There was a funeral today. Like almost all funerals in southwestern Minnesota it was held in a church, this time a lutheran church in a medium-sized farming community. The deceased was someone who was lucky enough to have had a long, healthy life, a good person in the aggregate. She'd been involved in many lives in largely positive ways and was well-liked. She was memorable for the right reasons, and if nothing else, that alone was a significant life led.
I payed more attention than I usually do to the ceremony, noteworthy because in all other funerals I've reflexively tuned out 80-90% of what is said, listening only to those words said about the decedents. It struck me how strange and other-worldly the religious ceremony is.
The focus seemed two-fold.
Primarily there was an effort to assuage the pain and loss of a family member dying, the knowledge that person is gone forever, a loss of a personal long-term relationship that can never be recouped. The mourners are reassured that the deceased is in fact alive and well in heaven with The Lord and they will be reunited with that person when they too die and go to heaven. Death is no longer death, but rather momentary absence with promised reconciliation.
Secondarily, it was a reminder of what awaits us all. To avoid oblivion and loss, we must be faithful to the faith. Only The Lord has the power to defy death, we are servants of The Lord, our faith and devotion is the price we pay for granted eternal life. We must glorify The Lord in all that we do.
There were some nice words said about her. Much and more was spent on rite and dogma, a shame. How much better would it be to dispense with hiding in delusion, instead spending time to truly celebrate her life, sharing memories and recounting stories, taking a moment to simply be grateful for the person who was. The gathering, fellowship, renewal of ties and forging of new ones would all still take place as before, people brought together by compassion and sense of community.
Wouldn't that be enough, that she lived, lived well, and people were grateful?
With reflective and worried attendees staring death in the face, preachers can't resist recruitment. The wolf with a smile that is a bit wider than one should think has the flock captive for an hour. Because the preacher may not know the deceased at all, it can seem very generic.
The preacher flapping his/her gums instead of friends/family who had warm anecdotes about the deceased never made sense to me either.
You do realize that the theists in attendance really do believe this stuff about eternal life? It is their hope. They are not content with just living out a peaceful existence for a short period of time and making the most of it along the way. They are greedy. They don't want the roller coaster ride of life to end. Oh yeah, they also very much fear death. How sad.
I understand they believe it. I don't think they have the perspective to stand back and look at what they swallow and consider it from a different/objective/wider point of view. There are lots of reasons people are in a religion, just no compelling ones.