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Started by Smarmy Of One, January 12, 2008, 04:14:14 PM

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Smarmy Of One

Just before christmas this year, my brother passed away after a surprisingly brief battle with cancer. I went back home for the wake and funeral.

I come from a catholic background so there is typically an open casket wake the day or so before the funeral where family and friends come by and pay their last respects.

The wake was fine. Seeing all my brother's friends and hearing how important he was to them was really heartwarming. Talking with my family about him made us all feel very close.

The next day, the catholic mass was long and boring and full of pomp and circumstance. It was morose which wasn't how any of us were feeling. Of course we were all very saddened, but if you knew my brother and how good natured and funny he always was, this funeral was not a reflection of how he lived his life at all. Immediately, all my emotions were shut off and all I could think was "when is this dumbass (priest) going to shut his gob?"

I went through the mass. I even accepted the host and drank the communal wine. This was all for the benefit and respect for my mother. The priest spent all of 5 minutes talking about my brother in a half assed eulogy and then it was all 'christ-this' and 'jesus-that' for 45 minutes. I was there to pay respect to my brother and I had to hear about how great jesus was. What a show stealing asshole! I was getting more and more angry about how the church was stealing my mourning time from my brother.

Anyway it all ended and there was a reception in the church basement. I escorted my brother's girlfriend home because she was too tired and grief stricken to hang around any longer.

Back at my house I met up with my sister-in-law who is also an atheist. She didn't go to the service because she despises the church as much as I do, but her absence didn't offend my mother like mine would have. There my sister-in-law was, baking. Cakes and pies and cookies and a hearty turkey stew. All comfort food.

I started to rail on the service and how much I hate the church. She said she knew and gave me a great big hug. My anger was gone in an instant and I cried like a baby for 10 minutes.

I guess my point is, that the funeral completely got in the way. Instead of assisting in the healing process, it completely shut it down. I noticed that my family members were all far more emotional when we sat around talking about my brother than when we were dressed in suits in the stuffy church, where an air of formality had to be upheld.

As atheists, what are your thoughts on funerals?

Sorry if this is kind of heavy. I am not looking for sympathy. It's just something that has been going through my mind.


When my grandmother died the memorial service made it worse for me for the same reason.  I didn't want to hear about god this and god that and how she was in a better place and I espeically didn't want it to be a tiime to invite others to accept jesus (i was honestly too upset and in tears to know if they did much preaching aside form talking about her being in a better place and how much jesus loves people).  I was doing fine grieving on my own and the ceremony set me back further....funeral services simply aren't something that's going to help someone who fully believes that the church and it's beliefs are harmful.


Smarmy, I am so sorry to hear about your loss.

I hate church funerals.  Depending on the circumstances, I would attend but not go so far as to take communion.  

Secular funerals allow you to grieve without the extra added bonus of uncomfortable religious crap thrown in the mix.


I'm so sorry for your brother. I know how it feels when somebody from your family dies of cancer.

I think that people needed/need funerals because it's hard to immediately understand that somebody is gone. It's good for you if you do something special to realize that this part of your life is over. At least that's how some psychologists explain it. And some people do get comfort from church.

But I also think it's unethical to brainwash people with all the "Jesus' love" when they're weak and need support. I don't think that all the chanting and praying is necessary anymore. To be honest.. I think it's ridiculous. It would be rude to have religious funeral if the dead person was an atheist. If somebody prays in my funeral I'm going to haunt him/her for the rest of my eternity... (nope.. I'm just going to be dust and hopefully some of my organs help sick people)


Sorry for your loss, Smarmy... I felt the same way 2 years (crap, almost 3 now) ago when my dad died.  His funeral had all of the music he'd chosen and I did cry like a baby, but I didn't really mourne there.  I mourned later, when the entire family group of 20 people grabbed a popsicle and toasted them to my dad... THEN I felt the release of emotion and sadness I'd saved up.

But dad's funeral was in a funeral home, not a church... could be why I was able to cry there.  I detest churches and everything they stand for.

I will do a church funeral for my mother because it's what she wants.  But after that, I don't know that I'll be required to attend a funeral again in my life, at least none in a church.

I'm glad to hear you were able to let go with your SIL.  :-)
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Quote from: "Smarmy Of One"As atheists, what are your thoughts on funerals?
I don't know, dude.  I find them profoundly sad.  Whenever I knew someone who passed away I feel a tremendous sense of loss.

I've been to church funerals, but easily become lost in my own thoughts.  Given that this was your brother, I think your reaction to the service is perfectly understandable.  I would probably feel very much the same way.

I'm sincerely sorry for your loss.  The way you describe your brother he sounds like somebody I wish I knew.


I havent been at one for quite some time---for at least 8 years. Far past (well before lol) any period of which my interests are as present.

It is frequently quite mesmerizing how deeply people can believe in what has never existed. Enough so to nearly, if not completely, ignore the situation at hand.

Hope all goes well.
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Steve Reason

I've been to far too many in my life--I hate them. And even when I was a Christian, the words of a preacher never meant shit to me. The next one I go to will be absent me when a preacher gets up to blab about Jesus and heaven and shit. Otherwise I might snap and ruin the solemnity of the gathering.

What the fuck makes them qualified to comment on a loved one?  :x
I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. ~ Mark Twain


Sorry for your loss Smarmy. Yes, I agree with you, funerals do get in the way of mourning. I had completely shut myself off during the two week long period (yes 14 days) during which my father's last rites were performed with all those priests and religious stuff around me. I had troubles bringing myself to mourn after that. So I think I understand what you are going through. People should understand that hearing god this, god that, doesn't comfort many and should perhaps tone down the "religious" quotient in funerals. I know that it's not going to happen, though.

Smarmy Of One

Thanks, all of you for all the kind words. For sure, funerals are a confusing time for atheists. I am glad and sad that I am not alone in this.

I have been thinking about it and I am coming to the conclusion that for religious people a church service funeral is not for the bereaved, but for the deceased. A right of passage for the soul of that loved one. I think that may be why there is kind of an excluded feeling to it all.

When I go, I am sure that I will get a full church service because that is what my family will want. I personally don't care what happens to me after I'm dead because I'll be dead.

Whatever brings closure to my loved ones is fine by me. I don't think I would ever stipulate a non-church funeral in my will just because it would surely cause arguments and create rifts in my family.


The last time I set foot in a church (about a year ago) was for my uncle's funeral.  It was the first time I had been to church in about a year since I had declared my atheism to my family.  It was pretty boring and not that big a deal to me until the time came to receive communion.  I come from a very Catholic family - the whole family was there and only my parents and brother knew I was an atheist.  I accepted the communion and felt like an idiot and a liar for doing it, but I didn't feel like dealing with the commotion that would have ensued had I just sat there while everyone else went up.  I'm positive my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or somebody would have said something.  I probably wouldn't go to another funeral unless it was a family member.  My only request when I die (assuming I know I'm about to die) will be no religious services at my funeral.  This will dissapoint my family, but that's too bad, the thought religious services at the funeral of an atheist just sounds like the worst kind of betrayal I can think of.



My condolences on the loss of your brother.  I understand your feelings about the nature of funerals.  My mother is one of 5 children and her father (my grandfather) came from a family of 10 sibliings.  When I was young, I had to endure a number of generational funerals of people I never knew.  I've hated them ever full of religious bs. The best thing I could remember was the pot luck food afterwards.  When my number is up, I want to have a pre-paid memorial where people gather at a bar (with a picture of me over the bar), drink a few toasts, listen to some good music (pre-mortally programmed by me), and generally enjoy the day without all of the religious intrigue.  You can bet the playlist will include a lot of Steely Dan.   :cheers:
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Quote from: "Kona"When my number is up, I want to have a pre-paid memorial where people gather at a bar (with a picture of me over the bar), drink a few toasts, listen to some good music (pre-mortally programmed by me), and generally enjoy the day without all of the religious intrigue.  You can bet the playlist will include a lot of Steely Dan.   :cheers:
Spot on! This is pretty close to how I envisage my funeral.


No funerla for me. I asked my wife to burn my body despose the ashes in the Ocean since I was a dolphin in my past life. LOL

no stone, no memorials nothing.

in regard of others, well if I really have to I will respect their funeral and attend it, I am a student of life and not a teacher of Atheism.
“Anarchism, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government.”


Took me a while to gather my thoughts on this. First, I am sorry to hear about your brother, Smarmy. There is nothing simple or easy about a loved one dying, especially so young.

Funerals. I don't know anyone who likes them, but I can tolerate them. Been to too many, and way too many of family members. They are difficult, because you have so many people gathered with so many disparate beliefs. Almost all will be spiritual in some way. You have people speaking in platitudes mostly. That is very annoying. I think I've heard it all, from, "He's in a better place.", to "You'll see him again."


The most recent funeral I attended was for the mother of my closest friend. My friend is an atheist. Her family was split up (mom and dad divorced, brother estranged from both mom and dad). So she took the lead in planning the funeral. It was a wonderfully non-religious memorial service. Even though the number of religious people there greatly outnumbered the non-believers, the tone of the funeral and gathering later were distinctly secular. If I have to pick a favorite funeral, it was this one.

I guess what I'm leading up to is that those who are still around after the death of a family member have some power to determine what the nature of the service is. My mother planned her own funeral and party. It seemed macabre at the time, but what a blowout we had for her! She would have loved that party!

Our sadness at death is usually due to our own inability to cope with our selfish desire to have those we love around us. But we can definitely control to some extent, how we manage the formal activities that follow someone's passing.

I hope this makes sense.
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--Penn Jillette