«The understanding of death and dying as seen by different religions»
  Death and Dying in Atheism



Ritual actions might include candle lighting

Non-religious funerals are legal, and funeral directors and crematoriums and cemeteries are accustomed to arranging them.

►Why a non-religious funeral?

Many people are uncomfortable with religious funerals if religion had no meaning for the dead person, and when most of the dead person's closest relatives and friends are not religious.

Non-believers can find that a church funeral (no matter how well done) for a non-believer is just a formal religious ritual conducted by someone with no knowledge of the dead person, and which doesn't help them to say farewell to someone they love.

Religious people will often organise a humanist funeral if the person who has died was not a believer, out of respect for that person's views.

A humanist funeral, although it does not include hymns or prayers, can be entirely acceptable to religious people mourning an atheist. Humanist ceremonies do not include anti-religious material.

►Humanist Funerals

A Humanist funeral remembers the life of the person who has died, and reflects on their contribution to the world and to others.

It also provides an opportunity for family and friends to share their sadness and create a bond of support for those who were closest to the dead person.

♦Religious people

It's likely that some of those attending a humanist funeral will have religious beliefs, and humanist funeral ceremonies usually contain a period of silence and meditation that believers can use for private prayer.

►A Humanist funeral

The ceremony is likely to include:

  • Music
  • A non-religious reflection on death
  • Readings of poetry and prose
  • Reminiscences about the dead person
  • A eulogy
    • A talk focussing on the achievements of the dead person, and the meaning of their life.
  • Ritual actions
    • These might include: Candle lighting, sharing reminiscences with the people alongside you, moments of silence and reflection.
  • Formal words of goodbye

►Who takes a Humanist funeral?

A Humanist officiant is a person familiar with the procedures of cremation and burial who understands the experience of bereavement.

They are trained and experienced in devising and conducting a suitable ceremony.

The British Humanist Association describes officiants like this:

Officiants are generally at least 35 years old, have experience of public speaking, and have probably had paid or voluntary experience in a caring/supporting profession – such as nursing, teaching, police or social work, for example.

They must be able to cope with the emotional burden of regularly meeting and working with bereaved people – often in relation to particularly difficult or unexpected deaths, such as the death of a child in a road accident.

Funeral directors are able to make arrangements with trained officiants in their local area.