The government in China has ordered the practice discontinued, even urging farmers to plow over old burial mounds. Cremation is encouraged instead. C. Other methods of disposing bodies Not all faiths bury their dead. Hindus generally practice cremation rather than burial. The body is washed with water from the Ganges River and then burned with a slow fire on a funeral pyre. Burial is reserved for children, ascetics, and people with certain diseases. Cremation is considered an act of purification, although it tends to strain India’s wood supply. Motivation for cremation may have originated from unwillingness on the part of nomads to leave their dead behind, possibly because of fear that the body could be attacked by wild beasts or evil spirits, or even return to life. Cremation could also free the soul from the body for departure to the afterworld and provide warmth and comfort for the soul as it embarked on the journey to the afterworld. Cremation was the principal form of disposing of bodies in Europe before Christianity. It is still practiced in parts of Southeast Asia, possibly because of Hindu influence. To strip away unclean portions of the body, Parsis (Zoroastrians) expose the dead to scavenging birds and animals. The ancient Zoroastrians did not want the body to contaminate the sacred elements of fire, earth, or water. Tibetan Buddhists also practice exposure for some dead, with cremation reserved for the most exalted priests. Disposal of bodies at sea is used in some parts of Micronesia, but the practice is much less common than in the past. The bodies of lower-class people would be flung into the sea; elites could be set adrift on a raft or boat. Water burial was regarded as a safeguard against being contaminated by the dead. D. Religious settlements Buildings for worship and burial places are smaller-scale manifestations of religion on the landscape, but there are larger-scale examples—entire settlements. Most human settlements serve an economic purpose , but some are established primarily for religious reasons. A utopian settlement is an ideal community built around a religious way of life. Buildings are sited and economic activities organized to integrate religious principles into all aspects of daily life. An early utopian settlement in the United States was Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, founded in 1741 by Moravians, Christians who had emigrated from the present-day Czech Republic. By 1858, some 130 different utopian settlements had begun in the United States in conformance with a group’s distinctive religious beliefs. Examples include Oneida, New York; Ephrata, Pennsylvania; Nauvoo, Illinois; and New Harmony, Indiana. The culmination of the utopian movement in the United States was the construction of Salt Lake City by the Mormons, beginning in 1848. The layout of Salt Lake City is based on a plan of the city of Zion given to the church elders in 1833 by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. The city has a regular grid pattern, unusually broad boulevards, and church-related buildings situated at strategic points.
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