A Google search for a photo to illustrate a report about an atheist cemetery in Sweden yielded a whole bunch of spoof images, but the one above is both genuine and amusing.
Wiki points out that Martin Jenners’ headstone is located at the Spring Vale Cemetery in Lafayette, Indiana. Jenners was a Civil War veteran who was an outspoken atheist.
Originally located in Greenbush Cemetery, his headstone is unique because he had it placed in the cemetery 14 years before his death, no doubt to cackle over the reactions of outraged faith-heads before he finally fell of his perch at the ripe old age of 87.
Jenners used two contradictory verses to support has assertion that the Bible is a load of old cobblers. I Corinthians 15:52 talks about believers being raised from the dead “in a twinkling of an eye”, and Isaiah 26:14, states:
They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise.
The headstone received national attention at the time. Attempts were made to have it removed, but it continued to draw visitors from around the country many years after his death.
Jenners’ headstone inscription has been cited as an example of the Bible being taken out of context.
But back to the Swedish report which says that a graveyard devoid of any religious symbols has been opened to cater to the country’s growing number of atheists.
Josef Erdem, a teacher from Borlänge in central Sweden, first proposed the idea because he wanted people to:
Decide for themselves what their graves should look like.
He sent in the formal application for the ground after negotiating with local representatives of the Church of Sweden.
The church will maintain the graveyard but that will be the extent of their involvement with the cemetery.
People can decide for themselves what their graves should look like, but the cemetery will be free of all religious and nationalist symbols.I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this, many of them religious, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
In fact the reaction has been positive from religious and non-religious people alike across the country.
He stressed that people of faith were welcome to be buried there as well so long as they accepted that they could not have the marks of their religion on their headstone.
The cemetery, which is close to the local church, is currently empty but several locals have expressed an interest in being buried there.
Local teacher Gunnar Lindgren told broadcaster SVT:
I don’t want a burial place with a stone that needs to be cared for. I also don’t want a church burial because I’m not a believer so this suits me.
Sweden has the second-highest number of non-religious people as a percentage of its population of any country in the world, according to a 2015 survey by Gallup International and the WI Network of Market Research.
The study found that 76 percent of Swedish respondents said they were either “not religious” or a “convinced atheists”.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake & BarrieJohn