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Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral

Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« on: March 09, 2009, 04:35:42 PM »
I recently attended a funeral service for a friend and neighbor who was killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 50, leaving a wife and five kids. He was a freethinker, perhaps a closet atheist, but this was known to only a very few of his closest friends and his family. His wife and his sisters, all in their 50's and 60's, are all religious to some degree. All of his kids are twenty-something. Three of his kids have no professed religion, the other two do. We live in a small South Texas town where religious beliefs run at over 90 percent of the local population.

The wife and kids, wanting to be true to the decedent's beliefs, wanted to keep the funeral as non-religious as possible, but without offending his sisters. In planning the funeral, at the suggestion of the local funeral home, a local minister who presides over about half the funerals in town was requested to speak at the funeral. I guess they just could not think of anyone else to preside over the services. It was obvious that the minister tried to be as non-religious as he could, but it made for an awkward service. He changed all references to god or jesus to mention a "life giving force of nature."  He kind of missed the point of being a freethinker. The attempt at a middle of the road service wound up upsetting the sisters who wanted a fire and brimstone service with no mention of little brother's heathen ways, upsetting the kids who wanted a more secular service to honor their fathers beliefs, and upsetting a large part of the attendees who for the first time found out that their long-time friend was perhaps a godless atheist. And the music didn't help. No church hymns, but the kids chose a few biker songs, like "Easy Rider" and a couple of other biker-type songs. But the decedent wasn't really a biker, he was a straight-laced executive-type at a very large corporation.  The whole thing made it obvious to me that nobody involved had a game plan on how to conduct a decent funeral service for an atheist/freethinker.

So, to get to the point, has any one ever attended a funeral service for a non-believer that you thought was perfect? And if so, what made it perfect? If you could imagine your own perfect funeral service, how would it be conducted, in detail, from start to finish? Do you allow a prayer or two, for the benefit of the believers, and allow the freethinkers to stare awkwardly at the floor? Any hymns? Any suggested secular music? Or do you just say screw it and have a full religious service because its for the benefit of the survivors anyway?

I would appreciate the input of anyone with a good idea on this subject. Thanks.

JackHandyDeepThinker
"I'm just a hole in the bible belt"

Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2009, 05:53:13 PM »
Sadly enough I have never been to a non-believer's funeral, at least someone who has been open about it. I have been to about 6 funerals in my life, 4 Roman Catholic and 2 protestant Christian.

I would think a good secular funeral would consist of having a speaker who reflected on the goodness and worth of the deceased's life and then expresses to everyone a comfort in the silent and unconscious peace of death, at least that's what I would want for myself.

Will

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2009, 05:59:12 PM »
Perfect is simple; the funeral should be a service in fond and honest remembrance. That can manifest in any kind of way: listening to favorite music, passages from favorite books, displaying the life's work of the deceased, even just sharing memories. A friend of mine who's father was an architect died and they put on display some of his favorite projects at the funeral. It was wonderful.

So long as it's personal and respectful, anything goes.
I want bad people to look forward to and celebrate the day I die, because if they don't, I'm not living up to my potential.

Sophus

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2009, 03:31:56 PM »
I figure I'll donate my body to science. At least I'll be somewhat useful in my death.
‎"Christian doesn't necessarily just mean good. It just means better." - John Oliver

Will

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2009, 04:18:53 PM »
Quote from: "Sophus"
I figure I'll donate my body to science. At least I'll be somewhat useful in my death.
If I donated my body to science, there would be an entire generation of scientists that felt physically inadequate. I can't be responsible for that.  :D
I want bad people to look forward to and celebrate the day I die, because if they don't, I'm not living up to my potential.

Ihateyoumike

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2009, 05:55:33 PM »
Quote from: "Will"
If I donated my body to science, there would be an entire generation of scientists that felt physically inadequate. I can't be responsible for that.  roflol
Prayers that need no answer now, cause I'm tired of who I am
You were my greatest mistake, I fell in love with your sin
Your littlest sin.

Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2009, 01:53:57 AM »
I haven't been to a funeral since I was a kid so don't really know how they go these days.  I of course will be donating any parts still worthy of being harvested (sadly they can forget about my liver and lungs) and will have the remaining parts cremated.  Then I have asked them to be tossed out in the woods somewhere.

I kind of liked the service they showed at the end of Philadelphia where they had home videos playing and everyone gathered to remember their friend in kind of a relaxed and social atmosphere at home rather than a church or funeral home.  

I don't know that I'd do anything special for the believers, they will pray on their own and do what they do to mourn and get passed it.
In spite of the cost of living, it's still popular. (Kathy Norris)
They say I have ADHD but I think they are full of...oh, look a kitty!! (unknown)

karadan

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2009, 10:15:57 AM »
I've been to two humanist funerals - that of my grandmother and auntie - and I've been to one christian funeral; my cousin's.

Both the humanist funerals were deeply moving but for good, honest reasons. The congregation very much missed the people who'd passed away and it was a time shared where all of us could say our individual goodbyes without religion clouding over our collective emotions. My auntie had the ability to plan her own funeral because she had died of cancer. A few passages from a Terry Pratchett book (her favourite author) was read by my mother and a poem was written and orated by my cousin. There were jokes and laughter. I think she chose a peter Frampton tune for the end of the ceremony. There certainly was no dour organ playing.

My grandmothers service was equally moving although she had died more suddenly, it still included things like her favourite tunes. There was also a video montage of past photos of her and the family shown as the congregation left. Both humanist services had very respectful ministers (is that what they are called?) who gave no mention of god or religion, but just spoke eloquently about the passed away family member. I remember them using the word 'love' a lot. I felt both services were apt and in accordance with how both people would have liked to be remembered in a service. The thing which stood out for me was how much laughter was at each service. It was a nice thing to feel in an otherwise sad situation.

The religious funeral was that of my cousin. It was an absolute shambles. The vicker got my cousins name wrong for a start. The service comprised of 3% about my dead cousin and 97% about how awesome god is. I felt empty afterwards. It was a complete cop-out and felt as though the vicker couldn't wait to get out of that room due to sheer boredom. I felt no compassion from this man. He'd not done any homework about my cousin whereas both the humanist ministers seemed to know everything about my grandmother and auntie's past. It was this funeral which led to my entire family promising that when any of them died, they would be sent off with a humanist funeral.
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I find it mistifying that in this age of information, some people still deny the scientific history of our existence.

SSY

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2009, 01:31:54 PM »
Already have most of mine planned



Just need to wait for a suitable occassion. I am thinking, next labour party conference, wheel up the woodchipper, maybe in a building overlooking the entrance, open the window and aim.

As Gordon gets out of the car, hop in ( head first ), and BAM! Instant news headlines/traumatising the lives of everyone in a 50 foot radius.
Quote from: "Godschild"
SSY: You are fairly smart and to think I thought you were a few fries short of a happy meal.
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explain to them how and why you decided to be athiest and take the consequences that come along with it
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karadan

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2009, 04:17:55 PM »
Quote from: "SSY"
Already have most of mine planned



Just need to wait for a suitable occassion. I am thinking, next labour party conference, wheel up the woodchipper, maybe in a building overlooking the entrance, open the window and aim.

As Gordon gets out of the car, hop in ( head first ), and BAM! Instant news headlines/traumatising the lives of everyone in a 50 foot radius.

Haha!!

hopefully a piece of your cranium will lodge itsself in his good eye. :)
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I find it mistifying that in this age of information, some people still deny the scientific history of our existence.

Tanker

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2009, 07:33:13 PM »
I won't care what happens at my funeral because I'll be dead and my conciousness will be gone. Not the way we usually think about it, but the truth sad to say. My ideal choice would be to have my body droped in the woods to be torn apart by scavengers, can't be disposed of any more naturally then that (though I belive that is illeagal, I'll probably go with a body farm) My family can "honor my memory" however they wish, again i'm not going to be around to care.

On the flip side being the surviver of a lost love one I would want to have a dinner party atmospere where everyone told anecdotes and fond rememrences of the decesed. Hopefully everyone one would have a few laughs and shed a few tears and begin healing the rift the lost loved one has left.
"I'd rather die the go to heaven" - William Murderface Murderface  Murderface-

I've been in fox holes, I'm still an atheist -Me-

God is a cake, and we all know what the cake is.

(my spelling, grammer, and punctuation suck, I know, but regardless of how much I read they haven't improved much since grade school. It's actually a bit of a family joke.

Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2009, 07:12:00 PM »
Recently, I started to write instructions for my own funeral/memorial service.  I started off with three basic requests:  no priest or clergy of any denomination; no permanent burial or memorial (I plan to donate my body to the local med school); and family and friends should simply gather together to honor my memory.  I then expand into some specifics, just in case my loved ones need the help.  Things like serving my favorite foods and drinks, playing my favorite music, sharing photographs and memories with each other.  It's a work in progress.

I'm working on adding a statement to the effect that if it causes my loved ones undue emotional or spiritual pain to forgo a traditional religious ceremony, that they should go ahead and do the religious thing with my full endorsement.  After all, the last thing I want to do, even in death, is to cause my loved ones pain.  The whole funeral thing is for them, but if they want to honor my wishes, I'm going to make sure they know what they are and how to carry them out.

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Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2009, 08:22:25 PM »
We didn't do a funeral when my Mom died.  We had her cremated and sprinkled half her ashes on her flower garden.  The other half are waiting for my Dad's ashes to get mixed in with them and sprinkled in the garden together.

Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2009, 06:30:27 AM »
Tanker--Exposure would be my preference. I guess no Health Department would allow composting, that would be great too.
Wonderfully, donation to med schools must be growing in acceptance. My very conservative Catholic co-worker reported going to memorial services, not funerals, for both grandparents--they had donated their bodies.
Nothing is worse than the old timey Southern open-casket rites.
 :eek:


GO JESSICA MITFORD!
There's nothing wrong with ambivalence--is there?

Re: Ideas for the Perfect Atheist/Freethinkers Funeral
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2009, 07:00:07 PM »
Quote from: "SallyMutant"
GO JESSICA MITFORD!

Ramen to that!  I'm almost finished with American Way of Death Revisited.  It's appalling the way the funeral industry preys on grieving family members just to fatten their purses.  And the bald-faced lies they tell about everything!  Donating your body to science, however, does not necessarily mean that you (or your family members, rather) will avoid their evil net.  I'm not sure about other states, but here in North Dakota, the body must be delivered to a funeral home for specific preparations before being transported to the medical school.  You can rest assured that if a funeral home is involved in any way, they will attempt to coerce your relatives into purchasing just about every service they have.

So, if you're thinking of donating your body, contact the nearest med school right away to find out what you need to do and whether a funeral home needs to be involved.  Whatever you decide, make sure you leave explicit instructions for your family, and warn them to not to believe everything they hear from the funeral director!