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← My sister wanted a godless funeral. But still invited God

My sister wanted a godless funeral. But still invited God - Comments

kyleclements's Avatar Comment 1 by kyleclements

So, is the author trying to say that it is impossible to enjoy Harry Potter without believing in Hogwarts?
Is work from the non-fiction department the only form of literature with the power to move us?

Are there really people out there who are unable to understand that a beautiful piece of music can be enjoyed for it's notes, not it's message?

Wed, 11 May 2011 06:34:13 UTC | #625690

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 2 by Jos Gibbons

I take your point kyleclements, but I think the concern is that, given religion's truth claims about what happens after death - and why people die one time and not another - a religious funeral might give a false impression of validation of religion, or at least their being the default might. I'd like to add always doing funerals the traditional way stifles creativity in our paying of respects to the unique individuals we have lost. Match of the Day - now there's an idea! Luckily, secular funerals are now becoming pretty common in the UK. Now perhaps secular funerals could use multiple sources in the manner you propose, including religious ones; indeed, if I've understood this article correctly in this case that's exactly what happened. But if we all opt out of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink religiously automated funerals for our non-religious deceased, we could end up with a society which puts a lot more thought into what specific individuals truly meant to us, or what mattered to them. Given humans' uniqueness, I find that idea inviting.

Wed, 11 May 2011 07:03:37 UTC | #625695

Southpaw's Avatar Comment 3 by Southpaw

Faced with the happy prospect of a non-religious funeral, my thoughts would immediately turn to the British Humanist Association, who have a network of speakers who lead non-religious services. They are experienced and trained in lending a sense of gravitas to an occasion without the need to invoke a wizard or three.

Wed, 11 May 2011 08:07:59 UTC | #625704

sbooder's Avatar Comment 4 by sbooder

It is very difficult to avoid religious overtones when it comes to music for funerals not matter how slim.

For instance, one of the pieces I want played at mine is ‘Deep in the Woods’ by the Birthday Party, not a religious piece in it's self but Nick Cave is a devout RC, so even a gothic indi track from the early 80s has it's down side.

Wed, 11 May 2011 08:26:45 UTC | #625708

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 5 by justinesaracen

Hmm. Thoughts of mortality. My friends and family are scattered across two continents and I KNOW I"m not getting a funeral. All I've asked is that the various people getting my money throw a party for me in their respective location and that they hand out copies of my novels at the door. Sort of a final bit of marketing, if you will, but at least the books are critical of religion. No doubt there will be a few of them who look down at the glossy new novel in their hands and ask "Justine Saracen? Who the hell is that?" but at least I won't be around to be embarrassed.

Wed, 11 May 2011 08:31:40 UTC | #625709

plasma-engineer's Avatar Comment 6 by plasma-engineer

Last Friday I attended my first ever humanist funeral. Nobody that I spoke to seemed to mind the absence of a religious feel. In the same way, nobody seemed to mind that the glorious In Paradisium from Faure's requiem (with its religious implications) was played as an introduction. The ceremony was conducted by a very skillful lady from the BHA. (By coincidence I blogged about it (rather briefly) yesterday.)

Wed, 11 May 2011 08:38:34 UTC | #625711

Teknical's Avatar Comment 7 by Teknical

My grandmother and my father both had humanist funerals, very dignified and memorable. No music just a resume of a life that has now passed. Funerals tend to be for the living and as such the 'chuck me in a bin for all I care' approach can be a rather upsetting memory for some people. An honourable and dignified end does not have to mean a religious one, religions do not 'own' the icons that many people love and cherish.

Wed, 11 May 2011 08:48:22 UTC | #625716

Sample's Avatar Comment 8 by Sample

We are absolutely horrible at throwing parties especially if it means more than four people in attendance. I will say, however, that we're getting a little better, slowly. So my own funeral, ironically, will probably be phenomenal. :-j

Mike

Wed, 11 May 2011 09:56:28 UTC | #625741

Anvil's Avatar Comment 9 by Anvil

I'm happy to say I really can't remember the last religious funeral I attended? Certainly the last ten or so (wow, that sounds kinda' weird - I don't chase hearses... it's an age thing) have all been humanist.

Without exception all been fab!

The most recent was my kids Grandmothers partner (lovingly called Granddad by one and all) who was also cremated in a (pure white) cardboard box. Prior to the service everyone was handed a coloured felt-tip pen with which to decorate said box with whatever message/cartoon/poem/graffiti that took their fancy. We all sung The Red Flag and The International and went and got completely trashed!

Many of them are still the backbone of drunken conversation in the pub which always end with a round robin description of how our own funerals are to be carried out.

I like the idea of a mates Volvo estate - but definitely not black. I would also personally prefer a few ribbons on the bonnet (hood), confetti, some tin cans on trailing strings and a handmade cardboard sign on the back which reads 'Just Dead!'

Esuther, I'm sure they will all be proud to receive your novels (these things are often worth more following the authors death :p ). I have a book of poetry by the novelist and poet Julia Darling that I was given at her uplifting, life affirming, and thoroughly entertaining humanist funeral. Following the service hundreds of people began spontaneously to applaud as she was driven off in a beautiful glass hearse pulled by four black horses. The hearse only moved about twenty metres before stopping at a set of traffic lights which remained on red for about ten minutes (moisture in the chip?). Everybody's hands were raw, and our bellies sore with laughter. Julia would have loved it - had she not been dead.

Anvil.

Wed, 11 May 2011 10:09:43 UTC | #625745

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 10 by strangebrew

When my mother died, the C of E vicar was one of those trendy, hip with the kids, 'kewl mama that never knew my atheist mother.

In arranging the funeral we were informed that by law we had to have a religious officer presiding, although we could determine the 'type' of service offered.

She visited us clucked over my mothers embroiders skills on the various cushions and quilt work she further assured us that if it was our wish that no mention of god would be made during the whole ceremony...we were happy enough with her seeming understanding and just got on with the rest of the grieving process while informing and attempting to assemble the family from the four corners for her funeral!

Ma died if not suddenly then certainly a little previous to expectations...Cancer is a vicious little fucker and goes rather unpredictable in the later stadium of the disease. (No doubt a gift from a rather sick deity)

The day arrived and the crematory chapel was heaving at the amount of folks that come to pay their last respects...proud to report most,if not all, were atheistic in approach to life. They were not active in their non-beliefs just family and friends that for the most part were that way out.

The preacher came to the lectern...we got over half an hour on the beauty of life and the wonderful skill my mother possessed in needlework which was a gift from...'THE CREATOR'

Yep sure enough there was no mention of 'GOD'...but every second sentence contained a reference to 'THE CREATOR' It was a full religious service...praising 'THE CREATOR' for everything not nailed down (including my mother who apparently was nailed down)

I think we all stood there...about 300 folks... in utter shock and embarrassment...and to this day I am ashamed that I never called a halt to proceedings, but it just took us all totally by surprise and completely threw the close family...we were stunned!

Apart from the social awkwardness of grieving with a major percentage of total strangers to me anyway...her friends and work colleagues from her previous life and other folks I vaguely remember from my childhood let alone family members I had not seen or spoken to for years...it was a fait accompli really!

I approached her afterwards and queried her 'sermon'...when we had made it quite clear that we were NOT religious...she just laughed in my face and said...'how do you know your mother is not religious now!'

That was i, no apology, for her it was a chance to proselytize to a full congregation, working around the constraint we had requested.

Are they not wonderful people!

My mother would have not been a happy bunny..and that is a definite fact

Wed, 11 May 2011 10:51:49 UTC | #625756

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 11 by AtheistEgbert

I like the motto, "Funerals are for the living not the dead." But I do hope there is some measure of dignity given to those who are loved. I personally don't care what happens to my body after I die. However, although religion needs to get it's ugly hands off dead bodies as property, dignity is still important in a civilised society.

Wed, 11 May 2011 11:01:02 UTC | #625760

scuddy's Avatar Comment 12 by scuddy

I've only ever had good experiences with BHA celebrants, they are excellent and can guide you as to what works well from their experience.

Wed, 11 May 2011 11:07:21 UTC | #625762

rpitchfo's Avatar Comment 13 by rpitchfo

lol at Justine Saracen.

Shameless self promotion.

Wed, 11 May 2011 11:13:25 UTC | #625766

El Bastardo's Avatar Comment 14 by El Bastardo

Two things really stood out of that article to me

Firstly:

How, in the name of godless, would we fill our allotted span?

Basically, we need to fill time so lets cram some god in there. FFS. They didn't need to "fill", if the funeral the sister wanted lasted 5 minutes then so be it. Personally, I don't see the need for a service, you can always have whatever platitudes or remembrances at grave side, or after the burial / cremation in a pub or someones house

Secondly;

as the unbelieving bride enters to the sound of an ancient and venerated secular love song, of the order of the Beatles' Here, There and Everywhere. Unthinkable, isn't it?

Not in the slightest, not only is that a beautiful song but that's perfectly believable. If you want to get married in your sitting room or on a roller coaster to the sounds of Metallica or the Beatles or you want to get buried in a forest to the sounds of the Funky Chicken that's your call. No need for "god".

His whole argument is "This is what I'm used to so anything else is unfathomable", what nonsense.

Wed, 11 May 2011 11:24:56 UTC | #625772

Mark Steven's Avatar Comment 15 by Mark Steven

I attended a funeral of a dear friend two weeks age. Although she was devout Christian and I an Atheist we got on and took the mick out of each other when we could, mainly via facebook as she lived quite a distance away. Out of respect I attended the service although didn't pray or sing. It is an evangelical church so expected the arm waving and praising "God" thing (which inluded the widower and her children!) However what I didn't expect though is in the preachers speach he told us how Jesus spoke to moses through the burning bush(insert WTF here!!) and he later said that the best day of her life was her death as she's now with Jesus! I couldn't believe how firstly he manipulated the original story to suit christian beliefs and then told us to celebrate her death! I found the whole service sickening and disturbing. It's a humanist funeral for me with John Lennons Imagine being played in the background!

Wed, 11 May 2011 11:39:06 UTC | #625778

RomeStu's Avatar Comment 16 by RomeStu

@10 strangebrew

What a horrible and shocking story. I can fully understand how you were too gobsmacked to react and call a halt to the hijacking of your mother's funeral. I imagine I would be the same, as I think deep down, however much I may be atheist now, there is still some residual subliminal/cultural programming to "respect" members of the clergy, or at least to expect that they would not openly go against your wishes - especially at such a personal time of grief. Great empathy, eh!

Shame there isn't some kind of "woo woo" ombudsman to write to ;-)

Wed, 11 May 2011 11:53:45 UTC | #625787

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 17 by Vorlund

Comment 10 by strangebrew :

I approached her afterwards and queried her 'sermon'...when we had made it quite clear that we were NOT religious...she just laughed in my face and said...'how do you know your mother is not religious now!'

That was i, no apology, for her it was a chance to proselytize to a full congregation, working around the constraint we had requested.

Sheer bloody arrogance, I would have publicly ripped her up one side and down the other.

Wed, 11 May 2011 13:40:31 UTC | #625829

sara g's Avatar Comment 18 by sara g

Funerals are for the comfort of those left behind. I give (most of) my loved ones the respect to assume they would prefer to remember me as I am.

Wed, 11 May 2011 15:49:53 UTC | #625879

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 19 by Steven Mading

I have gotten to the point where I refuse to attend overtly religious funerals, even of people I liked very dearly. Oh, sure, I might be able to put up with a mild Methodist or Unitarian funeral (possibly Anglican too, but I don't know enough about that church to tell), but anything more than that and I'm out.

It's because a funeral is the one place where the snake-oil tactics of the robed class becomes too overt for me to bear. When some slimy slick salesman is up there at the podium using this moment of geninuine grief and loss as a vehicle for selling bullshit, I get very angry. The religious officiant is using the moment when the family and friends are at their most emotionally vulnerable, ready and willing to grasp at any means of comfort, as a perfect venue for delivering the bogus product the church has to offer - afterlife. They know this is the perfect time to strike - people are at their most credulous, and those who do see it as bullshit are in a situation where the social rules make standing up and calling them out on it an utterly inexcusable thing to do.

I have empathy for the "flock" at religious gatherings who are only guilty of being lied to, but I have nothing but disgust at the people who make a profession out of delivering those lies, and funerals are when they are at their most brazen. We're not talking about people who's ignorance is not their fault. We're talking about people who got to school to study the subject of religion deeply, including its origins and the arguments that have been used through the years. We're talking about people who know perfectly well, for example, that the 4 gospels of the New Testament were not written by contemporaries of Jesus like they claim to be, and yet chose to never mention that inconvenient fact to their congregations. These are people who know the history of the bullshit they peddle, and don't see any moral qualms about peddling it anyway.

If and when I die, I hope for a fully secular funeral. I doubt I'll get one, given how most of my family is, but it's what I would want.

Wed, 11 May 2011 16:07:25 UTC | #625887

quarecuss's Avatar Comment 20 by quarecuss

I was at a "funeral home" memorial service recently for a 98 yr old (of vaguely, lapsed, Anglican persuasion) who had been greatly loved especially by her grandchildren, now in their 30's, and by a Roman Catholic priest who knew her very well from summertimes together at a much-loved Ontario lake ("cottage country") which was the centre of most of her life and of those who loved her. Her 2 grandsons gave very moving eulogies, never once mentioning god and so did the priest for the first 10 minutes or so but then he lost it when he started on about the "good shepherd, Jesus" which he flogged to death for another 20 minutes until everyone was squirming in the pews. As soon as the religion got into it, it was a bust.

Wed, 11 May 2011 16:12:05 UTC | #625889

Gnu Atheist's Avatar Comment 21 by Gnu Atheist

The Lacrimosa always reminds me of the monk scene in Monty Python & THG where they recite the verse and smartly rap themselves on the forehead with wooden planks.

Now I would LOVE to see that at MY funeral! (But I guess I won't.)

"pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem..."

SMACK!!!

:-D

Wed, 11 May 2011 16:24:13 UTC | #625895

wcapehart's Avatar Comment 22 by wcapehart

As long as they get the names right, I don't think there is much you can do. My father was a fellow heathen and was given a full catholic marine funeral at the behest of my mother -- for my mothers ease of mind. I and others knew it was BS but no one complained and it would have been trashy to do so. The only time it may be appropriate to raise cain over such a service would be if the talk was made about how he was burning in hell (and given how ornery my dad was there would be sympathy for the devil for that mistake).

Wed, 11 May 2011 16:31:16 UTC | #625899

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 23 by rrh1306

My father went to a friend's funeral a few years ago. The guy had gotten addicted to pain pills and they eventually killed him .He real nice was a nice guy, just a drug addict. The preacher walk up and begin to talk. They set there in stunned silence while the preacher started to trash the deceased and tell the audience of bereaved family members and friends that they need to turn to Jesus now or they'll end up like the dead sinner there. After the funeral everyone wished they had gone up and stopped the preachers speech half way through it but at the time the were just too shocked.

Wed, 11 May 2011 18:18:20 UTC | #625936

Luke_B's Avatar Comment 24 by Luke_B

I completely relate to your situation strangbrew, just over a year ago I was left with the difficult task of organising the funeral of my atheist Father. It was a difficult balancing act of trying to please everybody's feelings and beliefs. Against my better judgment I accepted the idea of a Methodist minister conducting the ceremony after being assured that he was more than happy to do a humanist ceremony. Myself and my two brother's are all devout non-believers and my Dad was too but others in the family are not so I settled for this compromise. Some would say this was a foolish move, but as I say, it's difficult, you compromise in order to please everyone as much as you can.

I could not believe the way that bastard conducted the proceedings. You couldn't have squeezed any more Jesus in if you'd have used a shoehorn. Prayers, hymns and mentions of god all over the place. As a consequence I spent the whole of the ceremony either in shock or completely incensed. Just staring at him while boiling over with upset and anger. How could he do that? What arrogance? What disrespect to my Dad?And that's the memories I now have of my final goodbye to Dad. He even ended the secular poem (which I'd spent a great deal of time choosing) with the word Amen. And of course the congregation repeated it after him in the way that we're all brainwashed to do. The fucker even gave me a cheerful wink at one point. I could have punched him in the face. Still, it wasn't the place to cause a scene. That's not how I wanted people to remember the day. And to be honest with the whole emotion of the day plus the shock of what happened I wasn't really thinking straight enough to do it anyway. As a consequence my memories of that day are now marred by feelings of hurt and anger.

The moral of the story is, if you want a humanist ceremony, don't trust anyone but a humanist to do it.

You live and learn.

Wed, 11 May 2011 19:24:28 UTC | #625954

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 25 by ZenDruid

I very much doubt that I'd be called upon to arrange a funeral, but if so, I would advise any clergyman that he risks being Tasered the instant he flaps his yap about salvation & damnation.

Wed, 11 May 2011 20:20:35 UTC | #625973

Notstrident's Avatar Comment 26 by Notstrident

Please permit me this "Jewish humor." The meanest S.O.B. in a little Jewish village died. He was vile to everybody, and everybody hated him. The village was so small it didn't have its own rabbi, so they had to send for one from several villages away to conduct the funeral service, and this visiting rabbi didn't know the deceased at all. After the religious part of the service, he asked that anyone in the congregation who wished to deliver a eulogy would please do so. No one rose. The rabbi said, "Surely there is someone who could say some good things about Mr. Goldberg." Finally a voice came from the rear of the synagogue: "His brother was worse."

Wed, 11 May 2011 23:32:11 UTC | #626032

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 27 by Premiseless

Comment 11 by AtheistEgbert :

I like the motto, "Funerals are for the living not the dead." But I do hope there is some measure of dignity given to those who are loved. I personally don't care what happens to my body after I die. However, although religion needs to get it's ugly hands off dead bodies as property, dignity is still important in a civilised society.

I think this an interesting sentiment since it poses the premise that something that poisons everything has ownership of the preserve of human dignity. I was brought up amongst a number of young criminal minds whom I oft suspected of being fatherly influenced (family cliques - and why not the mother, for equality) in ways a fatherless boy could never fill the void of, and it was extraordinary how they would attempt to lay claim to a "street dominance" and later "social dominance" by employing a similar recipe of "ownership of the status quo" in their particular environment. I was often the butt of their nastiness and ironically this led me closer to the delusions religion had to offer! Once they have the locals rituals of kudos and submissive resentment, they have forged more or less the same psychology for success that religious thinking does albeit in ways which span generations by variegated ways. It's this that makes me now think that atheism amongst such ones is seen as a major competitor, by religion, for the minds of the 'Hitchen's "sheeplike individuals" ' as they grow up in a society where many out groups are competing in a world of commercial and lifestyle values amidst an ever emergent capitalist psychology. I propose that criminal minds are all the rage in more ways than we might imagine as part and parcel to that which we deem religion as having used to foist deceptive imagery and scriptwriting at us all!

Nice 'circular' Egbert ! And so I'm less easily deceived into seeing the numinous amidst crowds of thought that carry the parasite of deceptive self interest and "would be harmful intent unless you do as we command"!

Thu, 12 May 2011 05:02:33 UTC | #626079

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 28 by ZenDruid

Premiseless,

I was brought up amongst a number of young criminal minds whom I oft suspected of being fatherly influenced (family cliques - and why not the mother, for equality) in ways a fatherless boy could never fill the void of, and it was extraordinary how they would attempt to lay claim to a "street dominance" and later "social dominance" by employing a similar recipe of "ownership of the status quo" in their particular environment.

You are referring to the Catholic church here...?

Thu, 12 May 2011 05:30:24 UTC | #626083

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 29 by strangebrew

The experience of my mother's funeral in many ways confirmed my doubts about the integrity of the xian character....especially their ju ju leaders.

The C of E chaplain seemed to be a run of the mill moderate jeebus fan....but not particularly fundamental in her belief's. There was no hint she thought Genesis was the plot for the Flintstones, and hell was not really mentioned in any context either in the service or in the 'consultation' before the service when schedules and tunes were discussed. There was only one regular 'hymn' decided on...'All creatures great and small' but that was chosen only because that was the tune sung at my Grand ma's funeral 10 years before....seemed a continuity of some sort in the family and an overt reference to my Mother's mother...they were very close in life. Although even gran had very little time for the clergy...thought they were the scum of the Earth... The tune was more a reflection of the children my Gran raised and nurtured through her 90 years of life...(she took me on as a newborn at the age of 55 years old)..and this song was really a kiddies hymn.

There was one moment in the 'consultation' that should have been a clue as to what to expect... The chaplain wanted ' Onward Christian soldiers' to be part of the itinerary...we rejected it outright. She assumed the face of a dried prune complete with gritted teeth..that 'look' lasted only a fleeting moment but was unmistakable in its disapproval and disappointment. The rest of the service was to be with secular poems and as a little respect to any spurious spirituality present we included Desiderada as a closing thought.

I think the experience of what this dead head actually achieved was the complete annihilation of any respect for either the clergy or their tacky fairy story that lingered. I was never rude or openly amused by them...just treated them as human beings. I am not saying I am now...but I certainly have absolutely no respect or consideration left for xians at all.

The affect this has had on my attitude towards them, their committed congregations or their delusions was not the effect she was angling for methinks.

It seems to be endemic in the delusion, they just cannot help themselves, not sure if it is a mental aberration or a job imperative...but they seem incapable of moderation of their insanity whatever...even when specifically asked not to!

Thu, 12 May 2011 08:37:59 UTC | #626122

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 30 by Premiseless

Comment 29 by ZenDruid :

Premiseless,

I was brought up amongst a number of young criminal minds whom I oft suspected of being fatherly influenced (family cliques - and why not the mother, for equality) in ways a fatherless boy could never fill the void of, and it was extraordinary how they would attempt to lay claim to a "street dominance" and later "social dominance" by employing a similar recipe of "ownership of the status quo" in their particular environment.

You are referring to the Catholic church here...?

I can see how parallels apply to a whole range of 'situations' but mine was ,as far as I can tell, one where the dominant (or intent on regular put downs and snares to display it) were not visibly theistic at all - though if their families were of Catholic leaning (there being a very close church I never visited) I remain ignorant of it - as with much else 'going on' from those years.

The groups I refer to are privy to 'dealings' about which you strongly suspect they are forever and deliberately conspiring to leave you guessing about, but doing just enough to let you frequently 'feel' the ill intent of their assessments of you - and for no good reason other than some state of their mind seemingly pre-ordained ,or primed, that way. It's an almost de-facto decision to compete and lessen anyone, whether they seek competition or not, and even to befriend them and get them on side by luring them into situations of blame which they can then hold over you like a beating stick. I understand this type of behaviour or 'initiation' is parcel to such consciousness but is ambiguous in that it is also used to be rid of someone who meets with disapprovals for whatever their irrational desires and reasonings might conspire to construct. And like I said, in the adult world they often build a successful pseudo-kudos with revenue attached - tangentially similar to larger organised groups which wind in numinosity as an 'initiation'!

Thu, 12 May 2011 09:15:44 UTC | #626128