What Funerals Should Be About

James Croft on Humanist funerals and what they are about:

First, a recognition of an individual’s life, a marking of it, an assertion of its significance. Second, the chance to consider together what a life has meant, a collective moment of storytelling to bring a community together to make sense of a life. Third, the opportunity for loved ones left behind to share memories of the deceased and receive the consolation of others. Fourth, a sense of psychological closure which can be deeply valuable, particularly in tragic circumstances. And finally, most important, a moment set aside to remind ourselves of the shortness and precariousness of life, to prick ourselves to live better and more fully.

The truth is, and has always been, that funerals – whether religious or not – are not for the dead or their “immortal souls”. They are for us. For the ones left behind. A Humanist funeral is therefore the most honest and powerful of all funerals – a funeral in which people refuse to lie to themselves or to others and look the fact of death squarely in the face, confronting their mortality with dignity and grace. A funeral for the living.

Last fall, as part of my response to Bad Catholic on religious responses to suffering, I expressed why I found the Catholic way of running a funeral repugnant on many levels.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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