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Purified by FireA History of Cremation in America$
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Stephen Prothero

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520208162

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520208162.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 29 June 2022

Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Purified by Fire
Author(s):

Stephen Prothero

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520208162.003.0001

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

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