My Dad died recently and although he was an atheist, and always has been, I received a great deal of pressure to agree to a religious service. My brother, who is a believer said, "What's the harm?". I suggested a Muslim cleric and a Jewish rabbi as well as the Lutheran pastor that he had already decided upon. "Well, that's different he said"
"How so?" I responded, "he didn't believe in any of these religions, why not choose all of them?" In the end, I was able to get the pastor to give a secular service, as secular as possible that is. Not what I felt my Dad would have wanted, but he probably wouldnt have gotten too bent out of shape about the service.
People usually dictate the end-of-life care they want to receive, or whether or not they want to be cremated, but seldom express the type of funeral they want and this lack of communication can lead to hard feelings, especially for those who are theists and dont understand why a secular funeral is important for non-theists.

Tags: death, funeral

Views: 47

Replies to This Discussion

I have to admit I never really thought about it. My parents, brother, wife, and closest friends all know I'm an atheist and think church is garbage. I can't imagine they'd have any sort of church service for me but I've never directly said I don't want one. It's cool that your dad wouldn't be upset by it if he knew but I agree with Don. If your brother knew about your dad's atheism it is a bit insensitive and selfish. Glad you posted this. I might have to put something in writing.

Hope you are well. Death is never easy to deal with. Take care of yourself.
My condolences. Death is a not too common topic among atheists... As far as I can see/read, a significant number of atheists are also humanists and to a lesser extent futurists and seem to have a great desire to defeat death by prolonging life with all artificial/medical means necessary. I find this fascination with longevity to be quasi religious. Death may be our ultimate test of faith and atheism. I often wonder how many people take Pascal's wager in their death bed, and would I?

You mention "Lutheran pastor already decided upon" I'm curious about that, even tho he was an atheist, you intended on a Lutheran service?

I have stated to my mother some wishes, living and dead, I realize I should make these clear with my younger siblings as well. We're still relatively young 40s 30s so it's not been a major topic of conversation and writing this I realize I don't know their wishes either.

For my part, cremation, no burial, no service. I see no point in post death "public flattery". I also have no desire whatsoever to prolong my life by artificial means. IMO there are so many people on this planet and I have no (and wont) offspring, so there is absolutely no justification in aiming for a "longer life" I have lived fast and hard (remember that expression: arrive not at your coffin looking healthy and beautiful, but happily screaming with chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champaign). Quality of life is greatly defined by our self sufficiency and artificial organs are a life-time of "high maintenance" (in fact not a lifetime since their longevity is on average 10 years).

I have also stated to her a DNR order unless it's a very short zero effect loss of life and life after is same as before (such as a near drowning or such). I want no part of life in rehab or through life sustaining devices.

I have but one one post death fantasy... there is a certain part of me that wishes ghosts were possible, as there are a few people I'd love to poltergeist!

Luckily my entire family is atheist (or some variation thereof) so I foresee no squabbles. I am curious to know how atheist survivors deal with death compared to religious survivors. Does remembering differ, do we forget faster. What is your experience?
Thanks for the condolences.

When I mentioned the Lutheran minister that hade been decided upon, I should have been more specific. My Grandmother died 14 days earlier and although she was a non-theist as well, the funeral home has a minister that they suggest when you don't have one handy, I guess you could call him a pinch-hitter for Bog (Stephen Kings Tower series is underrated). My two uncles (a theist and a non-theist) chose him as a matter of convenience and he did a decent job, all things considered. My Dad wasnt really involved as he was too ill by that time. Although he would have walked out on the funeral had the minister started preaching, he had done it before. :)
We had my Dad cremated, as were his wishes (btw, the resulting ash is called "cremains"....no joke)
When it came to the question of a eulogy, I knew I wouldnt be able to do it and neither would my brother. I deferred to my brother on pretty much everything, he's older than me and likes to be in charge. Though I wouldnt bend on the choice of a "minister". I explained to the funeral director that I wanted my Dad to have a secular funeral and did he know anybody.
He replied that he should have no problem finding a secular minister............

At that point I told him that the Lutheran pastor might work, but I wanted to interview him first. He wasn't Missouri Synod and was more than willing to give a secular eulogy.
I insisted on the King James version of the 23rd Psalm if we had to have it. Instead of any religious music we had "Take Five" by Brubeck and "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" by The Modern Jazz Quartet. My dad's two favorite songs. He once said that if aliens came to Earth and wanted to know what "cool" was, he'd play them "Take Five".

Long story, but it's difficult to tell without a little background.

As far as the other question, I think about him quite a bit. I catch myself picking up my phone to call him or thinking about telling him something that happened and then realizing that he's gone.
I had to bathe him toward the end and when he was mentally alert, he was both annoyed and resigned. "This is shits, isnt it?", he used to say. I guess that's really the worst part, I miss him, but toward the end he just wasn't Dad. He had friends and relatives visit often and would have probably been really pissed that people were seeing him in the state he was in.

I know I won't see him again, but I know he truly enjoyed his life.
He had a dissecting aneurysm of the abdominal aorta about 4 years ago and the doctor asked him how much he drank. When he responded, the doctor said that he wouldnt be able to drink that much in a month. "That's because you're a pussy", my dad replied.
He did say that he had some regrets, but at least he wouldnt be around to let it bother him. Those are the things that I find myself remembering.

Sry for the long answer, but was actually good for me....thx

Weird as it sounds, this kept going through my head at the funeral

Buffalo Bill's
defunct
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
stallion
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
Jesus
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

ee cummings
My dad died in 2003 of Mutliple Myeloma at the age of 62. An orthodox atheist ;) , he came from a very fundamentalist background. His brothers and brothers-in-law kept calling him towards the end of his life to get him to accept Jesus again (he "left the faith" 44 years earlier) basically so he could get right with God before he died. After he died I found tons of little sticky notes all over his workshop writing out his arguments with his brothers, complete with all caps and multiple exclamation points about how insulting their calls were in a way, how misguided, how annoying, etc. My mom said he even wrote a long letter but I don't think he sent it.
Anyway, my mom and my brother and I all agreed after he died to honor his wishes for a cremation and secular memorial service, no clergy. HOWEVER, we knew (as he would have) that his brothers would just have to get up there and quote scripture. Knowing though, that a memorial service's purpose is for the benefit of the living only, it was quite alright with us to let them have their moment and quote away, because it helped them.
I did get up myself though, and try to really capture (and explain to them somehow) that my dad was a good loving kind generous man who lived his life fully and loved and was loved, and that the after life he would "inhabit" was inside each of us, wherein lied the love that he had put into each of us and that that was enough.
It was truly what he believed, that his life would have meaning by how he had touched all of us.
If they need to look outside of that concept to find comfort with his death, it really makes me feel sorry for them, that they kind of overlook the most important way of honoring the dead, by acknowledging the true way we live on after our deaths, through our love. But it does no harm to dear departed dad, as we know, and we can certainly tune it out (although I do remember feeling kind of indignant when they read from the Bible in his stead).
Years ago in college I took a psyc course called the "Survey of Death and Dying." I got kinds rooked into it. But I'm glad I did.
The thing about funerals is that they are for the living.
Not the dead.
It's a way for people to work their grief out and say "good-by."
Knowing that, it helps those like us.
What I plan to do is have an Episcopal service.
It's short, sweet, and to the point.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, here he lies, he bit the dust.
COCKTAILS
And I want a party for my funeral.
I want people to understand the life is to be ENJOYED!
Screw this, "When you die you'll get your reward..."
BULLSH*T
That's all plain BULLSH*T.
Live for the here and now.
Not some pie in the sky.

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