Pastor Spends Funeral Service Disrespecting the Deceased and Promoting Christianity

I’ve had a friend commit suicide. And, like most everybody, I’ve been to several funerals. Even the religious ones I’ve attended tend to focus on the life that was lived and how the person is now “in a better place.” Bullshit, no doubt, but comforting, uplifting bullshit for the people who buy into it.

Rebecca Tippens recently went to the (religious) funeral of a childhood friend who committed suicide. Instead of bringing everyone together, though, the pastor chose to condemn the way in which the friend took his life:

… the service wasn’t comforting. Far from it, in fact. The pastor didn’t deliver the usual “at least he’s in a better place” spiel or any sort of unifying message. Instead, he offered the heavy-handed question “What does scripture have to say about the taking of one’s own life?” with a horribly unpalatable answer: “God creates life, and therefore life belongs to God. In taking that life from him, we are betraying God’s trust and revealing our own lack of faith.”

Who goes to a funeral and insults the person in the coffin?! It must take religion to do something that dickish.

Rebecca couldn’t believe it:

… the hypocrisy here was just too much to bear in my grief. That a faith could so thoroughly devalue human life while offering reprimand (at a horrifically inappropriate time, no less) for someone who wholeheartedly buys into that message and just wants to get to heaven a little faster is disconcerting, appalling, outrageous — I can’t even find a word suitable to convey my sorrow and disgust. It’s not enough to molest the minds of the living, we have to disrespect the dead as well?

She adds that if she wasn’t an atheist already, she would’ve been by the end of the service.

It brings to mind the outburst by Tony Danza when he went to a friend’s funeral and encountered a priest who was much more interested in Jesus than the life of the person who just passed.

This is why you should just have friends and family members deliver eulogies at a funeral. If they know you well, then they can talk about you. The pastors offer lies — and in these cases, not even positive ones.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Stev84

    “God creates life, and therefore life belongs to God”

    I will never understand how someone can say something like that and then (probably) claim to be pro-life or accuse others of being nihilistic of having meaningless lives. Christians completely devalue their own lives, but somehow don’t see it

    • Koomba

      Please don’t confuse nihilism with apathy. 

  • Crys

    This is actually pretty common here in the south…especially with Baptist preachers.

    • TomPulsar

      No kidding, I’ve gone through this same scenario a few times in my own life here in SC. It makes funerals that much more painful in my opinion when the guy at the podium just ignores the deceased and starts blathering on about Jesus. That’s why I told my family that god is not invited to my funeral… but Jose Cuervo is.

  • Gus Snarp

    Funerals are complicated. Are they about the deceased, or about their family and friends? Obviously, both. But they should only be about religion to the extent that it’s what the deceased would have wanted. Every funeral I’ve been to has been religious, but only three of them struck me as incongruous. A friend of mine died of a drug overdose, she was dealing and using and was on a very self destructive path when it happened, but was in all other respects a good and decent person. But her relationship with her parents was strained, and at the funeral it became clear they just didn’t know her anymore. The funeral was all for them, all about their religion, and just didn’t fit her at all. I found it very upsetting, I think all of her friends did. It was a fairly typical Lutheran service, not very proselytizing, but it just seemed to be canned. One would have hoped parents of an adult planning her funeral might at least get some input from her friends. One could hardly blame them though, the situation was just very sad in so many ways.

    The next was a friend who was a member of the Salvation Army Church. Admittedly, it was his religion, but he wasn’t a big proselytizer himself, he never talked about religion, and I’m not sure how much of it was his religion and how much his parents. But the whole thing turned into fire and brimstone mixed with proselytizing. It became more about converting people than honoring my friend, and I felt it was wrong. But in both these cases I assume at least the families were comforted by the familiar funeral service.

    The third was my grandmother in law, who was a Jehovah’s Witness. The family decided that since her religion was important to her, her funeral service should be what she would have wanted. This was really weird. Here was the family, all seated in the back, essentially spectators at a strange religious service full of proselytizing.

    Three funerals, two done as what the family would have wanted, one done as what the deceased would have wanted, all seeming to have the wrong focus on religion. Obviously, many families want religious funerals, and many people want their own funerals to be religious, but I don’t understand why even a very religious person would want proselytizing to be the focus of their religion, unless they were truly an active proselytizer in life. In the end I think a funeral has to be a mix of what will comfort the family and the friends and what the deceased would have wanted, but should always be personalized and never be something the deceased would have been offended by (in other words, however it might comfort my parents, there had better not be a religious officiant at my funeral). When a funeral can’t be personalized this way, it’s just truly sad.

  • Reginald Selkirk

       “What does scripture have to say about the judging of others?”

    • Kasie

      We aren’t supposed to judge others..it is not our place and unfortunatly some churches don’t represent that.  But there are loving churches that exist.

  • Yoav

    A few years ago in the my home town in Israel one religious a*shole decided to show up, uninvited, at the home of a kid that was killed a  few days earlier in a car accident, put up a PA system and start lecturing the family how it’s a punishment from his imaginary friend because the kid’s mother wouldn’t observe the ritual purification laws during her period (how would he know?) and the dad stopped donating to the local synagogue. Everyone being in shock that someone would stoop that low is the only explanation I have for the fact that the piece of turd walked out of there alive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/liberalism Katie Hartman

    A close friend of mine committed suicide a few years ago. I read a lot about suicide ‘survivors’ (a common term for the people closest to the deceased); it was one of those things that I felt might help me cope – and it’s with that knowledge that I say that this is one of the cruelest, most dangerous things a person could do at a funeral.

    Theologians are not therapists. They should never, ever be allowed the role of helping families cope with interpersonal problems, mental illness, or grief unless they have *some* evidence that they’re able to provide safe, beneficial input. If it were up to me, funerals would be conducted by trained counselors, particularly in cases where the death was unexpected, violent, or self-inflicted.

  • Chantal

    My family just went through this while planning my father in laws funeral. The Catholic church has rules for how to carry out a funeral that are governed by dogma. That dogma states that you may not eulogize the deceased because if you spend too much time on them, you will loose focus on god. However, many local priests will fudge this depending on their personal beliefs.Lucky for us, although 1/2 the family insisted on a religious funeral, my mother in law asked my husband to eulogize his father and the priest agreed. Although we had to sit in a church, we got to participate on our own terms…sort of.

    • Atillathemum

      I was going to say something similar. Directives here in NZ are that eulogies should be given at the rosary service the night before the funeral and NOT at the funeral. I think this is total bullshit and like with Catholic weddings, it completely removes the person/people from the heart of the event and replaces it wittier their limelight hogging Jesus/God.

  • Lucilius

    Been there. Attended several family funerals where the  preacher couldn’t even pronounce the deceased’s name, but nevertheless “knew” all about what kind of person they were and where their postulated soul ended up.

    I’ve also heard a number of altar calls at funerals. Never had a preacher declare that the deceased was definitely burning somewhere, but I did have an aunt who died from a combination of cancer and kidney failure – she’d been on dialysis for several years, but the cancer made her too weak to continue. Each session came close to killing her. It was agonizing for her anyway, and she knew she’d only buy a couple months at best, so she finally stopped dialysis.

    But as easing as this was for her body, it didn’t bring  her any mental peace: some sanctimonious asshole preacher took it upon himself to tell her that by stopping dialysis – remember, she was terminally ill anyway – she was essentially committing suicide; and all “suicides” were definitely going to Hell. She spent her last month worriedly calling relatives and friends, asking: “Do you think God will condemn me for this? Should I go back on dialysis, painful and exhausting as it is, to avoid eternity in Hell?”

    In the end, she decided against dialysis, and slowly drifted into a coma – not a bad way to go, considering the circumstances. But there’s no excuse for that pious clown’s callousness.

  • Kasie

    This is an unfortunate story.  We are here to honor god by loving others not to judge and condem.  That is no ones place…christian or atheist.

    • Lmaris Lmaris

       We are NOT all here to honor god.  I for one, am here because my father’s sperm fertilized my mother’s ova.  While you may believe the purpose of humanity is to honor god, that does not make it a fact.   This is the same mistake the offending preacher made, and many religious (of all faiths) make:  stating opinion) as fact.   Facts may be proven.  Opinions (beliefs, faith) cannot.   One can (and millions do) love others without feeling the need to appease or honor any deity.

      • pagansister

         I have always wanted to say what you have mentioned about your being here because your” father’s sperm fertilized my mother’s ova”.    When someone mentions children being gifts from God—-I want to say, they are the result of 2 people having sex (or in this age, perhaps other ways such as sperm donors etc).   Yes, children can be considered a “gift” but God had nothing to do with it! 

  • TheAnalogKid

    Christianity is a fucking death cult. Pure and simple.

    • MariaO

      It is not by chance their most used symbol is an execution tool…

      • TheAnalogKid

        Yeah, like Lenny Bruce said, if they had had electricity back then Christians would be big on electric chairs. Or rifles or bags of poisonous tablets.

  • Valerie C

    Happens to LGBT members all the time when our families go out of their way to find such preachers.  -  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2011/08/02/mass-walk-out-at-trans-woman%E2%80%99s-funeral/

  • http://www.facebook.com/steeley42 Adam Steele

    We need more “Speakers for the Dead” like from the Ender Wiggin book series.  Just talk about the person’s life.  What they did, what they lived for.  If they were religious, it will be part of it then.  If they weren’t they it won’t be there.  Myself and my four brothers have all said we would Speak for each other at out funerals.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

    Last year a gay secular humanist friend of mine died and I wrote to Brother Richard for advice since I suspected the funeral would be religious. But to say it was religious would be putting it mildly. The preacher (also my friend’s uncle) told us (the friends who came to the funeral) that our friend was in Hell and that we would join him if we didn’t get saved. It was way beyond insulting. Here is my write-up on the funeral: http://www.dangeroustalk.net/?p=2572

    • Onamission5

      That is so awful. I am sorry your friend wasn’t better honored at his own funeral.

      • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

         I don’t think he minded, but me and his friends sure did.

  • LifeInTraffic

    I have been, unfortunately, to several funerals for people close to me in the last few years. Every single one had a preacher (all different preachers, incidentally) who pretty much ignored the deceased and their families completely, instead using the “opportunity” of death to shill for their own church. It was disgusting, and even the family that was religious was pretty pissed. These men all get *paid* to deliver eulogies, and instead they choose to do an advertisement.

  • godlessgarden

    My grandmother’s funeral was a travesty–not quite as awful as what was described in the article, but pretty awful, nonetheless. For starters, my grandmother had been a staunch Catholic her whole life. She attended church every weekend and holy day. The pastor of her church was a family friend–she’d been to his home a few times, he’d had dinner with her several times. When my grandmother, at age 94, was at the end of her life, struggling to die with dignity of pancreatic cancer, she asked for a priest to give last rights. So, of course, my family phoned Father John. We got voicemail, multiple times. No one returned phone calls. It took us 72 hours to finally get the priest to come visit with my grandmother and when he finally did she was no longer lucid.

    When it came time for the funeral, we learned that the priest–keep in mind, he had been my grandmother’s friend for years–couldn’t be the celebrant because he had a “meeting that conflicted.” So we got a rent-a-priest, called in from another parish, that none of us had ever met and who didn’t know my grandmother at all. Because he didn’t know my grandmother, his homily didn’t really touch on anything about her or celebrating her life…he spent his 15 minutes letting those who attended the funeral know that they should be “following grandma’s example” and attending church regularly, and contributing regular “offerings” to the church.

    I’m the only atheist in my family, but my husband is Wiccan clergy. My mom was so disgusted by the lack of attentiveness from the church she was raised in that she vowed to never look back, and asked my husband to speak at the graveside service for my grandmother instead of a priest. She mentioned that his words at the graveside meant more to her than anything the church had done.

    To sum things up: in a time of need, my family’s cries for help fell on deaf ears and everyone at the church was too busy or preoccupied with administrative tasks to provide any sort of assistance or service. I was always told that a Catholic priest was a “servant of Christ.” Apparently, Jesus finds meetings and administrative obligations more important than attending to the last wish of a dying woman.

    • RSKissack

      Dear godlessgarden: I am so profoundly sorry for both your loss and the terrible way in which you were treated.  I am Catholic myself — and this is inexcusable. Ironically, as I struggled with thoughts of suicide, it was a sense of the imminent presence of God at a crucial moment which began a process leading to my becoming Catholic.  Yet what happened to you was flat out wrong and as much as I can speak for the Catholic Church, I apologize unreservedly. No one should be treated like you and your family were.

      • godlessgarden

         Thank you, RSKissack. That’s meaningful. Although my beliefs and the Catholic church parted ways a long time ago, I was an organist for the church I grew up in for many years, starting at the age of 15. I had a great many friends in the church, and when I was a kid and young adult it was an environment where people helped people and priests cared about their parishioners (and not just the ones who contributed a lot of money.) I know that not every church is the same, but I’ve seen it often enough (in several different parishes) to feel that some church administrations have lost sight of their priorities.

  • Reason_Being

    I wish I could say this type of insensitivity from a religion surprised me…Sadly it does not.  So many religions will use death to promote their beliefs.  So many times that their holy people choose to do that is the wrong time…What I do not understand is how the people in the congregations do not get up and walk out.  I would, and probably would have when I was still Catholic.

  • Onamission5

    I have had a rather substantial fear of this happening at my own funeral, should any of my older family members still be around at that time, and I know it would be beyond painful for my children, close friends and spouse should such a travesty occur. For this reason I’ve discussed at length with my spouse the types of funerals I would prefer/find acceptable, and he has with me as well. I plan to write it all down some day in hopes that putting my wishes in writing will stop my FOO from overriding my wishes with theirs.

    It never ceases to boggle my mind how religious belief can cause otherwise perfectly nice people to behave in such an abominably and inappropriately selfish manner.

    • Onamission5

      And should I end up in a hospice facility or in hospital, I fully intend to have a sign posted wich reads, “Out of respect to the dying person within, please leave your deities at the door.” I figure that should ward off anyone who has decided to try and hound me into conversion during my last days, which I would much prefer to spend loving on my kids and spouse than fighting off prostelytizers.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZKNUHNCDDTRDITPKADLNVLOGAM jdze

      Some time ago I was at the funeral of a close relative who was very likely an atheist, while pretty much everyone else there was a fervent Christian. Watching how people desperately wanted to cling to a hope of the deceased one having made a pre-death conversion was probably both the most heartbreaking and the most awkward situation I’ve ever witnessed.

      • biblebeltBetty

        This reminds me of my grandfathers passing. He was a farmer all his life and spent his time in the fields. He went into the hospital because he could not swallow food and never came back out. He had cancer. While he was in the hospital a family member was with him at all times. We worked out a schedule and everyone stuck to it. When he passed the preacher of the church his family belonged to said he would not perform the funeral because my grandfather had never made a public profession of faith and never joined their church. Suddenly one of the nephews that had the night shift announced he had witnessed to my grandfather in the wee hours and he had made such an announcement. (this could not have happened as at this time he was pretty much in a coma like state)  The preacher did the funeral. My mother was so mad you could see her seething. He was a good man and lived a good life. It was not necessary to go to such lengths. It took away from who he was and how he lived. It was terrible.

  • T-Rex

    I make it a point to get up and walk out of the service when a snake oil salesman/child molester starts to speak. I re-enter when he’s all done with his magical incantations and  sales pitch. I have nothing but contempt for these “men of the cloth” and I do my best to make sure that they understand that when confronted by one. It always amazes me how these jerk offs get so much respect from the sheep in their flock. They all make me sick.

    • Fsq

      I maintain we should go the their churches during their services and protest like they do at planned parenthood clinics.

      When they say something horrid we stand up and say bullshit.

    • ORAXX

      Clergy people are social parasites who live of the fear and delusion of others.

    • Zeggman

       So even if that particular priest/pastor is not a dick, the service will not lack one.

      Well done.

  • The Captain

    “God creates life, and therefore life belongs to God. In taking that life from him, we are betraying God’s trust and revealing our own lack of faith.” I wonder if he ever said that at a soldiers funeral! 

    Yes, the last thing anyone should have speaking at their funeral is a shaman, They will all pimp their religion over the deceased. But that’s especially true in the case of suicide. Most religions (and devoutly religious practitioners) have an extremely difficult time in bestowing respect for a person who commits suicide even at their funeral because…well… they kinda have to. Think about it, suicide is even more of a treat to any religion that promises an everlasting paradise afterlife, than non-belief. I mean you can’t have your followers killing themselves and expect to flourish. This is especially true for the time when most modern religions where starting. We (as a species) still kill ourselves now, so imagine what the motivations must have been like when motivations where not just “lonely”, “sad” or “depressed”, but could be all those included with “I’m decease ridden”, “hungry”, “infected”, “family all killed today by barbarians”. So for the religious, they have to build in a “going to hell” clause (no matter how badly done, like is christianity) in the case if suicide, for self preservation.
    So that is the short reason why overly religious people can’t act like decent human beings around relatives of people who have committed suicide. 

    • The Captain

      Oppps typo. should be “threat” not “treat”. 

    • Stev84

       So true. The only reason suicide is a sin is because it’s a shortcut to heaven otherwise. Anything about “respect for life” or whatever other nonsense they come up with is just a rationalization

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664838996 Carey Bonkers

        I think the only reason suicide is a sin is because it shortens that amount of money the church can get out of you. you are now dead and can no longer pay the church so they lose money.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    This is why I am so fascinated with religion and theists. I can rely on them to continually redefine what it means to be a donkey-fucking douchebag.

    • Sporto59

      I agree wholeheartedly, but you’ve insulted donkey-fucking douchebags everywhere….

    • Tria MacLeod

      I find the best way to repay the douchebag behavior is to stand up and walk out of the funeral, with my children in tow.  And then cancel the check given to the priest as soon as the bank opens for business, explaining that I paid for a funeral service and what I got was some jackenapes telling us that the deceased was in Hell and we were sure to follow.     The bank waived the stop cheque fee for me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TLHIXVS2CHDJNWYPZJIZ5NNZ3A Robert

    This situation reminds me of the story of Pat Tillman’s funderal where all the politicans got up to say Pat was in a better place and with God. 

    Pat’s brother, Richard, with beer in hand, got up to say something like: “He’s not with God, he’s fucking dead, he wasn’t religous.”

    • Stev84

       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRNxiPVZ69Q

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    It occurs to me that the platitude “S/he is in a better place” can be true at times. Say, if the recently deceased was suffering from some horrible disease, or had absolutely nothing to live for. Oblivion is arguably a lot better than living in agony.

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    Thankfully my grandmother belonged to a church that had recently gotten a “progressive” pastor before she died.  He was a really nice guy.  Her funeral was all about her life, a few Bible verses thrown in obviously, but kind ones.  He didn’t make crap up (beyond the Bible bits ;) ) and he talked about the few times he had met her (she had been ill and he was a frequent visitor to the local hospital with his wife).  He was thrilled that I wanted to deliver my own eulogy and was laughing right along with everyone else as I extolled my grandma’s feisty ways.  I was so happy with how he handled it that when my husband and I got married we asked him to perform a mostly secular service for us at our home (hubby’s family is religious, so we wanted to keep the peace); which they did happily (after a spirited, but respectful debate/pre-marriage meeting ;) ).  He and his wife were good to us in our time of need, I can’t say enough good things about them.  It’s a shame more pastors can’t be so understanding and compassionate.  If there were more like Pastor Richard, I wouldn’t have near the issues I do with the Christian church. 

    What the pastor at that funeral did was deplorable and he ought to be ashamed of himself.  Though I somehow doubt he possesses the capacity to understand why he should be ashamed.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Most of the time, the priest is the person who knew least about the deceased.     

    • LifeInTraffic

      And, at least in my experiences, they don’t seem to want to bother getting to know anything about them, either. They just want to get paid for advertising their church.

  • http://twitter.com/critter8875 critter8875

    Several years ago I went to the funeral of a friend. The fugly pastor stopped just short of saying Mike was in Hell. He didn’t talk about all the good things of Mike’s life (he was a gardener, outdoorsman, banjo player…) nope, he hadn’t been “saved”.  In a parallel universe I would have walked over and smacked him with a rubber chicken.

  • TimothyWells

    I would have chimed in with some Joseph Conrad.

    “[the supernatural]  is but a manufactured article, the fabrication of minds insensitive to the intimate delicacies of our relation to the dead and to the living, in their countless multitudes; a desecration of our tenderest memories; an outrage on our dignity.”

  • MariaO

    Taking care of dead bodies is simply a sanitary problem. I have a radical suggestion that I have personal experience of – skip funerals completely. They are not compulsory, neither in religeous nor in secular versions. Mother and I did when my father and when grandmother died. We have never felt anything was missed as we do prefer remembering people alive, not remembering a miserable occasion.

  • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

    This has happened a few times at funerals I have gone to. Luckily for my family and friends (and me too, I suppose), I am the “rude” one. By rude they mean that I just say what everyone is thinking. 

    A friend of mine had a miscarriage in her 8th month and they decided to have a funeral service. The  pastor went on and on about how we die because we sin and basically blaming her for the death of her unborn baby. I kept looking at my friend and she was just sobbing, being held up by her fiance. I finally had to step in and say that he needed to cut it out or we would kick his ass to the curb and make him pay for her therapy and anti-depressants.

  • ortcutt

    My advice would be that people shouldn’t go to religious services hoping for them to be about human needs.  They aren’t.  They’re about theology and religious ritual.  The Catholic Church  forbids eulogies.  Many people don’t realize that because the some churches bend the rules and allow speeches that mix in eulogy, but the Church explicitly bans eulogies.  A funeral mass isn’t about you or the deceased.  People who go to one expecting it to be that are barking up the wrong tree.  That’s why people who really care about celebrating someone’s life should have a ceremony at the funeral home, cemetery or crematorium and leave religious ritual out of it entirely. 

    • Lucilius

      Religious services are indeed about human needs. They’re just not usually about the congregants’ needs. They’re about power: reinforcing control, demanding compliance, squelching questions. Human needs – or, rather, desires born of internal inadequacy – aren’t necessarily positive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phil-Giordana-Fcd/685136164 Phil Giordana Fcd

    Crying out of sadness and rage right now.

  • Brimshack

    I think the large part of the mistake may go in the decision to have the Priest speak at all. That tradition makes more sense if you are talking about a person who actively went to church and a priest or minister who knows him and his friends. Then the Priest can comment on the person, filtering it so to speak through the lens of religious themes. Take away that relationship, and you just have empty God-talk.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    This is why I never attend funerals or weddings if they have any religious component. In my view, the presence of any religious trappings at all causes me to view things in the way an anthropologist would observe a foreign culture, and that’s simply disrespectful to those whom the ceremony is intended to honor. Best not to be present at all.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I don’t think the scripture actually has anything on suicide. The suicide proscription, IIRC, was done in the Middle Ages to keep peasants from offing themselves in droves. 

    • The Captain

      Which is why it’s such a half assed doctrine. One of my most favorite internet games is to ask christians the “well is suicide O.K. in this situation” questions. It drives them madd!

  • Cearbhaill

    As oorganist, I attended many catholic funerals. While I never heard the priest condemn the “guest of honor,” I did hear one once announce to the moirners that “only those catholics in good standing with the church” should come up to receive communion. I watched everyon there *begin* to stand, only to sit down again – en masse. The ONLY person to receive communion that day was the funeral director.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    MariaO in the comments argues that funerals are about taking care of sanitation. I would argue differently.

    Funerals are, in my opinion, for the survivors, not the deceased, at least when done properly. They are a critical element of the grieving process, and are as necessary as air. It doesn’t have to be in a church or filled with elaborate ritual. It can be as simple as a few people in a living room who loved the deceased saying goodbye over the ashes, sharing their stories and memories. It’s about sharing the pain of the loss.

    In fact, I would argue that in places like the U.S. the typical religious funeral process feeds the fear of death. We are shielded from it constantly. The deceased is taken by an ambulance to the hospital, by hearse to the funeral home, washed and dressed by a mortician, and buried by funeral home staff. The dead are always made to look as “asleep but alive” as possible. If the body is too badly damaged to repair, the funeral becomes a closed-casket affair.

    Death is gruesome, and Americans (and too a somewhat lesser extent Canadians) don’t want to see it or be involved with or even acknowledge it. We’re all going to live forever, so when death comes along we’re ill-equipped to deal with it.

    When my father died I was asked by the (Canadian) funeral home staff if I wanted to be involved in the cremation. Absolutely I did. I pushed my dad’s corpse in a white box into the oven and pushed the button that started the cremation. While I had cried a lot just prior and just after his death, the floodgates really opened for me when I did those things, became involved in those rituals. I was forced to confront the reality that my dad was dead by doing things that burned his body to ash. My father was DEAD.

    When my wife, who is a U.S. citizen, had to bury her own beloved dad (who lived in the U.S.), she asked to also be a part of the cremation process. The funeral director was shocked. While he encouraged people to do so, he could count the number of times people wanted to be that involved with the death of a loved one on the fingers of one hand in his 30 years in the business. It was unheard of that a family member would actually request it before he even asked.

    Neither my wife nor I are religious. We are atheists that sit between 5 and 6 on the Dawkins scale. But we both found being involved in the burial/cremation process of our fathers was a necessary part of our healing. Funerals are a chance to say goodbye, and sorry, and thank you, and I miss you so much. But more importantly, they’re a means for us to accept that someone who was so important to us is gone.

  • Bianca Diesel

    My husband died over 5 years ago.  Several people told me they were there for me and to call if I needed anything but, if you don’t know already, those people never pulled through.  They all DISAPPEARED shortly after he died because they didn’t know what to say to me.  I had 1 friend who was there the whole time.  He’s catholic and we’d had discussions about religion before.  We’d agreed to disagree and he was still a great friend to me.  I could call him at any time and he’d answer.

    Well, his religious beliefs just couldn’t keep him from telling me that the bible doesn’t promise we’ll see our loved ones again and since Eric had dropped out of the church, he was surely in hell.  

    Exactly what I wanted to hear.

    He had the opportunity to sew good information about his religion into my brain but instead he made me hate all christianity forever.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Hi Bianca. I continue to be astonished at how theists can surpass each other in the asshole category. I’m sorry to hear how your “friend” hurt you, as well as for the loss of your husband.

      I don’t think there’s any pain as great as that which you feel when you lose someone you deeply love.

  • pagansister

    When my mother- in- law died a year ago at 90, she was cremated as per her wishes. We didn’t have a  funeral or a memorial service —instead all of the family gathered in our living room, with her “ashes” in the center of the room, and we all just talked about memories we had of her.  Read a couple of things she had left for us to read.   We took her to a a state park  located on the ocean, and placed her ashes under some rocks,  in a cove, and when the tide came it, they were washed into the ocean.   Instead of a burial with a headstone, she was returned to the ocean.   No minister, priests, rabbi’s or others—just us, her family taking care of things.      My parents had traditional funerals, but fortunately the minister knew both of them and the service wasn’t about preaching but was a celebration of their lives.  Neither of them wanted to be cremated and had purchased the burial plots etc. many years before their deaths.  Looking back many, many years ago, when my great-aunt died, the minister gave a most unsatisfactory service—it was as bad as some of those mentioned above!

  • Mommiest

    It doesn’t have to be that way. When my uncle (and godfather) committed suicide, a Methodist minister spoke at his funeral, saying that he was sure that God must have a special place in heaven for someone who “dies of a broken heart.” I’m not religious, but I found those words comforting, and I believe they helped other members of my family through a very painful time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1656883629 Iris Flythe

    this is not the person that should be tending to the need of any group of people’S emotional state because he is so ego driven that he completely missed the teaching of COMPASSION!  HELLLLOOOO! It doesn’t matter if you are a believer or nonbeliever of god/ID, YOU DON’T HURT PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY SUFFERING THE LOSS OF A LOVE ONE!  get another job

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    If I were a family member of the deceased and someone started spewing such garbage I’d stop them and tell them to leave.  There’s no excuse for such behavior at a funeral.

  • Zeggman

    Well with everyone sharing stories about how nasty pastors manage to make a bad situation worse, I thought I’d share a counterpoint.

    My father died last summer, and I traveled across the country to attend his funeral at the church I’d gone to as a child. The minister made it a point to meet with my mother and the children two nights before the service, and took our stories and remembrances of my father and shared them from the pulpit. I learned things about my brother, sister, mother, and father that I’d never known before. I was reminded of events and feelings which I’d forgotten. Yes, there was also some talk of Jesus, but my father and mother had been regular churchgoers before his death, so such talk was hardly disrespectful to him.

    I thought maybe I caught  one of the men in the choir glaring at me as I stood beside my mother without singing or praying, but that may have been only my imagination.

    Not all ministers are merely going through the motions, delivering a cookie-cutter sermon which might as well be for Mister Rogers as the deceased. I don’t know if all these horror stories are for people who regularly attended church or not. My father didn’t commit suicide, and no one was so tactless as to speculate that he might be cooling his heels in hell. Perhaps if the minister had not known my father so well, the service might have been more impersonal.

  • church jobs

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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/P7XRZYHIF7ELJTK34TWIMIJOJA Ex Patriot

    I have been Athiest forthe last 40 years or so. I have left instructions that no waste of o2 should have anything to say at my death. I am to be cremated as quick as possible and if the ashes happen to fall in to 300ft of water in theAdriatic , fine by me. As I have a large liquor cabinet my friends are to have a some drinks and honor my life in that fashion  

  • brianmacker

    I’ve been to several Greek Orthodox funerals, and the priest outright lies saying that the person in the casket is not dead, but is asleep, or “just sleeping and will reawake”.  This was said repetitively with variations.   My wife says this is something new but I haven’t gone to as many as her.   

  • http://profiles.google.com/carboncow robert feller

    i’m so confused. i thought everything was gods will so wouldn’t offing yourself be in the “master plan”?

  • Pastorj

    I am a pastor and I find what happened at this funeral very sad.  I find it also sad too that so many are hypocritical and consider every “man of the cloth”cut from the same bolt of material.
    The question is, why have a Christian or religious component to a ceremony if people are not religious??  PLEASE do not judge Christ the way that you have judged clergy.  He is not in the same category and would never treat anyone like this, he would have done quite the contrary. 

    • Yoav

       

      PLEASE do not judge Christ the way that you have judged clergy.  He is not in the same category

      You do have a point there, unlike jeebus we actually have evidence for the existence of clergy.

  • Sifumax

    You people are all sick. Just because some hypocrite in a collar does something stupid does not make the Christian FAITH wicked. Christ is about love and forgiveness; plain and simple. Any of you who say different really need to study just one book of the New Testament (book of John) before you shoot your stupid mouths of. You know, Jesus really does love you, but I think your jerks!


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