My mother's funeral is Wednesday, 4/23/2014 and I'll be giving at least a part of the eulogy.

A little help here...and maybe an opportunity for discussion in general on the subject.

What is an 'Atheist Eulogy'?  What can my differing view of death bring to the table at a Wake?

I know it is totally inappropriate for me to try and convert the audience...I just wish Christians would give me the same respect.  Having God on your side is no excuse for being rude...but then, the Christian God is a projection of their own hatreds and fears, so fuck them.

I hate Christians...I may have mentioned that during the Things I Hate discussion, if not then add it to my list and pretty near the top of it.  Going into a roomful of them when I am under stress is like throwing a cat into a dog kennel.  If you haven't realized it yet, I shoot from the lip and take no prisoners.  My wife knows me better than anyone and she just shrugs and says "Hope you don't mind if I just walk away."  She's an atheist as well but has terrible social anxiety.  We've learned a lot from each other over the years.  She's an anchor without being a ball and chain.

So this is a double question:

What does an atheist say at a funeral?

And how should I respond to people who say 'she's in a better place'?

Views: 2157

Comment by Steven Dorst on April 20, 2014 at 11:44pm
While I confront people who assume that their beliefs will comfort me often, I don't at funerals. People need to find their comfort where they can. I say "I'm glad that belief brings you comfort as we remember , but I don't share your belief and choose to draw my comfort from fond memories of the times we shared."
Comment by Philip Jarrett on April 21, 2014 at 12:07am

I appreciate your input, Steven.

But this is my mother and with her death I can speak freely without worry about how it might reflect on her.  I will be polite solely to honor my mother.  This is all that is important to me.  

But know this, once I throw the dirt on her coffin I'm going to war.

Comment by Philip Jarrett on April 21, 2014 at 12:11am

"Let's give the loved one(s) who have died the eternity they deserve by keeping them within our memories".

That's beautiful, Ari, thanks.

Comment by Unseen on April 21, 2014 at 9:27am

All I can tell you is how we handled my father's funeral.

At my father's funeral, my younger brother represented the siblings and he recounted instances of my father's generosity, kindness, tolerance, and love for his children and our mother, who had become paraplegic and largely unable to care for herself.

He was a standup guy and we wanted everyone to sense our love and admiration as well as our debt to him that can only be paid by passing it on.

Comment by Ed on April 21, 2014 at 10:48am

Ask yourself what your Mom would of been comfortable saying at your funeral. 

Comment by onyango makagutu on April 21, 2014 at 11:09am

I don't know. Sorry for your loss. I would celebrate her life, a moment to talk about those things that you found important, that you would miss plus what the others have said. And for further inspiration, Ingersoll made a final oration at his brothers funeral I can't remember which volume it appears in though. 

I have always liked this address

Comment by Andy Hoke on April 21, 2014 at 12:32pm

Hi Philip,

I am very sorry for your loss. It's difficult to lose someone so close.

With the chance of seeming glib, maybe your task is really very easy. Relate the wonderful things about your mother - the things that really had nothing to do with religion. IF she was religious, she was doing the best she could with how she made sense of the world. I don't think you need to point out the disparity between your beliefs and hers however.

Just think big, bigger than God. Think of the miracle of life and the wonder of love. In a world where so much is mysterious, you can take this time and let people see how wonderful she was to you, what a wonderful life she led, we should all be so fortunate and her legacy and progeny go on.

Comment by Mike Cole on April 21, 2014 at 10:30pm

My mom was just diagnosed with leukemia and she's 68 - not a good combo (I'm also a physician).  I'm struggling with this very topic right now myself.  I keep wondering about asking everyone to send prayers and "positive energy" and the like, because that is NOT me, but it IS her.  I want HER to be happy and content.  I want HER to make decisions and face her hurdles.  Her priest/chaplain can help her over them (I cannot).

I was born and raised Catholic and my Mom doesn't yet know I'm an atheist.  I'm worried she might think less of me or worry about me if she did know it, but I also have a pretty tolerant family (they didn't bat much of an eye when I came out as gay in 1995 - a military doc to boot).

I think, and I'd like to imagine, my eulogy would go something like this: "Thanks for coming today, my Mom and Dad definitely appreciate all of your support.  Mom was a wonderful human being who always expected the best of others and yet accepted them for their flaws.  She was generous in her support of me and my brothers and enjoyed learning new things about life as we grew and experienced life together.  I know she is no longer with us, but she is no longer suffering or wondering when her last day/meal will be.  The uncertainty is gone and for us, that is both a distressing feeling, and a comfort.  Thank you for your support in all its various forms for the past few weeks and in the coming challenging times.  We love you all."

I still don't know how to respond to someone that wants me to pray with them or for my mom.  New experience (I avowed as an atheist about 3 yrs ago - before that i was a "reformed catholic", sigh...)

Thanks for posting this.  timely for me.



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