Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America Paperback – November 4, 2002
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Library Journal
As Prothero (religion, Boston Univ.) states in the introduction, "what Americans usually do is bury." In this outstanding work, he delves deeply into a subject that is often avoided: death and, most specifically, cremation. He reads ancient texts, showing how the likes of Homer, Virgil, and Ovid discussed cremation. As Christianity rose in the West, cremation disappeared, and from the late fourth century C.E. until the 17th century burial was the accepted way to dispose of the dead. Prothero cites English physician Sir Thomas Browne's 1658 book on cremation as critical to the modern cremation movement. But Prothero focuses mainly on cremation in America. Starting in the late 1800s, when the first modern American cremations took place, Prothero traces the changing views about cremation in America up to the present. Now almost a quarter of the populace chooses cremation, and cultural icons such as John Lennon and President Kennedy have been cremated without a second thought. Some of the more interesting sections of the book consider the interplay of cremation and public health and the centrality of the immortality of the soul to cremationists. This very interesting book is highly recommended for larger public, academic, and theological libraries.DJay Stephens, Roanoke Higher Education Ctr. Lib., VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Social scientists often produce fascinating studies by focusing on seemingly obscure subjects (cod, for example, or bowling alone); this survey of cremation's U.S. history by a Boston University religion professor illuminates many aspects of the nation's social and cultural history. Conventional wisdom might attribute cremation's rise--from less than 4 percent of U.S. deaths in 1963 to 24 percent in 1998--to secularization. Prothero is not so sure: "Whether to bury or to burn," he maintains, raises key philosophical and theological issues, including "perceptions of the self, attitudes toward the body, views of history, styles of ritual, and beliefs in God and the afterlife." Prothero identifies three periods of cremation in the U.S.: the introduction of this "radical" European idea (1874-1896); a period of consolidation as cremation facilities and institutions (including crematories' relationships with the funeral industry) were formed (1896-1963); and the recent boom (1963-present). Today cremation is winning acceptance as a simpler approach that allows survivors to design customized death rituals particularly meaningful to them. Intriguing analysis of changes in social mores. Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Stephen Prothero's book, "Purified by Fire," takes an interesting and enlightening look at one of the oldest methods of "disposition" in the world. It also explains the origins of the rite of cremation in America in an easily understood language, and removes the "shroud" of mystery of the cremation of the dead.
A fantastic read for any who wonder about death rites - and any who actually wonder about any type of history in the United States.
Prothero has gone the extra mile in gathering information for the reader. He takes the door off the columbarium and crematorium and allows us to take a look inside. He gives us the background: that cremation was brought to the United States by those who were concerned about disease in the dead; then gives us a glimpse into the future: that cremation is gaining popularity, even by those in the major religious denominations.
From "Birth" to "Boom", Prothero unleashes his magic of writing and works it into a magnificent MUST READ that I refer to as "The Cremationist's Bible".
By the way, I attended a symposium at Forest Lawn in 2003 where Prothero was a speaker along with others. At the end, questions were directed to the speakers. And someone asked Prothero whether he had children or not to which he answered yes, and it was a child of just a few years. The person asked him that if his child died, would he cremate them. It stumbled Prothero who finally answered that he would NOT.