Atheists do not believe in God and by extension do not believe in having a traditional religious funeral. With this in mind, some atheists describe the preferred format and content of their funerals in advance. Others do not plan ahead, in which event a partner, family member or friend must arrange the funeral, in accordance with the deceased's non-belief in God. This is not as daunting as it sounds.
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Things you need
- Internet access
- Pen and notepad
Contact a local funeral director. Most well-established companies have helped to conduct atheist funerals. An experienced funeral director can make suggestions about how an atheist ceremony could proceed.
Ask a friend or family member to be the master of ceremonies at the funeral. Alternatively, contact the British Humanist Association (BHA). A funeral celebrant from the BHA can provide guidance about an atheist's funeral and act as the master of ceremonies.
Book a venue for the ceremony through the funeral director. Because many atheists prefer cremation, a crematorium is a common choice. However, a funeral ceremony can take place at almost any venue.
Arrange for people attending the funeral ceremony to give speeches. Well-written tributes to the deceased are a substitute for the prayers and formal readings of a religious funeral service. The British Humanist Association provides non-religious texts for those people who prefer to read something already composed rather than write a speech.
Decide on appropriate music for the ceremony to replace religious hymns. The music could reflect the taste of the deceased and consist of classical, jazz, gospel, blues or pop - depending on their preferred music genre. If you didn't know the person who's funeral you're planning, consult with one of their close friends or family members.
Allow for the fact that some people who attend the funeral of an atheist may believe in God. An atheist ceremony may make them feel excluded. Take an inclusive approach by arranging a moment of silence during the ceremony in which everyone can think about the deceased and pray quietly for him or her if they wish to do so.
Organise a wake to take place after the atheist funeral ceremony. A wake helps to create a sense of respect for the occasion and the deceased.
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- The Atheists are Revolting!; Nick Gisburne; 2007
- A Devil's Chaplain; Richard Dawkins; 2010
- The Good Funeral Guide; Charles Cowling; 2010
- Death and Bereavement Across Cultures; Colin Murray Parkes, Pittu Laungani and Bill Young (editors); 2003
- British Humanist Association: Non-Religious Funerals and Memorials
- Order from Chaos (3rd edition); Marion Gibson; 2006
- Embracing the Teardrops; Patricia Myers; 2011
- The Book of Atheist Spirituality; Andre Comte-Sponville; 2009