What Happens At An Atheist Funeral

Posted: 19/02/2018

What happens at an atheist funeral?

Across the world, atheist funerals are increasingly gaining popularity as more and more people turn away from religion. In fact, The Guardian reported last year the results of the most recent British Social Attitudes poll conducted in the UK, with the results showing that the number of people in the country who described themselves as having no religious affiliation at all was the highest it has ever been since the survey begun in 1983. This means that on average, more than half of the UK population follow no religion at all, with 53% describing themselves as atheists in 2017, up from 48% in 2015, and far higher than the very first survey results conducted in 1983, polling at 31%. The results in 2017 also have surpassed the 50% mark for the very first time, meaning more people follow no religion than those who do in the UK.

With these statistics in mind, you may find yourself curious about what exactly happens at atheist funerals as they become more commonplace, and how they differ from religious services held.  Here at Perfect Funeral Plans, we explain how atheist funerals are conducted, and how they differ from other types of religious funerals that would otherwise be held.

Why choose an atheist funeral?

For those who have not had any religious affiliations when they were alive, they may feel more comfortable in opting for a non-religious funeral service.  Many people also decide to choose an atheist funeral if most of their family and friends are not religious either. Or alternatively, if close relatives and friends are aware that the person who has passed away was a non-believer, they may organise an atheist funeral out of respect for them.

However, some may choose to have a non-religious funeral even if they were religious when they were alive.  This is because some people find church funerals to be an empty, impersonal ritual, as the service is conducted by a person who did not know their loved one when they were alive. Consequently, an atheist funeral service may be a better alternative, as the service is more focused on providing a tribute to the deceased, and celebrating their life, sharing their favourite memories of their loved one. Atheist or humanist memorial services can feel like a more personal way of saying goodbye to someone, as well as an opportunity to express their sadness but also pay tribute to the person who has died.

What happens at an atheist funeral?

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As a way of paying their respects to the person who has passed, people may choose to light candles during the non-religious service to honour their memory.

The main focus of an atheist funeral will be on reflecting on the life of the deceased, their achievements and what they contributed during their lifetime, as well as an opportunity for friends and relatives to unite in their grief.  Generally speaking, an atheist funeral will include the following:

  • A eulogy – this will usually be in the form of a short speech written by a close friend or relative, talking about the person who has passed away and what they achieved in their life. It will often provide the opportunity for a wider discussion about the deceased, where guests can reminisce about the person has died
  • Music
  • There may also be readings of prose or poetry by writers whom the deceased preferred, however religious readings and hymns will not be part of a non-religious funeral service
  • Formal words saying goodbye to the person who has died
  • Rituals – this may include sharing memories of the person at the funeral service, having a minute’s silence, or candle lighting in their memory.
  • Meditation

Who can conduct an atheist funeral?

A non-religious funeral service can be conducted by anyone, whether it be family or friends. However, there is also the option of choosing a non-religious celebrant, who can help you with organising the funeral service. For example, you can visit the British Humanist Association website to find out more about Humanist Celebrants, who can host these types of funeral ceremonies, and can give you further information about how to contact Celebrants should you wish them to conduct a non-religious service.

Where are atheist funerals held?

An atheist funeral can take place in a variety of settings. The non-religious funeral service may be conducted at a crematorium, a non-religious venue such as a hotel, a parish hall, as well as at one of the numerous natural burial sites across the UK. If you or the person who has passed away so chooses, the funeral service can even take place in the grounds of your home.