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How Afterlife Beliefs Affect Funerals

A Guide to How Religion Influences Memorialization

The question, how afterlife beliefs affect funerals is in many ways the same as to ask, what funerals mean to different people. In many ways, your belief in the afterlife, that giant step into eternity, will affect every other aspect of the funeral.

Those who believe in an afterlife can find great comfort after the loss of a loved oneChristians answer the question of how afterlife beliefs affect funerals with their hope and expectation that their loved ones are not really dead. If they have trusted in Jesus, they believe, their loved ones will go to heaven. That is how afterlife beliefs affect funerals for them. It is no surprise then that many of the hymns played at Christian funerals will reflect the grace and mercy that they believe that God has had upon them through Jesus, His son.

An Islamic funeral tends to focus more on the earthly realm. These funerals say to mourners “Remember, life is given by Allah, and it is He who takes it away.” It does however answer the question of how afterlife beliefs affect funerals, as they trust that three things will serve the departed in eternity, the charity he or she has performed on Earth - since it continues to help others - the knowledge that they have imparted, and the prayers of a child - who may grow up to learn from the example of a life well lived. Nonetheless, in the afterlife, there is only eternal rest for one who has lived a good life on Earth; there are no more chances to do good works beyond the grave.

Secular funerals, for those who chose to live life without an organized religion, answer the question of how afterlife beliefs affect funerals by simply saying that there is no afterlife to speak of. In the place of a minister, a secular officiator will often preside over the services. In the place of hymns or scripture, meaningful hymns and poems will often be spoken. The spreading of ashes from a scattering ash urn is also popular at these funerals. Perhaps this is an earthly answer to the question, how afterlife beliefs affect funerals. Afterlife, they trust, their loved ones ashes will be spread to renew the natural world that sustained them during their lives.

Different religions have various concepts on what happens afer one passes awayAmong Buddhists, there is a wide spectrum of answers to the question of how afterlife beliefs affect funerals, so much so that their answers are almost as varied as all of the previously mentioned. Theravada Buddhists answer the question, how afterlife beliefs affect funerals by trusting that their loved ones will (if they have led a good life) be reincarnated into a better existence. Tibetan Buddhists on the other hand answer the question, how afterlife beliefs affect funerals by giving their loved ones remains to the birds. This is a long standing way of giving thanks to the animal kingdom for all of its help in life.

How afterlife beliefs affect Jews is often mixed as it varies whether they believe in a spiritual afterlife. Some believe in a heaven similar to Christians, while others believe that once one has died, all life ceases. In either case, the Jewish funeral emphasizes closure, as participants all take a part in burying the casket, in order to symbolize its finality.

It is obvious that afterlife beliefs affect funerals in radically different ways, and with an increasingly diverse society in American, it may be a good idea to keep that in mind.

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