How are atheists buried when they die?

by Ian Quayle

My wife is a humanist celebrant (a person who conducts humanist, nonreligious, and inter-religious weddings, funerals, child namings and other life rituals).

She was accredited by the British Humanist Association and has conducted nearly 250 non-religious funerals as well as many baby namings and weddings.

Except in unusual circumstances, such as the death of a child, a Humanist funeral can be a joyful celebration of a life, rather than the standard grim and miserable religious service (anxiety about the dreadful day of judgement, etc).

She normally allows a minute or two during the funeral ceremony for quiet reflection and the opportunity for any religious people present to pray if they wish.

Occasionally a member of the family will want to read a poem with some religious content and my wife usually allows that, but would never offer to read it herself.

What most religious people appear to miss more than anything else in a Humanist funeral is the opportunity to sing together.

For them, it is very hard to find anything suitable that isn’t religious.

The comments my wife receives after these funerals, which are highly personalized according to what the deceased and their family wants, are almost always extremely positive – especially from people who have never experienced one before.

Although she occasionally gets rather surly negative comments from religious people who clearly don’t approve.


Ian Quayle

Retired engineer with curiosity about life, the universe and everything.

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