My beloved father died last Friday at the age of 92. While I dealt with his death in my own atheist way, most of my family of Episcopalians dealt with it in their religious way. We kept his body overnight so friends and relatives might see him one last time. Shortly before noon on Saturday the minister of his church conducted a short memorial ceremony attended by a dozen or so friends and relatives. There were prayers. I participated in the ceremony, not for him and not for me, but for the other survivors. I think that conspicuously opting out would have spoiled it for my relatives and his friends. I bowed my head and said "Amen" when called for. What would YOU have done?
The same. Funerals are not for the person who died, they are for those who are left behind. If I was in that situation, I'd have mumbled whatever nonsense made the rest of my family feel comforted. I'd have choked silently on getting told the deceased was "in a better place" or "gone to be with God" but I'd have helped my family unity for that short time.
Then, after it was all over, I think I would have gone off to a quiet place and sorted out my peace with my 'goodbye' by myself. And played a lot of Pink Floyd to soothe my brain :)
Sorry for your loss. I personally would definitely attend the memorial ceremony being held at the church as a way of connecting with the family and going through the situation together. Along with that I would just go along with whatever prayers are said and just stay silent as I usually do. Now and then I actually say "Amen" with everyone at the end of the prayers, which eats me up inside, but I just do it so that they don't feel bad since they may have added some personal words to the prayer regarding what they're going through. I also feel out of place when this happens if I'm about to have a meal at someone's house and they want to say grace. Sometimes I find myself just nodding at the end or saying "Amen" with everyone out of respect.
When someone dies, often some of those left behind are emotionally devastated. It's almost unforgivable to create a "situation" by making others aware of one's own views on religion and the so-called afterlife. My father isn't "in a better place" but he'll be ON a good place when we scatter his ashes in the woods behind his church.
I would have done the same. I agree that it is a time to say goodbye and to commune with the living in a helpful way, not a time for grandstanding.
When my girls' father died suddenly at 45, his fundamentalist church paid for the funeral, basically. People were praying over my devastated daughters, completely ignoring the fact that they are both atheists. Granted, some of them probably did not know. We went through it pretty well, although I did tell the pastor off, quietly, in a back room, for attempting to replace the music my children had picked out with gospel music. We all smiled when Marvin Gaye was being played instead of Amazing Grace.
In the end, it had been a misunderstanding and I apologized. My one thought was how to get the girls through that day and to be able to say goodbye to their father. They did not need anything added to their pain that day.
The pastor reminded me that there were many other people there who were grieving and for whom their faith, and a Christian service, would provide the comfort he was trying to give. I got that. There had to be a compromise. In the end, everybody stepped up and it was ok, and for that I am very grateful.
A funeral or memorial service is not the place to promote ones views on any subject. Look at the reprehensible behavior of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Just go along with the flow knowing in your inner self that the religious part is nonsense. Is it somewhat dishonest? Yes, but sometimes that is the best course. My beloved Grandmother who was a very moral person never hesitated to tell a small lie to avoid hurting someones feelings. Was that dishonest? Yes, but no one was hurt.
I could hardly not attend my father's funeral and turn my back on my kith and kin. What a bad advertisement for atheism. I'd feel like the negative version of the Westboro folks.
Funerals are not the place to make a statement about one's atheism. Uttering a simple 'Amen' is not being untrue to oneself. In your heart you know what is going on; besides our conscious is soothed by helping those around us cope with the situation at hand.
Ditto to your statement preempting your question.
Matters of faith and religion and faith are personal, and saying a simple four letter word is just a nod in the direction of respecting another person's choice of faith. I showed up in church to my grandparents burials and sat through sermons, yet I am not a religious person. It is what they wanted, which is subordinate in that situation to my opinions.
Edit: My condolences on your loss.
Thank you. If I say "Amen" to words that don't mean anything, it's kind of like playing along with a magic act rather than being the spoiler who tries to tell everyone how the trick is done.
I'm sure you did what was right for you and your family.