A month ago, Agnostic looked at the burying of the burial as conventional postmortem send off in the Great Britain and the US. Cremations were rare on this side of the Atlantic through the sixties, and only began increasing after 1970 (when about 4% of the deceased were incinerated). The popularity of cremation grew steadily from that point on, though, and today for every two corpses lowered into the ground, one is lowered into the flames. He noted:
Since the UK has been secularizing for much longer and at a much greater intensity than North America has, it’s no surprise that they’ve already reached about saturation level, while we still have a ways to go, especially in America. See this map of US states by cremation rates, which looks very much like a map of traditional vs. progressive values.
Indeed it does.
Admittedly I hadn’t given it much thought, but I’ve never had the sense that the question of whether to bury or to cremate was influenced much by political orientation. For the most part, though, the map seems to suggest it, though a geographic divide mitigates that somewhat, with the nation’s newest states tending to embrace cremation the most.
Fortunately, a writer for the Scripps Howard News Service has provided state-level rates for 2006. A state’s cremation rate and the percentage of its electorate that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 is a moderate but non-negligible .41 (p = .00).
Many Christians believe the deceased will rise again at the Christ’s second coming. The gospel of John (5:28-29) explicitly says as much:
Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Consequently, I wondered if religiosity might be a bigger influence on the question than political orientation is. I doubt most sincere believers have consciously thought about the state of their physical bodies at resurrection, to the extent that they think actual flesh and bone will be resurrected at all, but the general tendency for believers to think of life as sacred presumably has spillover effects into areas like the question of how to put family members to rest when they die.
Comparing the percentage of a state’s residents who say religion is “very important” in their lives with its cremation percentage yields a strong correlation of .70 (p = 0):
Parenthetically, if you’re worried about spending the afterlife in the inferno, it might be wise to instruct those close to you to burn your remains when you’re pushed off mortal coil so Mephistopheles won’t be able to have at you down the road.