Like most of us, I harbor a secret desire to live forever, but the rational side of my brain threw that out long ago. Having had several good friends die in the past few years and attended several religious funerals that irritated me, I am curious as to what an atheist's funeral/memorial service would look like. And what of the obituary? In all the ones I have read in the local paper I remember none that didn't follow the lines of standard religious dogma, he/she is with the Lord now, safe from pain, etc. I live in a very religious area, Bismarck, ND.
If I leave this until the end it's likely that some religious member of my family may manhandle their way into this job and wreck it. So to plan for the future how do you plan a atheist's memorial? Where do you have it? How do you write the obit?
I just had an angiogram yesterday and, although they are no big deal, it did make me wonder?
"If I leave this until the end it's likely that some religious member of my family may manhandle their way into this job and wreck it."
To play the advocate, funerals are for the living, not the dead. You can dream and hope for what might take place at your own funeral but in the end what you want isn't necessarily relevant to those living present. What is done with your corpse is, in my opinion, entirely up to you though.
That said, I would hope to extend my influence to my own funeral just like the next guy.
I want to share two brief stories about elders in my family who died within that last year or so.
Allen was the second husband of my mother-in-law and sixteen years chair of the physics department at Rutgers University in New Jersey - a record. He published a history of that department and made it one of the top centers for string theory in the country. Obviously, though from a Methodist family, he was an atheist. He and I spent hours discussing the Big Questions. He had a lot to do with the final stages of my 'deprogramming.' I truly loved this man. Nevertheless, his daughters gave him a church service - which truly angered me at a deep level. How would they feel if they got a Muslim service when they died? Ah well, funerals are for the living, I guess.
Nevertheless, my tiny 'subversion' and 'homage' was to write a new verse to 'Amazing Grace', since my daughter was asked to sing it. She has a beautiful voice. I wrote (keep in mind 'grace' can have many meanings):
Was grace that made me curious, / and grace that let me see / the beauty of the universe / in all its great glory. Ironically, everyone loved it. I was asked for printed copies from every daughter and many other guests.
Some months after that, my extremely Catholic mother died. I was asked by both of my parents to give the eulogy, even though it is no secret that I am atheist. Strangely, my mother never condemned me for my 'heresy.'
I spoke of select memories I had of my mother that illustrated her intelligence, humor, curiosity, joie-de-vivre, and kindness. I did not include one word of an afterlife, ever seeing her again, her being in a better place, god, redemption, forgiveness, salvation, etc. I focused on our joy at having known her in the brief time we get here, on the precious nature of this temporary existence, and whatever part of us that was forged through our relationship with her.
Again, ironically, every member of the prayer group my mother led told me how moved they were and requested a written copy. Of course, this speaks to their love for her. But I did find it interesting that none of them seemed to even notice the complete absence of god, souls, heaven, Jesus, angels, sins, etc. from my words.
My advice is to make your wishes clear to those that will most likely be taking care of those matters, and do it whenever the topic comes up. I've been telling my family & friends for years what I'd want and specifically not want. Usually the topic only comes up after someone one of us knows dies and the whole process begins. I always make it clear that i don't want any sort of religion involved, mentioned etc. Whether they follow my wishes is anyones guess.
wow Samantha! That's horrible! Reminds me of a wedding I went to ....
A Dear freind of mine died this passed summer of cancer - her parents are very religious but they were not in charge of the funeral - Her best friend was so: It was held at a funeral home featured all of her favourite music and a slide show of memories, the officient was instructed that it was to be a secular service. The Lord's Prayer was read by one of her co-workers who had asked permission before our dear G died. I followed this with a reading from an interview with R.G. Ingersoll that many people complimented me on - some thinking it was a poem.
It worked out nicely everyone honouring G's memory in their own way.
this motivated me to complete my will (I'm only 40) and add a codicil instructing that no part of my memorial should include reference to any diety ...
I hope that works ~ I certainly won't know.
Planning is important no matter your age!
My only sibling died a few months ago, and I endured the agony of sitting through the fire and brimstone service that was held. I was warned that death was coming, and I had better repent and be a fine xtian like my brother. It was so over the top that it got me to thinking about what would happen if I die before my parents. My poor friends and non-family loved ones would be forced to sit through the same thing. So I wrote down some guidelines, like, no preacher, no group prayers, no more than one religious song (my family LOVES singing about the zombie jesus, so I'll let one slide), and graveside memorial only. I also requested that my close friends carry my coffin. Women included. I'll be dead, and it won't matter to me, but I would rather not subject my friends to the kind of ceremony my parents would fashion.