Atheist funerals — usually quite similar to humanist funerals — are becoming more and more common. They are appropriate memorials to those who lived their lives without religious affiliation and reject the typically religious views associated with life and death.
At these atheist services there is no specific reference to an afterlife, as atheists do not believe in any deity. Instead, the funeral services are a tribute to the life the deceased lived. Loved ones that are left behind are acknowledged, and the deceased’s life is remembered through memories.
At an atheist funeral, it is best to avoid platitudes like “she’s in a better place now” or “he’s watching us from heaven now.” While these kinds of comment are usually taken as intended—that is, as expressions of comfort and sympathy—they can just as easily be avoided.
That said most religious attendees would not feel out of place or offended by a humanist ceremony. The focus of the event will center on sincerity and affection for the deceased and his or her family and close friends. At most humanist services, family, friends and even acquaintances may be asked to share their fond memories with others in attendance.
Atheist Cremation or Burial
Both cremation and burial are common atheist funeral practices. Whether or not there is an open casket is largely dependent upon individual preferences and circumstances. If the deceased’s wishes were not made known prior to the funeral, the family will make such a decision. An atheist service can be held at any time. Some choose to hold services before burial, some at graveside, and still others opt for a memorial service sometime after the burial or cremation.
Music and Readings
Religious readings and hymns are not part of an atheist funeral service. Songs and readings are still used, however. Favorite songs and poems or other readings may be shared during services. Classical music as well as modern favorites may be selected.
Sometimes, a person has a chance to make decisions regarding the funeral before death. In these cases a person may select arrangements according to his or her wants and desires.
Atheist services bring a sense of closure to family members and close friends, and are an important part of the grieving process. The atheist funeral service gives loved ones a chance to express their sorrow and pain at such a devastating time. At this time of loss it is appropriate to show support to the family through memorial charitable donations, memorial flowers, and meal preparation.