Death of an Atheist Friend: Let the Faith Pimping Begin

By Sikivu Hutchinson
 
The American death industry pimps heaven hard, squeals like a stuck pig about redemption, then tasks the faithful with collecting the bloody dividends.  For the believer the death of an atheist or agnostic loved one is a theological crap shoot.  It invariably inspires fantasy, creative license, and outright bullshit betrayal of the dearly departed’s principles.  Such was the case with my friend “Miguel”, who tragically collapsed during a basketball game at his school, went into a coma, and never regained consciousness. One afternoon when I went to visit him in the hospital I stumbled right into the middle of a raging prayer circle.  Heads bowed, hands joined, voices hushed, three friends and family were deep in the throes of spiritual reconnaissance over Miguel’s bed.
Thanks, but no thanks, he would have said.  At a vibrant 54, Miguel was a hardcore skeptic, an agnostic-atheist who never took anything on faith and made it his business to slash sacred cows of all stripes with a wink and swagger.  As an esteemed educator for nearly 25 years he ruled his classrooms like a prize fighter, inspiring all who entered to think critically about the sociopolitical conditions of communities of color, institutional racism, classism, and sexism.  His lessons drew on everyone from Bob Dylan to Toni Morrison to Tupac to Shakespeare to Sandra Cisneros; using their explorations of social justice, morality, and life’s paradoxes to turn on Black and Latino students who’d had it drilled into them that they weren’t cut out to be intellectuals or scholars. 
But none of this passion for freethought was captured in the marathon orgy of Catholicism that was his memorial. During the ceremony, Miguel’s ashes were paraded down the church aisle in a little urn while the pastor declared to the faithful that “our brother has been called home.”  It was a spectacle that he would have certainly parodied—he, the Chicano blasphemer who once wrote (in response to one of my pieces on death and religion) that “this rips the covers off the hypocrisy and the monarchical role that religion plays in our society.  It (religion) swears out its conformity and power to the downtrodden it shackles every day.  Let’s examine the nexus between corporate obscenity and the hand holding of their gospel spewing brethren in the tax free halls of America.  Neither pay taxes, both exploit and we the benighted beg at their altars for alms, or forgiveness, or both.”

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Comment by Shutch on July 23, 2012 at 1:24pm

Thanks so much for that thoughtful comment.  Your burial plan sounds like a compelling idea and having loved ones who are respectful is immensely important.

Comment by Sentient Biped on July 23, 2012 at 8:56am

Sorry to read about your loss of a friend, an admirable man who thought for himself and strove to inspire others to think critically and improve the world.  That his inspiration was ignored should not detract from his memory.

My personal plan for death is to contract with a green burial company, so that my unembalmed body will be buried without coffin or vault, wrapped only in a shroud, in a conservation area of Washington state.  No ceremony or ritual other than the burial.  This plan is known to and approved by my loved ones.  I do need to get off by butt and pre-arrange the burial.  No plans to die yet, but you never know, as your friend tells us.

Comment by Shutch on July 23, 2012 at 8:44am

Thanks -- feel free to use the quote.

Comment by roland707 on July 21, 2012 at 11:25pm

Sorry about your friend. Love his quote! May I copy that? My sister ambush-prayed over an atheist friend of ours once. He was dying of cancer and didn't know we were there, so I let it go. Won't happen again, though.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on July 21, 2012 at 2:17pm

Pat a springing power of attorney will work. The occurence of the contingency causes the poa to spring into life. That contingency can be one's demise. Such cheerful thoughts.

Comment by Pat on July 20, 2012 at 4:50pm

Power of attorney won't work. The designation of authority to an agent in a power of attorney dies with you. You want a will. And one that clearly spells out your desires - cremation over burial (or vice versa), no religious services or ceremonies whatsoever, and any other wishes you may have. And, I would ask the attorney preparing it for you that if there is someone named in the will that violates your wishes, they're automatically cut out. It's called an in terrorem clause. Probably won't work with a spouse, but it sure will with children or others. And - this is important - name someone as an executor that you can trust; not with your life, but with your death.

Comment by Idaho Spud on July 20, 2012 at 4:41pm

I like the idea of legal planning.  I used to think that I wouldn't care what they did when I died, but I now see religious ceremonies as ways to help spread the BS.

Comment by Shutch on July 20, 2012 at 9:17am

Absolutely.  This certainly motivated me and others to think more strategically about doing some kind of legal planning or intervention along those lines.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 19, 2012 at 6:11pm

I am beginning to think that durable powers of attorney, codicils in wills, or other suchlike documents may be needed to prevent this kind of travesty from being perpetrated on those who have no wish for them.  It smacks in many ways of the postmortem baptisms which the mor(m)ons have become notorious for performing, and which are just as offensive to those of us who are freethinkers.

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