Why human remains on the moon raise difficult questions for people of many faiths

Jan. 8, 2024 to send human remains to the Moon on Peregrine 1, the first commercial lunar lander. With scientific instrumentscaused controversy.

Navajo Nation Chief Buu Nygren countered, „The moon has a sacred place” Navajo and other tribal traditions and should not be defiled in this way. The interior of the lander is a kind of „Space burial” remains of about 70 people. Every family had Over US$12,000 was paid for a permanent memorial on the moon.

as Professors Religious studies As those of us who have taught courses on death rites, we know that death rites in world religions are shaped by thousands of years of tradition and practice. This ash did not reach the moon because a Impulse leakageTheir presence on the lander raised some important religious issues: beliefs about the polluting nature of the corpse, the acceptability of cremation, and the sanctity of the moon differed across traditions.

Jewish Death Rituals and Purification

In ancient Judaism, certain activities were believed to be defiling, making a person ineligible to participate in the prayers and animal sacrifices offered exclusively at the Temple in Jerusalem. There were many ways in which one could become ritually impure, and each level of impurity was cleansed by an appropriate purification ritual. Direct contact with a human corpse It was believed to cause the most serious form of pollution; Even touching a person or object that has been in contact with a dead body can cause low levels of contamination.

After the Romans He destroyed the temple in 70 AD, Jewish religious practice changed dramatically, including rules about purification. These days, after a burial or visit to a cemetery, many Jews wash their hands to wash away negativity. spirits or energy.

In Judaism, the bodies of the dead must be buried or cremated in the earth. cremation of human bodies, Rejected for centuriesBut has become very popular Still a controversial option Because of the old tradition of respecting the body as God's creation – it should be buried as is.

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Christian death rites through the centuries

Before the rise of Christianity in the first century AD, Roman Civil Religion He stressed the need to separate the living from the dead. Corpses or cremated remains were buried in burial grounds outside towns and cities Necropolis, literally the city of the dead. Like Judaism, Any viewer needs refinement Later on.

As monotheists, Christians rejected belief in Greek and Roman gods and goddesses The moon goddess is called Selene or Luna. They refused to participate in the religious rituals of the Roman state or practices based on pagan polytheism. Decades later, after Christianity became the official imperial religion, the Christians replaced it The remains of the people they considered sacred as cities and towns Reburials should be made for easy worship within churches.

In the Middle Ages, ordinary Christians preferred to be buried near these saints in anticipation of the resurrection of the body at Christ's second coming. There were tombs around the church Consecrated as „Holy Land”..” In this way, Christians believed that the separated could continue will benefit from the sanctity of saints. Their bodies were considered sources of spiritual blessing rather than causes of spiritual pollution.

A fourth-century Christian burial is depicted in relief in the Basilica of San Vittore in the Ciel d'Oro, Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan.
Attribution/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Increasingly today, cremation is considered acceptable, although cremation is required by the Catholic Church Should not be scattered or separated but buried or placed elsewhere in cemeteries.

Unlike some other religions, neither Judaism nor Christianity regard the moon as divine or sacred. As part of God's creation, it is plays a role In setting religious calendars. In Jewish and Christian Spiritual Writings, The The moon is used as a spiritual metaphor: in Judaism, the majesty of God, and in Christianity, Christ and the Church.

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Islamic beliefs about burial

Cremation is strictly prohibited in Islam. After death, the deceased Ritually washed and covered with shrouds and brought to a grave for burial as soon as possible.

After a Final prayer, led by an imam or senior member of the community, the deceased is buried – usually without a coffin – with their head facing the holy city of Mecca. The soul of the deceased They asked to meet their loved ones On the seventh and 40th days after death.

The The Quran warns against worshiping the moonWorship is attributed to God alone, as was done in pre-Islamic culture.

In September 2007, as Malaysia's first Muslim astronaut prepared to go into space, the Malaysian National Space Agency Issued religious orders Burial Rites for Muslims in Space If it is not possible to bring the body back, the orders state that he will be „buried” in space after a short ceremony. If water is not available in space for ritual rituals, „holy dust” must be wiped from the face and hands even if there is „no dust” on the space station.

Hindu and Buddhist funeral rites

Hinduism is a diverse religion, so funeral rites often vary according to culture and context. Generally, death and the period following a person's death are related Ritual pollution. Because of this, the deceased must be cremated within 24 hours of death.

Cremation of the corpse severes the ties of the soul soul, for the body, allowing it to move on to the next level of existence and eventually reincarnate. The ashes are collected, placed in an urn on the third day of cremation and immersed in the waters of a holy river like the Ganges.

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Within Hinduism, the moon plays an important role in conceptualizing what happens to the dead. For example, ancient Hindu texts describe the spirits of the virtuous dead as entering Chandraloka, or the realm of the moon, where they enjoy a brief period of bliss before being reborn.

In many forms of Buddhism, death offers a chance for the grieving On the volatility of all substances. In Tibetan Buddhism there is a tradition of „”.Heaven is modest,” in which the deceased is dismembered and dismembered, in most forms of Buddhism the dead are usually cremated, and as in Hinduism, the corpse is considered pre-polluted.

A man lights a candle on an altar, painted red, with white flowers in two vases and incense sticks in a small pot.
A ritual is performed at a Thai funeral.
Surasak Chuanmake/Moment via Getty Images

In older forms of Buddhism in Nepal and Tibet, it was understood as the moon Identified with Chandra God, the charioteer. The Moon is one of the nine astrological deities whose movement provides insight into calculating personal and collective futures.

Difficult questions

In response to Navajo objections that dropping ash on the moon was unsanitary, the CEO of Celestis, the company that launched the capsules containing the ash, Reported It insists that sending human ashes to the moon is „the opposite of desecration…it's celebration.”

In the end the question was blunt. Peregrine 1 No slow landing on the moon Engine failure and its cause Payload destroyed After entering the atmosphere.

However, as more and more people decide to send their ashes into space, religious conflicts will arise. A major concern, not just for the Navajo Nation, will be how to respect all religious traditions as humans explore and commercialize the moon. It is still a problem on Earth today.

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