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What do Different Religions do When Someone Dies?

Death is often closely linked with religion and belief in gods, with many people believing their loved ones will pass on to an after life or similar. Such beliefs also include opinions on how somebody’s remains should be processed, with many believing that such details are essential for the well-being of the deceased’s soul. 

As such, you can expect people from different religions to respond quite differently to the death of somebody close. And when arranging a funeral, it’s important to take the wishes of the departed into account, along with other factors. If you don’t consider the beliefs of the deceased and their loved ones, there’s a good chance you could end up deeply offending somebody.

With so many different beliefs it can be difficult to understand what to expect from a funeral. So, we’ve created this brief guide on what people from different religions do when a loved one passes away.


Christians typically believe that the body should be buried, although this is not always the case. There are many denominations of Christianity, including those that have more casual observers, so you can expect considerable differences from one Christian funeral to the next. Regardless, what’s most important for many Christians is that the deceased gets a Christian ceremony, which often involves a vicar, pastor, or another church representative.

The details of a Christian funeral vary wildly depending on the specific beliefs and practices of the deceased and those around them. However, they are usually low-key affairs that focus on the deceased, along with the reading of bible verses


Atheism isn’t a religion per se, but it can still affect how people behave when somebody dies. Atheists don’t believe in gods and most don’t believe in the afterlife, instead holding the opinion that we simply cease to exist once our time has come. 

But that doesn’t mean to say atheists aren’t interested in funerals. Indeed, quite the opposite is true as atheists love those close to them just as much as anybody else and will want to pay their respects. And a funeral is an important part of the grieving process regardless of peoples’ opinions of religion. 

As different religions have become so entwined in cultures, so an atheist’s funeral will often involve elements that originate from religion. In countries like Australia where Christianity has been the predominant religion for so long, you will often find atheist funerals with Christian elements to the service. 


In Islam, the deceased’s body is usually buried as quickly as possible to help prevent their loved ones from experiencing sanitary issues. Relatives of the deceased will usually start making plans straight away, with the body usually buried within 24 hours. As such, there is usually no opportunity to view the body, unlike with other religious practices. The religion strictly forbids cremating the body. 

As the body is laid in the ground, an imam will perform the Ṣalāt al-Janāzah, which is an Islamic funeral prayer. The body will also be bathed before being buried, with the bathing usually performed by immediate family members of the same sex as the deceased. Muslims will also tend to follow a set period of official mourning, the length of which will depend on the mourner’s relationship with the deceased.


Hindus will typically choose cremation over a burial. This is because they believe the body no longer serves a purpose once life has left it. A cremation is also usually preferred because Hindus believe it will help release the deceased’s soul. The body is usually held at the deceased’s home until the cremation which will usually be held within 24 hours of their death.

Hindu funerals tend to involve religious chants, usually performed by an official Hindu representative. The deceased’s body is usually washed in honey, milk, yoghurt and ghee, while they are also dressed smartly and their palms arranged so they are praying. Other rituals involve using essential oils, garlands of flowers, and sprinkling the body with water.


Buddhists are similar to Hindus in that they believe the body is just a vessel and serves no purpose after death. Buddhists also believe that cremation will help to set the deceased’s soul free, while monks will usually meditate and perform prayers before the body is cremated. In most cases, the body is not cremated until at least 7 days have passed, and the mourning period can last up to 100 days in some cases.

Buddhists believe in reincarnation, meaning their loved one is born again in a different body. And many Buddhists believe that crying at a funeral can worry the deceased’s spirit. As such, Buddhist funerals are often upbeat affairs and will often involve a small brass band. However, the upbeat nature of such funerals doesn’t mean the deceased’s family loved the deceased any less.


Above are some of the most commonly followed religions and how their followers tend to react to death. However, there are many more religions and there are also many sub-sets within particular religions. As such, you can expect to see huge differences in how people treat their dead, including rituals and ceremonies involved.

Regardless of which religion you believe in, if any, professional funeral directors will be able to give you the service you desire. If you have any questions regarding how different religions treat the dead, the team at Family Funerals will be happy to help. Our friendly and professional team looks forward to your call and will be delighted to answer any questions you might have.