is why it is their culture. History of cremation has it when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire burial was the only method of disposition throughout Europe.
This means that what determines the decision not to practice cremation was a function of religion of the Roman since historically before Christianity they were doing cremation. The Roman people were not talking of emotional healing as reason to practice burial. It would seem that concept of emotional healing came lately long after cremation has been practiced before. It could not be argued similarly that emotional healing was less then during the Roman Empire when they were doing cremation before Christianity.
It could thus be inferred that practices has their greater effect on beliefs of people than what science may seem to indicate. This argument is of course based on premise that psychology, which supports the concepts of emotional healing from the funeral ritual, is a science. History of cremation has it that an Italian , Professor Brunetti , developed the first cremation chamber in the 1870’s which might have created a movement toward cremation in Europe and North America and which has continued to present day.
If one goes back in history, the Romans had already practiced cremations before so that the development of the first cremation chamber in the 1870’s was also an attempt to bring back the old practice. Another proof of this assertion is the fact that in 1886 the Roman Catholic church officially banned cremations excommunicating those who would arrange them. This means that prior to banning by the Church cremations were already practiced widely in Rome.