The trend to funerals without religion

Respecting the dead

The proportion of Americans who don't identify with a specific faith is growing. What does this mean for the future of funeral rites, asks The Atlantic.

If you're interested, there's a tattoo parlor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii where an artist named Dodge may be able to give you a tattoo that incorporates a dead body—literally. “You simply take the cremains, or the ashes, and you mix them in with the ink, and then you ink that onto the person," explained Candi Cann, a professor at Baylor University and the author of Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century, which came out in June.

"It’s really not that different from wearing a piece of jewellery that your grandma gave you: You’re not wearing the piece of jewellery—you’re wearing your grandma.”

For most of human history, religious ceremony has helped people deal with death, providing explanations about souls and the afterlife along with rituals to help the living deal with their grief. Not all religions do death the same way. "There are certain denominations within Christianity and certain religions in general that do a better job of remembering the dead," said Cann. "Like the Catholics: There’s a very set calendar for remembering, and it’s still tied down to the religious calendar."

Tattooing yourself with a dead person's remains is one new way of memorializing death in the absence of faith, she said. "As society becomes more secular, and people are more and more turning to that 'spiritual but not religious category,' they’re forming their own do-it-yourself ways of remembering the dead."

Even within religious communities, some people have trouble finding meaningful ways to grieve, she said. "A lot of these more evangelical and charismatic denominations emphasise salvation and heaven—you’re going to be with the Lord, so you’re supposed to be happy. So if you feel bad that your best friend died, then there’s something wrong with you."

No matter your beliefs, it's important for everyone to process loss, intellectually and emotionally: After all, death is weird. In everyday life, it can be easy to ignore the starkest truth of human existence—we are finite, and one day, life will end—but not when somebody dies. 

FULL STORY Burying Your Dead Without Religion

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