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Why choose cremation over burial?

How would you like your body to spend eternity? In space, dancing with the stars? Or perhaps as a sparkle in someone's diamond ring? Or, if you're looking for something worthwhile maybe snuggled among colorful sea creatures as an artificial coral reef bank? These are some of the novel resting places that people have found for the cremated remains of their loved ones.

Though people might envision a roaring open-air funeral pyre or a flaming Viking ship when discussing cremation, modern-day cremations are far more likely to take place within the walls of crematories with industrial machines that efficiently incinerate human bodies.

According to cremation rates throughout the world from 2002, cremation is the principal form of final disposal of the dead in Hong Kong (83 percent of all deaths). About 30 percent of the dead in the United States were cremated in 2003, compared to only 6 percent in 1975. Statistics tell us that people who choose cremation in the U.S., are more likely to be from the West and white or Protestant, rather than to be from the South and black or Baptist.

Some people choose cremation over traditional burial because of the convenience, finding it logistically easier to handle ashes instead of a body. It's also significantly less expensive than traditional burial which averages $10,000. Still others may choose cremation because they are squeamish about decay and are attracted to the "sanitizing" effect of flames, while some people believe it fits with their spiritual convictions. An increasing awareness of environmental issues and availability of open space spurs some people to reflect on the choice of cremation instead of burial. Whatever the reason, more and more people are choosing cremation.

And what about the remains of your beloved pet? Virtually unheard of in the past, pet cremations have expanded into a $3 billion industry. The service is frequently made available through veterinarians' offices, and some funeral homes have incinerators used exclusively for animals while other crematories only accommodate animals.

Practiced since prehistoric times to varying degrees, the rate of cremations is rising as cultural taboos begin to fall away and modern realities shape funerary needs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.