Rites of Birth & Death


There are no special rituals for birth or death, but there may be distinctive
observances consisting of secular elements excerpted from familiar
customs of the cultural surroundings. For example, in the United States,
holding a solemn gathering and eulogizing the deceased person is
commonplace. More frequently, friends and/or family may arrange for a
“joyful celebration of life” memorial event in addition to or in lieu of a
cremation or burial ceremony.

BUDDHIST Worldview

Buddhists invite monks and nuns to attend such events and to read the
scriptures, but the main ceremonies are generally from older traditions. In
Theravada Buddhism, funerals are occasions for teaching about suffering
and impermanence and for chanting paritta (protection) in order to gain and
transfer merit for the sake of the deceased.


Many Christians are baptized into the Church while they are babies, but this
can be done at any time in life. At death, Christians are laid to rest in the
hope of the resurrection of the dead. Cremation and burial are both

HINDU Worldview

Before birth and in the first months of life, there are many ceremonies. These
include: reciting the scriptures to the baby in the womb; casting its
horoscope when it is born; cutting its hair for the first time. At death, bodies
are cremated and the ashes thrown on to a sacred river. The River Ganges
is the most sacred river of all.

MUSLIM Worldview

At birth, the call to prayer is whispered into the baby's ear. After seven days
the baby is given a name, shaved, and baby boys are circumcised. At a
person’s death, the body is washed as if ready for prayer and then buried as
soon as possible. Cremation is not allowed.

JEWISH Worldview

Baby boys are circumcised eight days after birth. The names of girls are
announced in the synagogue on the first Sabbath after birth. Burial takes
place within 24 hours of death and cremation is very rare. The family is in full
mourning for seven days and, for eleven months, the special prayer Kadish
is said every day.

SIKH Worldview

At birth, the Mool mantra, the core teaching of Sikhism, is whispered into the
baby's ear. The baby is named at the gurdwara, or place of worship. The
Guru Granth Sahib is opened and the first letter of the first word on the page
gives the first letter of the baby's name. At death, the body is cremated and
the ashes thrown onto running water.

TAO Worldview

Horoscopes are cast at birth. After a month a naming ceremony is held. At
death, the body is buried and paper models of money, houses and cars are
burnt to help the soul in the afterlife. After about ten years the body is dug up
and the bones buried again in an auspicious site.

DEIST Worldview (of historical interest)

Deists of the 18th centuries participated to varying degrees in the rites and
observances stipulated by their surrounding (mostly Christian) communities.
Those in the upper classes, though differing in belief to the orthodoxy, still
continued generally loyal to convention, and so they remained technically
within their churches and participated on social grounds as expected (e.g.,
having children baptized, allowing a religious burial ceremony).

Teaching About Religion
in support of civic pluralism