Attending funerals as an atheist
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
14-12-2012, 12:22 PM
Attending funerals as an atheist
Yesterday I attended my first funeral since becoming an atheist, and I have to say it was... a different sort of experience than attending a funeral as a Christian. Mind you, this was not a close family member or friend whose funeral I attended - it was someone further up in our company whom I happened to be fond of, so maybe that attributed to the feeling, but still it was different.

First off, all the talk of how he was "in a better place" and how he'd "gone home" rubbed me the wrong way. It was second only to the frustration I felt when they talked so callously about him. It was "his body" this and "his body" that and I just didn't like it. Yes, what made him the man we all knew and loved wasn't there anymore, but he was still there. Don't know if that makes any sense to anyone else but me, but it struck me as sort of irreverent for some reason.

Of course, all those scriptures being read felt hollow and empty to me and I almost had to laugh about the loving characteristics attributed to the man upstairs. They talked about God's plan and all that bull and how the family could take comfort in that they'd see him again, but to me all that does is present a possible stumbling block in moving on with your own life, you know?

But hey, at least the preacher didn't use the funeral as an opportunity to proselytize. That always bothered me, even as a Christian.

So how do you guys feel about funerals and the traditional things said and done at them now that you are an atheist?

On a similar note, I loved that episode of Fringe where they did the Viking-esque type funeral with the pyre floating out onto the river. Too bad it's illegal in the states, 'cause that's what I call going out in a blaze of glory.

Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
14-12-2012, 12:27 PM
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
I totally wish I could have a Viking funeral!
I've only been to one funeral since I dropped my faith and I think I had an experience similar to yours. The scriptures and prayers seemed hollow. It was mostly just a nice social time to catch up with people I hadn't seen in years.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of Calvinism is that good Atheists do nothing." ~Eric Oh My
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 3 users Like Erxomai's post
14-12-2012, 01:50 PM (This post was last modified: 14-12-2012 01:56 PM by PoolBoyG.)
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
In no way are funerals religious. They've just been co opted by various religions, and then have religious "flavours" added to it. Funerals are just a remembrance.

Current ideal plan:
1. "Freeze" the brain and cells for possible resurrection.
2. Cremate the body.
2b. Allow ashes to be baked into baked goods, and consumed by loved ones?
3. Make note of what could have been learned from the life lived. What to do, what not to do, notes of interest for future use for the living, etc.

All this can take part in a "funeral" setting. Traditional funerals seem to be for the emotionally "loose"; it's a day about them to get over the death. I never liked people like that, and I wouldn't subject people I do like to boredom of a traditional funeral. Nether do I want funerals to become a celebration "It's good that this or other people will die, look at this spectacle we can enjoy". I don't like a culture with an invested interest in peoples deaths.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
14-12-2012, 03:26 PM
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
Hey, Escape.

When going to funerals it's important to not be a penis, cuz, y'know, it's not about you.

If I held a funeral for my father, doesn't matter in what tradition, and someone in attendance acted the fool because they didn't like the tradition, well, we'd all be attending their funeral the following week.

If you went to a Israeli funeral, a Chewa funeral, a Yanomami funeral, or a Gebusi funeral, would you have the same urge to laugh out loud or tell them what fools they were for believing in any of that clap trap? Do you imagine that they'd take it well?

You don't have to be of a tradition to take part in an important ritual of that tradition. What you do need to do is respect the importance of that tradition to those in attendance or just don't go. To do otherwise is juvenile. I'm glad that you had the presence of mind to remain respectful at that funeral.

There's nothing wrong with going to the family before the funeral and saying, "My condolences. I have a lot of love for you and you know how I felt about him and I would love to be at the funeral with you to give you my support but I have a very serious personal issue with religious ceremonies. I don't feel comfortable attending, supporting or participating in them. Out of respect for you, it's better if I just stay away. My love goes with you. Feel free to call me if you need to talk." That's a rather adult way to deal with it. Jumping up on the casket and shrieking, "Whoop whoop whoop, look at me!" is not.

If you do tell them it's better if you don't attend and they say they need you to be there, then you're really fucked. You just have to suck it up at that point and be there for them. Your needs don't really factor into it at that point.

I'm fortunate that I come from a very metropolitan city like Montreal. There are more cultures here than you can shake a stick at. While I respect and support the great diversity of cultures, I've been at more than one event where I was like, "This is some bullshit." I mean, come on, you can't be expected to like everything. But I always keep it respectful. But I mean, if it's really unbearable, I'll do everything in my power to not go back.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Ghost's post
14-12-2012, 03:27 PM
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
My problem isn't so much with the whole spiritual atmosphere - I realize it's all empty theatrics...even if they don't realize it - as it is with the people who come up to me and attempt to project their divine hope onto me. I mean, in the first place; they assume I'm feeling as distraught over the loss as they are (I'm not). But then while they're hugging me, they start going on and on about how "It's ok, it's ok, he's watching over us now; it's ok. We don't need to be sad for him anymore; he's in a much better place."

Who exactly are they trying to convince? Because it's not working on me, and as it seems, it's not working on them either.

Through profound pain comes profound knowledge.
Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto! Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor!
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Misanthropik's post
14-12-2012, 04:31 PM (This post was last modified: 14-12-2012 05:02 PM by Janus.)
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
(14-12-2012 12:22 PM)Escape Artist Wrote:  Yesterday I attended my first funeral since becoming an atheist, and I have to say it was... a different sort of experience than attending a funeral as a Christian. Mind you, this was not a close family member or friend whose funeral I attended - it was someone further up in our company whom I happened to be fond of, so maybe that attributed to the feeling, but still it was different.

First off, all the talk of how he was "in a better place" and how he'd "gone home" rubbed me the wrong way. It was second only to the frustration I felt when they talked so callously about him. It was "his body" this and "his body" that and I just didn't like it. Yes, what made him the man we all knew and loved wasn't there anymore, but he was still there. Don't know if that makes any sense to anyone else but me, but it struck me as sort of irreverent for some reason.

Of course, all those scriptures being read felt hollow and empty to me and I almost had to laugh about the loving characteristics attributed to the man upstairs. They talked about God's plan and all that bull and how the family could take comfort in that they'd see him again, but to me all that does is present a possible stumbling block in moving on with your own life, you know?

But hey, at least the preacher didn't use the funeral as an opportunity to proselytize. That always bothered me, even as a Christian.

So how do you guys feel about funerals and the traditional things said and done at them now that you are an atheist?

On a similar note, I loved that episode of Fringe where they did the Viking-esque type funeral with the pyre floating out onto the river. Too bad it's illegal in the states, 'cause that's what I call going out in a blaze of glory.

6 Months ago an RC priest refused to have a funeral service in his church and a spot (for the urn) in the church's cemetery because the deceased, a life-long upstanding member of that same congregation, had stipulated to be cremated instead of buried. And that's a capital sin for the Vatican. Reason enough to ostracize and ban someone even after his death and a respected life.

The congregation, the press, and the general public were furious! Livid! Near-lynching! And widely considered it as kicking someone who is already down. That priest had to be 'relieved' of his flock within the week.

FYI: in my western European country 60% of the people opt for cremation nowadays. And less than 10% still attend church (of any denomination, including Muslim) every week. There are even a couple dozen formally protestant ministers who publicly profess to be atheist. From the pulpit! Big Grin

None of the funerals I have attended in the last 40 years (none of which were Catholic) were presided over, or even addressed by a clergyman/woman. Only a few close relatives and friends address the mourners. Interspersed by usually 2 or 3 pieces of music, often the choice of the deceased, played through a sound system. There is no singing, and no community praying. No gods are mentioned. Only memories of the deceased and his/her final peace. I.o.w. no afterlife is suggested or assumed. Funerals are not religious occasions anymore.

Obviously religion does not play an overbearing part anymore IRL where I'm from like it does in e.g. the USA. Except when, still incidentally, fundie madmen disrupt society. Usually with violence. But that's no different from those same USA.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
14-12-2012, 05:15 PM
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
I recently attended a funeral for my forever friend, Steve. He, I, most of our friends, and families are all non-theist but there was a small faction of his cousin family members in attendance, who are theist.

I noticed the cousins seemed a bit nervous at first - maybe they thought we'd start stripping off our clothing and dance around his ashes or something. But when they saw we were all there to just offer proof of life and our recollections of our dear friend, share laughs and catch up, they loosened up and got into it. Even the presiding "Minister" (funeral director) got into it and acknowledged Steve's accomplished and free thinking life - he said he really wished he'd known him.

Two separate people - a man and a woman - came up to me later and said this was the most wonderful funeral service they had ever attended. Both actually said, "it was so honest" and I think I just said something like, "Well, Steve was always about honesty." I didn't think much about it at the time.

Then at the gravesite...
the alpha male cousin of this group (I think he might be some authority in his church) asked everyone if he could offer a prayer. Everyone just looked at each other, shrugged, and someone finally said, "Well sure, if it makes you feel better." It got a little chuckle and a couple of, "sure, go ahead".... so he did as we waited quietly. He, his wife, sister & her husband and an elderly man were the only ones to bow their heads during his words. The couple of little kids who were there, were happily playing in the dirt, completely unfazed. However, the four teens attending; I caught a couple of them looking around astonished that there were actually people who were not bowing their heads. Who knows - this may have been their first exposure to a heathen community and they seemed a bit impressed.

After the man prayed, the people who'd bowed their heads looked up. I have no idea what they were thinking - I don't know if it just hit them that Steve was dead or what. The weirdest thing about that entire day was the bewildered look they had on their faces after their prayer. You'd think it was supposed to help them but it didn't look like it, they just seemed confused. They fucked off pretty quick after that while the rest of us hung around and talked to the gravedigger for a bit.

I know I'll probably remember my friend for the rest of my life. The planet seems to still be spinning without him on it. I don't know what other people think about at funerals. Maybe they aren't really that important.

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes kim's post
14-12-2012, 07:03 PM
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
I'm supposed to attend a "1 - 2 hour" mass tomorrow for a distant by-marriage relative, an RC who was cremated. As tempting as it might be to watch a priest go nutso over an urn, I can't stomach that level of inanity for that long. I think I'm busy tomorrow.

We have enough youth. How about looking for the Fountain of Smart?
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
14-12-2012, 07:18 PM (This post was last modified: 14-12-2012 07:29 PM by fstratzero.)
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
(14-12-2012 12:22 PM)Escape Artist Wrote:  Yesterday I attended my first funeral since becoming an atheist, and I have to say it was... a different sort of experience than attending a funeral as a Christian. Mind you, this was not a close family member or friend whose funeral I attended - it was someone further up in our company whom I happened to be fond of, so maybe that attributed to the feeling, but still it was different.

First off, all the talk of how he was "in a better place" and how he'd "gone home" rubbed me the wrong way. It was second only to the frustration I felt when they talked so callously about him. It was "his body" this and "his body" that and I just didn't like it. Yes, what made him the man we all knew and loved wasn't there anymore, but he was still there. Don't know if that makes any sense to anyone else but me, but it struck me as sort of irreverent for some reason.

Of course, all those scriptures being read felt hollow and empty to me and I almost had to laugh about the loving characteristics attributed to the man upstairs. They talked about God's plan and all that bull and how the family could take comfort in that they'd see him again, but to me all that does is present a possible stumbling block in moving on with your own life, you know?

But hey, at least the preacher didn't use the funeral as an opportunity to proselytize. That always bothered me, even as a Christian.

So how do you guys feel about funerals and the traditional things said and done at them now that you are an atheist?

On a similar note, I loved that episode of Fringe where they did the Viking-esque type funeral with the pyre floating out onto the river. Too bad it's illegal in the states, 'cause that's what I call going out in a blaze of glory.
Yeah I had those feelings too. Every religious funeral feels like the same thing.

So much god talk you hardly have the time to actually feel like being sad and letting go.

I much prefer talking about who the person was in life, and why we will miss them in death. Which to me seems a hell of a lot more comforting dealing with the very real notion the person is dead: rather than to stuff it all down just to hold on to a hope that you will see them again.

Member of the Cult of Reason

The atheist is a man who destroys the imaginary things which afflict the human race, and so leads men back to nature, to experience and to reason.
-Baron d'Holbach-
Bitcion:1DNeQMswMdvx4xLPP6qNE7RkeTwXGC7Bzp
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
14-12-2012, 07:29 PM
RE: Attending funerals as an atheist
I attended the funeral of my wife's great aunt this week. It was very much a Christian affair and she was Christian to the end. There was a moderate amount of prothlesizm. I've been an atheist for a couple of years now so I'm much more normalised and grounded in my belief system than I would have been even a year ago.

She was a great grandmother who died in a nursing home. She had regular visits from both family and clergy, and the pastor who ran the service was her pastor and ministered to her in her failing years. He and the family spoke with love and tenderness about her life. There was the usual kind of assurance and reassurance that this is not the end. The assurance that this is a graduation, a rebirth. To stand in front of a casket and say that she is not dead, to stand in front of a casket and say that which is plainly true must be false is the mark of religion I suppose.

I haven't attended a church for quite a while now. Last time I did I refused to sing their songs of worship. At this funeral I sang along and participated in everything. This is her ceremony and a dedication to her memory. It is not a time for me to point out the hollowness of these rituals. A celebration of her life, somewhat hijacked by a religious message, and somewhat desperately hoping for a fresh start is in the end what she would have wanted.

I hope that when my time comes those that attend will pay memory the same respect in celebrating my life without hijacking it for any purpose. I hope, but am not greatly confident, that themes of heaven and hell and that scent of desperation will be absent. I hope that others will pay my memory the respect that I would pay theirs. Let such a ceremony mark the end of my life, as all things end.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: