My first funeral as an atheist
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22-05-2013, 09:38 AM
My first funeral as an atheist
I noticed before posting on "Personal Issues and Support" that the rules on this particular page do not allow for the same kind of vigorous and open discussion allowed in other sections of the forum. I would like to waive that requirement for this thread (but I still couldn't find a better place for this post, so if the mods want to move it somewhere more appropriate, please let me know). Feel free to comment without fear of offending me. I won't complain; Promise.

Also, I posted this on another site, so if there's a forum rule against cross-posting, I apologize for breaking it. Here goes:
***

I finally confronted my faith and embraced the fact of my atheism late last August, 2012. Days after I revealed my "epiphany" to a few friends who knew me from another message board, my sister died from Lou Gehrig's Disease (which pissed her off because she hated catching a disease from someone she never f---ed).

THAT was my sister, understand? She was a beautiful, life-loving, potty-mouthed extrovert who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research and was named Woman of the Year by her community in New Jersey. She was a big deal with an enormous heart, and a blunt, profane, walking testament to the existence of hilarity.

Two family members gave the eulogy. Both were religious in their way, but one resonated while the other nauseated. My cousin talked about how, in the Bible, "faith without works is dead," and paid tribute to all the good things my sister did. He talked about her legacy, the causes she embraced and promoted, the good she did reflected in the enormous crowd that gathered to pay final respects. Then my brother spoke. He said NOT ONE WORD about our sister's life. Just some claptrap about her alleged concern for her eternal destiny and how he was so confident that she had eternal life because she embraced the lordship of Jesus Christ. Oh, and by the way, we can have that same assurance by accepting Jesus as Lord, because God gave His only-begotten son blah blah blah.

I was seething. I could have throttled him right there. Here we are, celebrating the woman's life and mourning her loss, only to be lectured to by some pompous, holier-than-thou know-it-all singing the praises of a God who, by the way, did NOTHING while my healthy and vibrant sister rotted in her own non-responsive body for five years before drowning, mercilessly, in her own bodily fluids just so He could have another damned rose petal in heaven.

My sister deserved better than that.
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22-05-2013, 10:03 AM
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
I completely agree she did deserve better. Does this change the way you view your brother now? Will that cause issues with your family?


God is a concept by which we measure our pain -- John Lennon

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22-05-2013, 10:05 AM
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
Your sister sounded like a cool chick = )

I loved reading this; I felt your emotion, I felt your annoyance with the whole "situation." It was beautifully written.

Although the "holier-than-thou" brother rambled on about Jesus and didn't focus on the amazing life of the person that the funeral was about, that's kinda all he knows. God is life and more important than anything. It's difficult for them to change their ways.

I think that your ability to sit there and listen while still thinking of your sister speaks volumes about how strong you are. You knew your sister and you felt that she should have the courtesy to be remembered for the work SHE did in her life, rather than attributing it to some mythical being.

I went to my stepfather's funeral in September, 2012. I loved that guy and I miss him everyday. He was a soft-spoken old man and in recent years, I had found out that he didn't believe in God, either. He and I were able to bond about it and make jokes. When I sat in the chair at his funeral, this guy was talking at the podium about him for maybe a minute, and then he went into saying that "prayer thing" about "walking through the valley of the shadow of death, blah, blah, blah..." My eyes narrowed and I sat with my arms crossed. Dude went on and on about Heaven and how "Don is in a better place with God." (I have trouble recalling much because the second this dude over-shadowed my step dad's life with talk of something that HE DIDN'T EVEN BELIEVE IN, I tuned out and imagined Don sitting there, shaking his head in bewilderment.) He THEN went and led a prayer. I sat with my head held high and I looked around at EVERYONE bowing their own heads and nodding along in silent "remembrance." I wanted to get up and walk out. This funeral should be honoring a man that lived an exciting life, not about Jesus. I found it disrespectful and sad: Either they KNEW Don didn't believe in God and they still talked about it despite that fact in a blatant way OR they really didn't know Don well at all.

Back to you... I put myself in your shoes at your sister's funeral. I immediately thought about my own experience.

At least you are able to remember your sister and appreciate the work she did for others without thanking Jesus. This shows how much you truly loved her and knew her. You can't change others easily, but you can work on YOURSELF; Find comfort in knowing that you are strong and thoughtful and loving.

"It was life, often unsatisfying, frequently cruel, usually boring, sometimes beautiful, once in awhile exhilarating." -Stephen King
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22-05-2013, 10:08 AM (This post was last modified: 22-05-2013 10:14 AM by Bows and Arrows.)
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
I get the feeling you are still angry with your brother? maybe I'm wrong.

What is your relationship with him today? What do you want for that relationship in the future?




I am not making excuses for your brother but sometimes our own grief blinds us to other ideas.
1. They may have had conversations that you weren't privy to the details. And they may have gone out of their way to keep them from you. And that is their choice because it is a private conversation.
2. Your brother also lost someone he loved dearly- he was coping the best he could- the only way he knew how- on probably one of the most difficult times in his life.
3. His message may have helped others in the audience-even if it didn't help you and didn't actually reflect your sister. Funerals are for the living -to help them say goodbye and to mark an ending so that those left behind can start again. If his message brought comfort to someone in the audience-would you want that comfort taken from them?

I remember when I was young at my grandfathers funeral the minister blowing his nose in the middle. I was a kid, I thought it was rude to be blowing boogers in the middle of a heart wrenching time. I thought it was disrespectful to my grandfather. What I didn't know until many, many, many years later was the minister was one my grandfathers friends, that he was ill himself and came to do the service because they were close friends and he himself was over come with grief while delivering it. Sometimes we don't know-what we don't know.


what's done is done.


Decide where your relationship is with your brother today. Decide if hanging on to this anger does this relationship any good. And decide where you want the future to go with your brother. Then take the steps necessary to get there.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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22-05-2013, 10:26 AM
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
My brother is a kind but ignorant goof. I bear him no ill-will. I was angry about what he did, not about who he is. And the timeline I submitted was important to the story. I had only just come to terms with my own atheism, literally DAYS earlier, when my sister died.

My brother spoke from the heart, but what really bothered me was that the heart was so shallow. I do not mean that to insult him, but to insult the mythical fantasy that blinded him to what just happened. After the service was over, I cried in his arms, and his response (still thinking I was a Christian) was, "We do not mourn as they do." Shoot, that got me even angrier.

For those who don't know the reference: In I Thessalonians, "Paul" writes that we (Christians) do not mourn the death of our loved ones the same way heathen mourn, because we (Christians) "know" that we will see our loved ones again. Having just recently rejected this fantasy, I was hurt immeasurably by his unintended callousness. Without meaning to, he was telling me that his mourning, rooted in an absurd fantasy, was preferable to my mourning, rooted in the truth that a vibrant and unique person was lost to the world, irrevocably, and I'd never get another chance to let her know that I loved her.

Those who detect in me an anger toward my brother are mistaken. My anger is with the fiction that drove him to say those things. I understand my brother completely. He's a nitwit, and when it comes to religion, he's a dogmatic, holier-than-thou nitwit. But to borrow one of their own phrases: I hate the religion, not the religious.
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22-05-2013, 12:31 PM
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
(22-05-2013 10:26 AM)TwoCultSurvivor Wrote:  My brother is a kind but ignorant goof. I bear him no ill-will. I was angry about what he did, not about who he is. And the timeline I submitted was important to the story. I had only just come to terms with my own atheism, literally DAYS earlier, when my sister died.

My brother spoke from the heart, but what really bothered me was that the heart was so shallow. I do not mean that to insult him, but to insult the mythical fantasy that blinded him to what just happened. After the service was over, I cried in his arms, and his response (still thinking I was a Christian) was, "We do not mourn as they do." Shoot, that got me even angrier.

For those who don't know the reference: In I Thessalonians, "Paul" writes that we (Christians) do not mourn the death of our loved ones the same way heathen mourn, because we (Christians) "know" that we will see our loved ones again. Having just recently rejected this fantasy, I was hurt immeasurably by his unintended callousness. Without meaning to, he was telling me that his mourning, rooted in an absurd fantasy, was preferable to my mourning, rooted in the truth that a vibrant and unique person was lost to the world, irrevocably, and I'd never get another chance to let her know that I loved her.

Those who detect in me an anger toward my brother are mistaken. My anger is with the fiction that drove him to say those things. I understand my brother completely. He's a nitwit, and when it comes to religion, he's a dogmatic, holier-than-thou nitwit. But to borrow one of their own phrases: I hate the religion, not the religious.

I have been to 2 funerals since I realized I was an atheist and got both experiences you describe, one at each funeral. I wasn't as 'new' to my atheism as you were in either case.

My grandmother passed (my dad's mom) a few years ago and he gave the primary eulogy. It was really excellent. He told stories of my grandmother I did not know. He gave his experiences with her and made her story come to life. I walked away immensely sad I had not heard these stories from her own mouth and that I couldn't ask her about them, but I was equally as grateful to know more about her. Her goodness and kindness, made so much more sense after that eulogy. Who she was and how she had come to be that person, was exactly what I needed to hear.

A year ago (close to 2 now) my uncle passed away (I think I wrote about it here somewhere, so I'll just hit the high points). He was more of a grandfather to me than an uncle, and I was hit really hard when he passed. More so even than when my grandmother had passed. That is mainly because I had spent more time with him, his death was more sudden, and my grandmother had had several strokes in the years before her passing, so a lot of who she was had already begun to dissipate. Anyways, I don't remember any of my family speaking (this is now my mother's side of the family), but that is no big surprise as no one on that side is very outspoken or one for words. So, the whole eulogy was left to a preacher. And that asshole didn't say one thing about my grandfather, his life, or who he was. He mentioned he was a christian, and then proceeded to preach. I. WAS. LIVID. I knew more about him than he did. I could have done his memory so much more respect, even if I only got up in front of everyone and wept.

In the end, after both experiences, I still get torn up about each for the obviously different reasons. I recognize that both who gave the eulogies did what they felt was best, but I can't help but remain frustrated at the preacher who preached instead of remembered. I probably will never get over that.

Evolve

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23-05-2013, 04:33 PM
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
I've been to one funeral as an atheist. I hadn't been in a church in a decade, maybe longer. It really struck me how bizarre the rituals and readings were when viewed as a non-believer.

I noticed that the way I grieved changed when I stopped believing; maybe you will too. I used to think of heaven, hell, and all the other baggage that religion tags onto death. There wasn't really closure for me because there was this notion of a spirit being either rewarded or tortured, or maybe staring at me from the afterworld(!). When I went to my grandma's funeral as an atheist, I still felt loss, but I was really happy that she was truly at peace in a dreamless sleep. It gave me absolute closure. The religious portions of the funeral didn't anger me like I thought they might. She was gone, and the words were just words.

If Jesus died for our sins, why is there still sin? If man was created from dust, why is there still dust? If Americans came from Europe, why are there still Europeans?
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23-05-2013, 05:15 PM
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
(22-05-2013 09:38 AM)TwoCultSurvivor Wrote:  I noticed before posting on "Personal Issues and Support" that the rules on this particular page do not allow for the same kind of vigorous and open discussion allowed in other sections of the forum. I would like to waive that requirement for this thread (but I still couldn't find a better place for this post, so if the mods want to move it somewhere more appropriate, please let me know). Feel free to comment without fear of offending me. I won't complain; Promise.

Also, I posted this on another site, so if there's a forum rule against cross-posting, I apologize for breaking it. Here goes:
***

I finally confronted my faith and embraced the fact of my atheism late last August, 2012. Days after I revealed my "epiphany" to a few friends who knew me from another message board, my sister died from Lou Gehrig's Disease (which pissed her off because she hated catching a disease from someone she never f---ed).

THAT was my sister, understand? She was a beautiful, life-loving, potty-mouthed extrovert who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research and was named Woman of the Year by her community in New Jersey. She was a big deal with an enormous heart, and a blunt, profane, walking testament to the existence of hilarity.

Two family members gave the eulogy. Both were religious in their way, but one resonated while the other nauseated. My cousin talked about how, in the Bible, "faith without works is dead," and paid tribute to all the good things my sister did. He talked about her legacy, the causes she embraced and promoted, the good she did reflected in the enormous crowd that gathered to pay final respects. Then my brother spoke. He said NOT ONE WORD about our sister's life. Just some claptrap about her alleged concern for her eternal destiny and how he was so confident that she had eternal life because she embraced the lordship of Jesus Christ. Oh, and by the way, we can have that same assurance by accepting Jesus as Lord, because God gave His only-begotten son blah blah blah.

I was seething. I could have throttled him right there. Here we are, celebrating the woman's life and mourning her loss, only to be lectured to by some pompous, holier-than-thou know-it-all singing the praises of a God who, by the way, did NOTHING while my healthy and vibrant sister rotted in her own non-responsive body for five years before drowning, mercilessly, in her own bodily fluids just so He could have another damned rose petal in heaven.

My sister deserved better than that.

I would like to say I had a similar experience, but I think mine would be far less than yours by comparison.

My uncle (favourite uncle, mind) died a few months back of cancer, completely unstoppable cancer in his guts, he was placed on palliative care as soon as it was found out (from what I was told). Granted, I didn't really get sad about the event. My non-reaction when my mum told me annoyed her, only time I cried was in an attempt to not go, because I didn't want to. crocodile tears, of course.

Went to the funeral aaaaand Jewsus.

Jewsus everywhere. The only emotion I genuinely felt during it was rage. He was a better man and more deserving than getting a few flowery bibal quotes from an obviously insincere priest.

Rage is an excellent counter to slight sadness and general indifference. I assume it's great for countering sorrow.


My sincerest condolences to you, TwoCult.
Do us a favour and give them a crack on the back of the head next time you see 'em for us. (preachers and preachy people just get me really angry)

The people closely associated with the namesake of female canines are suffering from a nondescript form of lunacy.
"Anti-environmentalism is like standing in front of a forest and going 'quick kill them they're coming right for us!'" - Jake Farr-Wharton, The Imaginary Friend Show.
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23-05-2013, 05:25 PM
RE: My first funeral as an atheist
Death of a loved one can bring the crazy to the surface, and it often does.

I suppose the best way to look at it is that your brother also lost a sister and he was dealing in his own way.

That said, I sorry for your loss and sorry that your sister got dealt such a crappy hand...it sounds like she was someone I would have liked to have known.

I'm not anti-social. I'm pro-solitude.
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