Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

Human bodies could be disposed of without any form of ceremony. Foetuses in some societies, and bodies in such emergencies as war and famine, often are. Usually, however, a person is given more apparent honor at the time of death than during life: This is the last chance to "do" him or her "justice."

Although many other motives also may be present (sorrow, guilt, anxiety, initiation into new roles, and so on), this apparently more altruistic motive should not be overlooked, especially in contemporary, atomistic culture. Consonant with this is a growing desire on the part of the bereaved to take a creative part in the shaping of what is seen as "their" funeral. Unconsciously perhaps, they are asserting that "man does not die by biology alone." Indeed, the very fact of a funeral achieves some kind of (spiritual) resurrection.

Edward I. Bailey


T. Walter, Funerals (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1990).

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