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How Do You Design a Funeral for an Atheist/Agnostic?

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How Do You Design a Funeral for an Atheist/Agnostic?

Old 10-06-05, 10:11 AM
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How Do You Design a Funeral for an Atheist/Agnostic?

Last weekend, my wife's grandmother was put to rest after 87 years. Like every funeral I've been to in my life (keeping in mind that I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt), I, a self-professed agnostic*, once again got to "fake pray" (sit quietly and look at all the believers drone on about you without trying to appear too conspicuous, amen) and listen to the names of God, Jesus and The Holy Ghost get touted three times for every time the interred's was mentioned. Honestly, as a non-theist, I find the entire ritual to be a deplorable commercial for Christianity rather than an honest and heartfelt reflection and exultation of the interred's life and accomplishments. I began to think of my own desires for my hopefully long distant funeral and realized I'm totally perplexed as to how an atheist/agnostic funeral would be set up. My wife (who believes in a higher, benevolent force behind our lives, but in very loose and generic terms; she is not a practicing Christian and does not hold to the Bible or the alleged existence of Jesus as any truth) and I both decided long ago that we wanted to be cremated and for our ashes to be thrown in the Pacific Ocean (or outer space, if cost and availability become a realistic factor in my final years; I'm not holding out hope), but I'm completely gray on the preceding ceremony. How would my wife, assuming she outlives me and hosts my funeral, conduct such an event? There would be no Bible readings. There would be no praying. There would be no god-awful (pun partially intended) choir singing. In fact, there would be no religious official on hand to conduct the affair. So what would the funeral consist of, and how could it be conducted with respect for my views but also with an eye for providing acceptable closure for an audience that will be at least 90% practicing theists? Has anyone attended the ceremonies for the passing of any atheists or agnostics to give me some ideas of how such an event might play out?

* = I dislike the term "atheist" since it implies as much conviction that there is no God as a theist has that there is one; frankly, I just don't know (and neither do you, he he). I highly doubt it, so I guess I'm closer to an atheist than a theist if those are the only two points on the scale, but I really don't much care either way.
Old 10-06-05, 10:18 AM
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I've prepaid ministers and holy men from several major religions. When my time comes, they will each have five minutes at my funeral to explain why I'm going to hell.
Old 10-06-05, 10:21 AM
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Why not just invite people to the burial/ash dropping (or at a gathering afterwards) and invite anyone to say some words about the deceased.

For my father's (who was Muslim) burial, my sister and I invited friends and family to the burial. From friends we talked to, it didn't seem like there was anything that was required in a Muslim ceremony, so we simply asked people to say something about our father if they wished to do so. There was no religous official there. This worked well, particularly since my father was pretty simple and straightforward anyway.
Old 10-06-05, 10:23 AM
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Old 10-06-05, 10:23 AM
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I find the entire ritual to be a deplorable commercial for Christianity rather than an honest and heartfelt reflection and exultation of the interred's life and accomplishments.
Different denominations have different views on it but overall the funeral service does seem to be more of a reminder the interred is in a better place now and Christ is in charge/has a plan (atleast that's how most believers I know view it). Elements of the person's accomplishments in life can be mixed in w/ the service depending upon who is allowed to get up and talk and what they say.

wanted to be cremated and for our ashes to be thrown in the Pacific Ocean (or outer space, if cost and availability become a realistic factor in my final years; I'm not holding out hope)
http://www.spaceservicesinc.com/Memo...OVMTC=standard


So what would the funeral consist of, and how could it be conducted with respect for my views but also with an eye for providing acceptable closure for an audience that will be at least 90% practicing theists?
It's your funeral so it should reflect your views. Frankly it sounds like you should just arrange a "viewing"/wake w/ a funeral home and be done w/ it. Unless you specifically want someone to say something at the "graveside" (whereever that may be) I can't image there would be any need for it. You could always do what my dad did and arrange to have a BBQ/party (although that was after the church service ).


neither do you
I know that he does, but that's the basis of faith now isn't it
Old 10-06-05, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Bandoman
LOL! Probably the best answer I'll ever get!
Old 10-06-05, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Bandoman
Old 10-06-05, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by nemein
I know that he does, but that's the basis of faith now isn't it
I am loathe to turn this thread into a religious discussion but I have to opine that the basis of faith is belief, not knowledge.
Old 10-06-05, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by nemein
It's your funeral so it should reflect your views. Frankly it sounds like you should just arrange a "viewing"/wake w/ a funeral home and be done w/ it. Unless you specifically want someone to say something at the "graveside" (whereever that may be) I can't image there would be any need for it. You could always do what my dad did and arrange to have a BBQ/party (although that was after the church service ).


Sounds like you want a wake/viewing/memorial/etc., not a funeral.
Old 10-06-05, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Filmmaker
I am loathe to turn this thread into a religious discussion but I have to opine that the basis of faith is belief, not knowledge.
Given the way you started the thread with a footnote on atheism and a belittling remark about a religious practice, I think you've pretty well set the course of this thread down the road of "a religious discussion".
Old 10-06-05, 10:35 AM
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Cool! $12,500 to be launched into deep space isn't exactly cheap, and it's a shame it's only a gram, but maybe by the time I pass, the price'll go down and the allowable allotment of remains will go up...
Old 10-06-05, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by talemyn
Given the way you started the thread with a footnote on atheism and a belittling remark about a religious practice, I think you've pretty well set the course of this thread down the road of "a religious discussion".
None of that was meant to cause such; it was meant to provide an accurate sense of the poster so people can make salient recommendations based on my belief system vis-a-vis my attendees' variant belief system.
Old 10-06-05, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Filmmaker
None of that was meant to cause such; it was meant to provide an accurate sense of the poster so people can make salient recommendations based on my belief system vis-a-vis my attendees' variant belief system.
Oh, and I understand that is what you meant, but referring to a ceremony that many religions (Christianity, in this case) take pretty seriously as "a deplorable commercial for Christianity", you had to know that people were likely to take issue with that.
Old 10-06-05, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by talemyn
Oh, and I understand that is what you meant, but referring to a ceremony that many religions (Christianity, in this case) take pretty seriously as "a deplorable commercial for Christianity", you had to know that people were likely to take issue with that.
If they do, they're welcome to; they'll just benefit from realizing that this dog doesn't want to chew that bone anymore than I already have.
Old 10-06-05, 11:01 AM
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Umm...go to the funeral home and tell them you want a non religeous wake.


BTW...why dont you let yoyu wife plan it like she would like it. Since your an athiest too cool to use the word, what do you care what happens at your funeral, it wont matter. So let the funeral be something that would satisfy THE LIVING.

Also, why do the athiest/libs from the bible belt start thier threads off on the fucking attack every time?
Old 10-06-05, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Filmmaker
If they do, they're welcome to; they'll just benefit from realizing that this dog doesn't want to chew that bone anymore than I already have.

Which is why about 1/2 this thread has been devoted to it so far uh? whereas if you left my response to your comment alone it wouldn't have become an issue
Old 10-06-05, 11:06 AM
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My Mom passed away earlier this year, and while she was Greek Orthodox, we held a "Friends/Family" service as well since she ONLY wanted her imediate family at the formal open casket Greek service.

The Friends and Family thing was much better. Each of her kids (Myself and 3 sisters) got up and spoke, we played some songs I had of her singing, and some music that she liked. It was exactly the type of service I would want for myself. Nothing religious other that some things one of my sisters read.
Old 10-06-05, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Tommy Ceez
Umm...go to the funeral home and tell them you want a non religeous wake.


BTW...why dont you let yoyu wife plan it like she would like it. Since your an athiest too cool to use the word, what do you care what happens at your funeral, it wont matter. So let the funeral be something that would satisfy THE LIVING.

Also, why do the athiest/libs from the bible belt start thier threads off on the fucking attack every time?
I believe this post effectively killed any hope this thread would turn out well. Good job! I especially like the "atheist too cool to use the word" comment. Very nice of you.
Old 10-06-05, 11:17 AM
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Hey, if the OP can be snarky and then respond with "If you dont like it, its your problem", then why the fuck cant I?
Old 10-06-05, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Tommy Ceez
Hey, if the OP can be snarky and then respond with "If you dont like it, its your problem", then why the fuck cant I?
Aren't you supposed to be turning the other cheek?
Old 10-06-05, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by uberjoe
Aren't you supposed to be turning the other cheek?
Why, I'm not religious, I just think people who put down religeous people are especially retarted.
Old 10-06-05, 11:31 AM
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You want to skip the church (and the priest). You can conduct a service at the funeral home in addition to the viewing, either at the end of the viewing or the next day.

Have some friends give a eulogy or just say a few words about you. Depending on your taste in music, there is some very nice liturgical music that can be played on a organ with no singing. You don't have to believe in the words to enjoy the tune, and it may provide some comfort to the faithful in attendance (they'll know the words).

That's my plan, but avoiding implementing the plan as long as possible is an even more important plan.

The ceremony may require a little more planning, and needs a "master of ceremony" to coordinate it. The priest follows a recipe, but your friends will just be "winging it." You and your wife may want to both talk about and write down things you'd like to include and exclude in any future service. What actually happens will be some combination of your expressed wishes and what the survivors decide to do for the most meaningful closure. And it won't really matter to you, because you're dead.
Old 10-06-05, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by OldDude
And it won't really matter to you, because you're dead.
Exactly. I'm a 100% committed atheist, and I really don't care what my funeral's going to be like. I'll be in Heaven with Jesus!
Old 10-06-05, 11:48 AM
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Ceez and nemein, again, I'm gonna let it lie in the interest of keeping the heart of this thread alive.

I'm curious about all these recommendations to hold a wake, as opposed to a funeral (most offered with a "Duh...what are you, an idiot" tone I wish wasn't there). Understand, I live in the Bible Belt; I've never attended a wake, only heard about them in books and movies. Can you provide some more insight into how a wake is conducted; what are its contituents? And does anyone have any recommendations how my non-theistic tastes can be honored while also providing a sense of meaningful closure for a theistic audience?
Old 10-06-05, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Filmmaker
Last weekend, my wife's grandmother was put to rest after 87 years. Like every funeral I've been to in my life (keeping in mind that I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt), I, a self-professed agnostic*, once again got to "fake pray" (sit quietly and look at all the believers drone on about you without trying to appear too conspicuous, amen) and listen to the names of God, Jesus and The Holy Ghost get touted three times for every time the interred's was mentioned. Honestly, as a non-theist, I find the entire ritual to be a deplorable commercial for Christianity rather than an honest and heartfelt reflection and exultation of the interred's life and accomplishments. I began to think of my own desires for my hopefully long distant funeral and realized I'm totally perplexed as to how an atheist/agnostic funeral would be set up. My wife (who believes in a higher, benevolent force behind our lives, but in very loose and generic terms; she is not a practicing Christian and does not hold to the Bible or the alleged existence of Jesus as any truth) and I both decided long ago that we wanted to be cremated and for our ashes to be thrown in the Pacific Ocean (or outer space, if cost and availability become a realistic factor in my final years; I'm not holding out hope), but I'm completely gray on the preceding ceremony. How would my wife, assuming she outlives me and hosts my funeral, conduct such an event? There would be no Bible readings. There would be no praying. There would be no god-awful (pun partially intended) choir singing. In fact, there would be no religious official on hand to conduct the affair. So what would the funeral consist of, and how could it be conducted with respect for my views but also with an eye for providing acceptable closure for an audience that will be at least 90% practicing theists? Has anyone attended the ceremonies for the passing of any atheists or agnostics to give me some ideas of how such an event might play out?

* = I dislike the term "atheist" since it implies as much conviction that there is no God as a theist has that there is one; frankly, I just don't know (and neither do you, he he). I highly doubt it, so I guess I'm closer to an atheist than a theist if those are the only two points on the scale, but I really don't much care either way.

have people bring automatic weapons to the funeral and shoot them in the air. Then when they pass your body around everyone will get a chance to tear you to shreds.

This was the Ayotollah Khomeini's funeral.

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