What options are available to Atheists for funerals as cremations aren't for everyone.

Have you ever been to an Atheist funeral and what was it like compared to other funerals in terms of closure for the bereaved.

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Never been to an atheist or secular funeral ceremony, so I haven't much to contribute there.  What I can do is tell you what I told my wife when she asked what I'd like for my funeral.

Funerals aren't for the dead.  They're for the grieving. My preferences don't come into it.  I'll be gone, so do what feels right.  If that means a full church service with all the trimmings, be my guest.  If you want to set me out by the curb with the recycling, that's fine too.  I suspect that she'll choose something in between, assuming I go first of course.  

It's worth mentioning that I live in Ireland, a country that's over 95% Catholic, and there don't seem to be many options for secular funerals.  I have no idea what services might be available in the rest of the world, but I do know that there's more to closure than a funeral ceremony.  Laughing, crying, reminiscing, and just feeling that absence that sneaks up on you out of nowhere.  It's slow and it's messy, but for me, that's where closure happens.  

I live in Ireland as well, so I've had a Catholic upbringing for most of my life, so what do you do when that's not what you or those that will be grieving want. 

I also live in Ireland but had a non-religious upbringing. I once attended a sort of humanist funeral. It didn't hang on religious beliefs anyway, from what I could tell. It did still take place in a church, but that was secondary to the proceedings. The woman who died had cancer, so she'd had everything planned for months in advance. She urged people to wear bright colours, and had music like Noah and the Whales' "Five Years Time" and the Beatles' "Blackbird" played as the pallbearers brought in her coffin. The songs she chose for her service reflected her more than any hymns she could have picked, and it was very much a celebration of her life rather than a mourning of her death.

Believe it or not, I took some time to look into this yesterday.  Not a lot, admittedly, but I did a search and checked out a few forum threads.  

Surprise, surprise.  I couldn't find any secular options in Ireland.  The only real advice I saw was to speak with an atheist organization or a funeral home to see what could be arranged locally, and a lot of that seems to trade new age mysticism for established religion.  Religion-free options are definitely hard to come by.

My best advice is still to look beyond the ceremony for comfort.  For that matter, belief isn't required to get comfort from a funeral service.  There are plenty of Catholics-in-name-only filling the pews at weddings and funerals all over Ireland, people who approach the church as something cultural and social rather than a place to commune with the infinite.  

Most atheists don't belong to any "church" or social group, so it's not likely that secular funerals are on their way any time soon.  Even if you do decide to go your own way with a secular ceremony, community support and sympathy are going to revolve around a familiar church ceremony.  That community is valuable, and should not be turned aside lightly.  

I'm not sure I've been terribly helpful.  Hopefully, this is all hypothetical.  If not, you have my sympathies.


Thanks, it's been very insightful


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