Here’s an extract from the blog of a religious minister (clerk in holy orders, he terms himself). I like his rigour. Very bracing.
You wouldn’t expect me to enjoy humanist funeral services very much. Perhaps ‘enjoyment’ isn’t the right word for funerals anyway, but you know what I mean. I’ve been to a couple and always find them ‘thin’ compared to Christian funerals … But what I most dislike came in front of me on Wednesday. That afternoon I took a funeral service at the crematorium and noticed a folder on the table where I was putting my things. This turned out to be the notes left by the officiant at a humanist funeral earlier in the day. Usually humanist funerals spend the vast bulk of their time waxing lyrical about the heroic achievements of the deceased, but there was no trace of a biography in the notes, so I assume somebody else had read a tribute or something of that sort. Instead there was a passage from Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura and some heartwarming statements along the following lines.
For those of us who hold that the individual life concludes with death, it is nevertheless not the end … Arnold may be gone, but he lives on in your memories.
It is nevertheless not the end? Yes it is … As for Arnold ‘living on’ in his loved ones’ memories, no he doesn’t. They may have memories of him, but those memories are not ‘him living’, they’re a set of synaptic responses in the brains of those who shared some aspect of his life when it was a life which will themselves decay and come to an end.
What we have here is an attempt to accommodate through linguistic sleight-of-hand what the officiant believes, or doesn’t believe, with the perceived need to comfort Arnold’s family and friends with the thought that in some way he ‘lives on’. Shouldn’t atheists be brave enough to combat this weak-mindedness? Or perhaps it doesn’t really matter?
Read the entire post here.