How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
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05-06-2017, 08:01 AM
How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
Nice little write-up in today's Toronto Star. Agree or disagree?

How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral

From the article:
Quote:... my atheist friends seem to believe that love is better than hate, relationships are more important than possessions, building up is preferable to tearing down, peace is more noble than war. My atheist friends are, in general, driven by a conviction that the earth is sacred, life is precious, and beauty, joy and hope should be the goals of their lives.

... if you do believe these things, you should feel comfortable in almost any religious gathering, funeral or otherwise, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, traditional Spirituality, or whatever. Yes, yes — in all of those communities there are a few fundamentalists who will judge your atheism harshly, but setting them aside (which, trust me, is the right response), worship in the world’s main religions celebrates and lifts up exactly the same values that you espouse.
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05-06-2017, 08:08 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
You should act with respect for the person who has died. Stand when asked, you don't need to sing, but just act respectful. I've attend a few of these, unfortunately, and as long as you are respectful to the person/their family, you can't really do any more than that.

I attended a catholic christening over the weekend, as a friend had their child baptized. Not something I would do, yet I went to support them and was respectful the entire time. Doesn't mean I enjoyed it, but I was there to support them.

I don't want Fop, goddamn it! I'm a Dapper Dan man!
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05-06-2017, 08:17 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
You're there out of respect for the deceased and/or the other mourners and it's not a time to be telling them that they are delusional or that the person they loved is really gone and that they will never see them again. That would just be cruel. If the service has a lot of religious trappings just sit in the back and tune it out.

If anybody asks why you aren't singing or whatever just tell them you aren't familiar with this particular ritual and change the subject.

Ignore the literal "he's in a better place now" comments and focus on the sentiment. You can respond with how much you cared about the person or how you will miss them or even how he's no longer in pain if appropriate. You don't have to compromise your integrity but you also don't have to be a jerk about it either.

There will be time for that later.
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Atheism: it's not just for communists any more!
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05-06-2017, 08:19 AM (This post was last modified: 05-06-2017 08:31 AM by Rockblossom.)
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
(05-06-2017 08:01 AM)Heath_Tierney Wrote:  Nice little write-up in today's Toronto Star. Agree or disagree?

How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral

Everything is about the beliefs of the attendees, and nothing about the person being given the funeral. Is the body, then, just a "floral centerpiece" of a ceremony that is all about the people giving speeches and singing hymns? When I know a funeral is going to be that, I just stay home. If it is about celebrating the life of the person who has died, and trying to do what they would have wanted at the funeral, then I stay quiet and observe.

And, no, I don't think that the religious attendees (at least in my eyelet of the Bible Belt) have the same ideas and aspirations as I do, so I don't always feel comfortable at religious funerals - especially when Preacher Man decides it's a good opportunity to give his favorite "hellfire and brimstone" speech. Facepalm

Added comment: How about looking at this in reverse? Do religious people feel comfortable at the funeral of an atheist? Are they all just happy to "go with the flow" of a Buddhist ceremony? How comfortable are Christians when they attend a Muslim funeral - or do they just opt not to go?

I’ll be a story in your head, but that’s okay, because we’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? Because it was, you know. It was the best.
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05-06-2017, 08:36 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
(05-06-2017 08:01 AM)Heath_Tierney Wrote:  Nice little write-up in today's Toronto Star. Agree or disagree?
Yes and no.

In the US at least, fundamentalists aren't as rare / ignorable as the author suggests, and they tend to regress even further at funerals.

I would say that I would not be uncomfortable so much as bored / indifferent at the sort of services most liberal Christians and non-creedal post-Christians (e.g., Unitarian/ Universalists) conduct, and I have a lot of common cause with them, actually. Funerals are in theory no different, though in practice, as I said, people regress in their grief and shock and want the faux comfort of eternal life, and potentially, crave validation from me that I'm unable to give.

The closest I came to having an actual problem in this regard was when my oldest brother was dying of bone cancer. He wanted to know why god had allowed this, what he had done to deserve it. I simply said that I am the wrong person to ask such questions, reminded him that bad things often happen to good people and vice versa, and suggested that he was, in fact, a good person. What else can you do.

I would say that the essay is mostly correct theoretically, somewhat incorrect practically. How uncomfortable one would be in a Christian funeral is a function of your personality and life experience, and focusing on what you have in common with them rather than on what you don't have in common is a rational strategy to help yourself feel better than you otherwise might. Also, it's a good way to not be a dick. The funeral is not about you, or even about the deceased really, it's about the grieving family.
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05-06-2017, 08:41 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
I disagree with the rationale given by the "post-theist" writing the editorial. It is not true that all major religions espouse the same set of high-minded humanist values.

I agree to some extent with the behavior recommended for a funeral service. There's no need to be overtly disrespectful to the religious verbiage and ceremony, and it's possible to appreciate the emotions being expressed while not assenting to the religious tenets. However, it can be hard as an atheist to keep a neutral affect throughout a funeral with a strongly manipulative come-to-Jesus message, and I've certainly been to some of those.

I think my advice would have been different. I would have recommended that the reader consider other ways of sharing grief and memories, like attending the wake or viewing or helping with post-funeral functions, if the idea of attending another funeral was too much.
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05-06-2017, 08:48 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
Funerals are about the deceased and their close friends and loved ones. When I have to attend services for a religious person or a person from a religious family I basically go the route of respectful deference. I don't directly participate in saying prayers but I also don't make a spectacle of my non-participation. If everyone else is praying I bow my head and remain quiet and use the time to focus on a memory of the deceased or think of an anecdote I might mention later in a more personal setting with the person's spouse or kids or whatever the situation may be.

Beyond grief and missing the person who is gone I don't have to have a single thing in common with the dead person's loved ones in order to sympathize and offer my condolences. Lately, as a substitute for the "he's in a better place" line, I've been using something to the effect of, "may you find strength and peace and enjoy your memories of him." I've yet to be thrown out of a funeral for this no matter how religious the setting.
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05-06-2017, 08:50 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
An atheist should keep the volume down on the bluetooth earbud during the ceremony so as to not disrupt the proceedings. :justmyview:
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05-06-2017, 08:55 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
Sidenote: my wife is ethnically Jewish and unfortunately we've lost a lot of people on her side of the family in the last year or so. Her family isn't particularly religious but in each case we've had graveside services with a rabbi. Yarmulke's are distributed by the cemetery staff. I decline to wear them.

I feel like it would be a greater disrespect to wear one for "appearances" than to quietly decline. So far nobody has cared; they must've had bigger concerns on their minds!
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05-06-2017, 09:03 AM
RE: How should an atheist behave at a religious funeral?
You act polite, behave yourself, and be compassionate.
What a dumbass.
I wonder if the letter to the columnist is a POE.
"Atheistic beliefs" ? LOL

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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