Monday, November 8, 2010

Honoring Post-Mortem Wishes of the Religious

When the last of your two parents dies, would you (as an atheist), acknowledge their wishes for a religious funeral ceremony? 

My mother asked me this the other day. She's an extremely devout Catholic who's very, very involved with her church. Apparently, the parish priest hosted a free class on Catholic funerals and told a story about a church member whose non-practicing children ignored her wishes for a Catholic funeral. My mom asked me, since both me and my two brothers are atheists, if we would respect their desire for a formal Catholic funeral. 

I said, yes, of course.

I didn't really think about it. I would assume that this is what they want. They have a lot of friends and there are other family members who would be mortified if a Catholic funeral did not happen. Now, since I don't believe in an afterlife, do I think it matters? No. Do I like the idea of giving money to the Catholic church and supporting them? No. But, I would be equally mortified if my parents forced a Catholic ceremony on ME, knowing that I don't believe in it. Again, I guess it doesn't matter since I don't think anything happens when we die. But I don't want that to be the last memory that the living have of me-- a completely wrong impression of who I was as a living person. Even though we're in our twenties, the life partner and I have discussed our last wishes with each other. We don't trust our parents to honor them.

What would you do in this situation? And if you don't believe in an afterlife, do you care what happens to your body when you die?


  1. I don't particularly care what happens with my body when I die, although I hate the thought of my wife having to deal with morticians. I've taken about half of the necessary steps to donate my body to science, but there's some paperwork that I haven't done because I'm lazy.

  2. I have had a pretty specific plan for my funeral for quite a while. I will accordingly respect my parents wishes on the matter. Regardless of the afterlife (which I still have mixed opinions about ) I care what happens to me as I want to decide how I will be remembered. I want to ensure that my loved ones leave my funeral with a proper sense of well being,although spcific to my body I don't care what happens.

  3. i feel the same about parental funerals as i do about being my niece's guardian should my sister and her husband pass. i would respect their wishes. i can't stand religion, so my sister chose not to make me ava's godmother. but in their will, it states that i'm the guardian should anything happen. i would not attend church with my niece, but i won't tell her not to go either. i'd plan to teach her about all religions and her actual godmother can fly down from iowa to give her extra lessons in christ if she sees fit. so yeah, i'd give my stepmom the lutheran funeral of her dreams and my dad, well he's agnostic, so i'm sure i won't have any conflicting interests there.


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