The Impersonal Funeral August 14, 2009

The Impersonal Funeral

JulietEcho recently attended the funeral of an acquaintance. The woman had died at a young age, and while the family wasn’t religious, they had a minister speak at the funeral.

It’s bad enough that the minister knew nothing about the deceased woman… but he decided to take the opportunity to preach to everyone grieving in the audience:

Then he started to preach fire and brimstone. He said that the dead woman had attended church when she was a kid and accepted Jesus at VBS, so she was in heaven where there were “mansions” and “the streets are paved with gold.” Then, he said that everyone could have the “hope” of joining her in heaven. And preached about each letter of the word HOPE, having them stand for Heaven (the carrot), Options (heaven or hell), Peace (I think, I was kind of reeling at the inappropriateness at this point), and Eternity (what you risk if you don’t become a Christian).

He described Hell in detail — making sure we all understood that we would not get to be with our non-Christian friends and that we’d be separated forever from God and everyone else.

JulietEcho finds the sermon unethical. I do, too.

This family didn’t specifically request this speech, but it sounds like the minister may have delivered this before. Are there any Christian families who would want that?

Should the purpose of a funeral be to remember the deceased or proselytize to the living?

What would you hope happens at your funeral?

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  • Iztok

    I hope I would have several “partial” funerals. Since for now I’ve lived on two continents I’ve told my loved ones my ashes to be dispersed in my country of birth as well as in my current country, on top of them some of it to be returned to the sea (since I am a diver).

    Just small symbolic gesture and few words from family and friends should suffice. I hope I’ve changed their lives in a positive way throughout my life and they will have something nice to say. (Well if I turn out to be mean old man when I get older, oh well some choice words are ok too. Not that I will hear them 😉

  • mikespeir

    Maybe it was unethical; but if you invite a tiger into your house, don’t be surprised when….

  • Gordon

    I hope to have a non religious funeral where people who cared about me can share memories, songs I liked can get played, and nobody has to pretend I am in some celestial petting zoo…

    I think that sermon was disgusting, but like mikespeir said not at all out of character for religion.

  • Some of the more devout Christian families would probably enjoy such goings on at their funerals. I’m sure there are those who would want that, but that didn’t make it appropriate in this case.

    Having been to many different types of services for the dead, it’s pretty much up to the living what they want for the funeral. Even most of the religious funerals I’ve been involved with consisted of considerable consultation with the minister as to what kind of service the family wanted. Sounds like this was not one of those cases.

    There will be no “funeral” for me, as such. I will set aside a portion of whatever money I have left over for one big ol’ party for all my friends and family. If you want to honor me, put on some tunes, grab a drink and shake your rump.

  • You’ve been tagged in the Atheist Alphabet Meme!

  • TXatheist

    I made a youtube video about a friends’ catholic service. The priest assured them they were going to heaven unlike the agnostics. After the service I went up and shook the priests hand and said “not all of agnostics are bad guys”. (didn’t feel like arguing over agnostic/atheist labeling). When I die I want them to play Oingo Boingo “It’s a dead man’s party” cause I lived a good life.

  • Definitely an inappropriate tactic by that minister. I know some that are like this – believe every opportunity (funeral, wedding, etc.) is a chance to “present the gospel”.

    I’ve even been to one or two, and feel awkwardly uncomfortable for the sake of…well…anyone who actually came to honor the deceased, or celebrate with those getting married.

  • I have made it clear that I wish to have a secular funeral. I don’t want any religion in it. Of course, I won’t care at that moment, but it’s my wish at this moment.

    Boy, I hope the minister didn’t do an altar call at the funeral. That would be sleazy.

  • Why would a service director think that it was a good idea to preach about hell and damnation at a funeral? I can understand them talking about the peace and comfort of heaven. Even though others may not see it that way we can see the comfort that it provides and can excuse it as well meaning. To talk about hell though must just upset people whether they are believers or not. I know it upset and angered me when the vicar preached at the funeral of my mother.

    Not a good way to win converts.

  • Todd

    I grew up in fundamentalism and what you describe is very common. The person who chose the minister, probably thought nothing of the preaching. I’ve been to a number of fundamentalist funerals, even after becoming an atheist, and I find fire and brimstone altar calls rather pedestrian.

    My misanthropic nihilist side actually enjoys a good funeral altar call, especially if the person being remembered was a bit of a shit.

  • Wim

    I wouldn’t really want a funeral.

    I have an organ donor card which also states that after they’ve harvested all possible organs for use in others, the rest of me can be used for medical research.
    Most likely, I’ll end up on a dissection table where medical students can get to cut me open, which is fine. Why be buried or cremated when you can be of some use, even if it’s only to be dissected by a group of first-year medical students?

  • RySites

    This hits a little too close to home for me. My Grandma died recently and, of her hour long service, I can only recall the pastor mentioning specific moments in her life 2 or 3 times. The rest was jesus, jesus, jesus. My Grandma was an active member of the community…why not say some stories about her? Who cares about the boring stories of some jewish carpenter?
    By the end of the service I was just furious. I felt they had disrespected a life filled with love and joy simply to blather about their savior.

  • TippyDeVil

    “while the family wasn’t religious, they had a minister speak at the funeral” I shuddered just to read the words. If like this in life, well, let the funeral reflect it — if not, I have to think it’s a little late now 😉

  • It’s entirely ethical for a preacher to preach at a service, it’s what they do. And more ethical for him to preach the truth as he sees it, than to embrace the hypocrisy of some warm and fuzzy neutrality. If you were to invite the Imperial Wizard of the KKK to speak at a funeral, you shouldn’t be surprised if he preaches a little hate, and if you invite a Christian minster to speak, you shouldn’t be surprised when he preaches a little hell-fire.

  • My boyfriend had a similar experience lately at his kindergarden teacher’s funeral- he described it as “Ten minutes about this fantastic, wonderful lady and fifty about some God.” It angered him significantly, and would do the same to me.

  • At my grandmother’s funeral her pastor gave an altar call at her request. I felt it was hugely obscene and yet appropriate, as the altar call was something she wanted to have happen at her funeral.

  • Frank

    When you say it is unethical, what standard of ethics are you referring to?

    The ethics of the particular ministers particular version of Christianity? I doubt very much that this minister violated those ethical standards.

    The ethics of us atheists? Wouldn’t any preaching about things that aren’t true in any context violate those ethical standards? I think so, but I’m not expecting to convince very many ministers to accept that ethical standard any time soon.

    To get to the conclusion that this was more unethical than any other preaching, it seems to me you have to be expecting a funeral to be some kind of interfaith lets-comfort-everyone-without-really-dealing-with-the-theology kind of thing, and I don’t believe that any more than the foundamentalist christians do. I’m sure there are liberal clergy in the world who would be happy to participate in that kind of a funeral, but those are the sort of people who failed basic critical thinking classes when they were in college, who think that all religion can somehow be true at the same time, and so really don’t believe in any truth or any religion. And on an intellectual level I find them far more pathetic than real christians, and I’m not sure I would prefer a funeral run by one of them to a funeral run by a fire and brimstone minister. At least the fire and brimstone guy actually believes something.

    Basically, as others have put it, if you invite a tiger into your home…

  • Philip

    I hope people sing and dance and laugh and eat a lot of great food at my funeral. Otherwise, I won’t be there so if they need a preacher to make them feel better that’s their choice. Funerals are for the living, not the dead.

  • Ok, sounds like the minister lacked some tact, but honestly, if they wanted an irreligious funeral why didn’t they ask a celebrant to do it? Sounds a bit lame to say, OMG the Christian minister was too Christian, we didn’t expect that.

  • debg

    My husband and I have discussed this and agreed that neither of us wants any sort of funeral – cremation for simplicity and ease of disposal, and a party to celebrate the life and the memory.

    I’m fortunate in that my immediate family (a mix of agnostics and atheists… mostly) finds funerals unnecessary, but my husband’s family are devout southern evangelicals. We have decided that if it would upset them too much to do what my husband had requested, then we’d have a little to-do here and then let them take him home and give him their “Christian” burial. We both understand that it makes no difference what is done with your body after death – so if it allows them to sleep better at night, then so be it. Hopefully, Dan will outlive the more devout members of his family (who are the older generations – surprise, surprise) so it will never be an issue.

  • This is why I want a secular funeral. I don’t know if I’d call the minister’s behavior unethical, but it was completely inappropriate and disrespectful to the feelings of the grieving people attending the funeral.

    I also don’t really see the point of having a minister (or anyone) who knows nothing about the deceased speak at a funeral. It’s one thing if the person was religious and the pastor of the church they attended their entire life is speaking at the funeral, but some random hellfire-and-damnation preacher is completely inappropriate.

  • Erp

    We sort of had this at my grandmother’s memorial service though the minister, Baptist, wasn’t there as a minister (he was actually speaking in the local Church of England church) but rather to speak as a friend of my grandmother (she was CoE [somewhat heterodox] but liked attending his church’s suppers). Frankly he rambled, and, I’m not sure what point he was trying to get across. Even the one religious member of the family felt he was a fool. The only good point is that due to some miscommunication, we weren’t going to be able to use the reception area till some 10 minutes after the scheduled end of the service and we needed to fill the service out.

    The highlights of the service were a poem that my cousins had written and one recited about my grandmother including some of her quirks (big believer in salads and fresh air) and the jazz group and singer who played at the end (it was a group she had enjoyed many times when alive). We welcomed this group playing longer.

  • JulietEcho

    I don’t think the pastor was unethical from his point of view, but I do think that he acted unethically from an outsider’s POV. I think that any pastor who preaches hellfire at a funeral (especially with kids there) is acting unethically, unless every single person at that funeral wants it that way. It’s taking advantage of people during a vulnerable time, and it’s sick.

    The family of the woman is very non-religious. Sure, they’ll say they believe in God/Jesus in a very vague way, but they don’t even attend a church on Christmas and Easter. One great-aunt goes to a Baptist church, and since she was the only one who knew a minister, she got to pick him. I agree with those who say that bringing a minister into the mix at all was a bad idea, but the family had no idea that he was going to go off like that, given that they don’t know much about pastors.

    They honestly seemed much more upset that he didn’t spend time talking about her life than about the hellfire thing. It was more like, “Instead of honoring her memory, he served his own agenda” from their POV.

  • Some ministers are like parasites looking for open wounds in which to lay their eggs.

    These kinds of funerals are not unusual; I have a relative who has delivered them before.

    I often wonder whether it would be better for a freethinking member of the berieved family to shut down the pastor in these situations (and cause the kind of conflict that might make things worse) or to let him continue.

  • Something very similar happened at my grandmother’s funeral; being an evangelical Christian, I’m quite sure it was exactly what she would have wanted (the minister was a friend of the family and visited with her often during her illness); otherwise, I would have been very upset indeed.

    If an Christian minister is doing a service for a deceased Christian, something along these lines is, I think, to be expected. If anyone who I knew for a fact was non-religious had their service hijacked in a similar way, I’d probably be tempted to interrupt the service.

    I’d like my funeral to be something more upbeat: a nice party, with my carcass converted into a pinata.

  • Claire V

    DANCE PARTY!!! Of course, I wouldn’t get to enjoy it really, but at least everyone else would have a good time.

    Also, yes, using someone’s death to try and scare/intimidate other people (people who are grieving no less) is pretty crass, and by my standards is rather inappropriate.

  • Something similar happened at my grandfather’s funeral. The priest was awful — he gave an incredibly inappropriate sermon about school prayer and yelled at me and my cousins in the middle of the service for not performing the rituals correctly (he had not bothered to instruct us on correct procedure beforehand). I was brought up Catholic but became an atheist a few years ago and left the church. I couldn’t help but feel that including that jackass priest in our family’s grief was obscene.

    At least that priest didn’t assault anyone, though. At my great aunt’s funeral, the priest ran down the aisle during communion, seized my mother by the hair, and started screaming at her because he thought she had pocketed a consecrated host.

    I don’t miss church.

  • J B Tait

    A Christian was chosen as the officiant for a wedding I attended because the bride wanted her African heritage to be represented in the ceremony, and the officiant offered that kind of service. The families didn’t realize the (freelance) minister was Born Again and without permission, she inserted a diatribe about Creation, Heaven and Hell, and how we all have to accept Jesus and on an on. The embarrassment was maximized because the groom’s side of the gathering place was full of Conservative and Hasidic Jews. Considering their attire, there is no possible way the officiant did not know who she was preaching to.
    After it became obvious it wasn’t just a comment in passing, the mother of the bride stood up and whispered in her ear (to tell her to stop) and she would not. Finally someone from the bride’s side got up and in a firm voice said that that part of the ceremony was complete and they would move on.
    Thank goodness the groom’s family realized the officiant had not expressed the views of the bride or her family. Everyone who attended was aghast at the officiant’s rudeness and even the devout Christians lowered their estimation of evangelists.
    This did not convert anyone into the Fundy’s faith and in fact converted some fence sitters out of Christianity (as we later found out) because they could not embrace the contemptuousness that evangelism seems to require and that many who call themselves Christians, as this woman did, personify.
    In this case, doing what is Right trumped doing what someone said God said we were supposed to do.
    The two families were made one, with tolerance and love, and the preaching was rejected.

  • mike

    Some Catholic churches don’t allow for a eulogy at the funeral any more. My Uncle (oldest kid) and I (oldest grandkid) gave the eulogy for my grandfather at the burial site after the funeral. At least the priest knew my grandfather and much of the family, so the service was much more personal that most people usually get.

  • J B Tait

    I became ordained online while in university because a friend showed me the site of the ULC, and I thought it was a joke. I later found out it was for real and recognized by many jurisdictions (and is even good for a discount in several stores that sell Christian books and ecclesiastical attire) and started doing weddings and funerals for folks who wanted non-traditional ceremonies.
    By choosing my words exceedingly carefully, I managed to conduct a funeral for two atheists without making any of their Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Muslim (Persian), Buddhist, Agnostic, or Atheist relatives feel left out.
    In another case, by consulting with the lapsed Jewish bride and ex-Roman Catholic groom for many hours, we managed to create a ceremony that suited them both and made their families (who were still devout) feel that everything necessary had been included.

    As a side note, none of the religious attendees realized the shared beverage part of the service was actually Martian. We adapted the water ceremony from the Heinlein book, “A Stranger in a Strange Land.”

    So my suggestion is that maybe we atheists owe it to our friends to become ordained so that we will be available to officiate at their events.

  • Peregrine

    I’ve thankfully never been to a funeral like that. Most of the ones I’ve been to (that I can remember anyway) were pretty straightforward. The priest knew the deceased and the family, and/or met with the family beforehand to try to decide what to say.

    I’ve heard third-hand of a funeral where the priest railed about the deceased being a lapsed Catholic, and burning in hell for his lukewarm faith. And it was universally agreed that it was in poor taste.

    If you’re paying for a service, like a mass as part of a funeral, it is the responsibility of the person providing that service to fulfill the customer’s wishes. If the customer wants a scathing diatribe, then such fire and brimstone might be appropriate. If, however, the customer wants a solemn eulogy, then the priest who delivers flaming vitriol instead shouldn’t get a pay check.

    And if I’m not the one footing the bill, I’d just walk out. And they’d probably notice.

  • Ron in Houston

    Well, for gosh sakes, know the person’s theology before you invite them to preside at a funeral.

    I disagree that if you give them the bully pulpit then it’s unethical for them to speak their beliefs.

    It’s a natural thing to turn to religion in the face of death. The last funeral I attended was the stanch atheist father of a friend. Despite my friend saying how her father was likely “turning in the grave,” the mother decided to have it at a church with a minister presiding.

    Fortunately, it was a liberal Christian denomination and so the message was more of a celebration of the person’s life and a hope for some future connection rather than heaven, hell, damnation, or judgment.

  • nani

    i’m pretty sure funerals like this are par for the course for some sects of christianity. some view it as their duty to use the funeral to reach out and save lost souls. any excuse is permissible as long as they are using it to try and save souls.

    my grandmother’s funeral was like this to some extant, thought it was still fairly personal as it took place in a small church and led by people who’d known her all her life. i know this is what my grandma would’ve wanted, so i had no problems with it. also, it was far less focused on fire and brimstone than i imagine if my parent’s baptist pastor was speaking.

    however, last fall my ex’s aunt and uncle died in a tragic car accident. for the most part, his family is deeply religious, though his doesn’t recall his aunt and uncle being so. their funeral was also used as an opportunity to preach, and he was rather upset by this, along with his cousins.

    i think if it was the wish of the deceased, preaching at the funeral is okay, though i still find preying on people in distress pretty low. what’s upsetting is when the funeral is hijacked by religion if the deceased had no obvious wishes for this to be so.

  • The one request I’ve made clear even to acquaintances regarding my funeral is that, should my grandparents still be alive when I die, neither of them should be allowed to speak nor should any member of their church. In fact, my funeral wishes specifically name family members and friends that are allowed to speak should they desire to do so simply to avoid the inclusion of extemporaneous speeches from attendees.

    My uncle was shot twice in the back and killed during a faulty (and baseless) no-knock raid of his home several years ago. The entire family, and his friends, were reeling with shock and grief. In line with JulietEcho’s experience, my grandfather (an elder with a very strict fundamentalist Christian sect) took the opportunity to preach to those mourning. Unlike that young woman, however, my Uncle had not “accepted Jesus” and my grandfather’s sermon was aimed at describing the torment my Uncle was now suffering and how he most certainly wished we would all avoid his eternal fate by repenting and “turning to Christ”.

    I was beyond furious, having to pry my fingers from the armrest I’d been gripping when the funeral ended. Talking about Jesus and how to get saved at a religious funeral – tacky but not what I would consider unethical. Talking about how the deceased is burning in hell and how you can avoid joining him in torment – THAT’S unethical.

  • agent0014

    A bit of a topic tangent, but I’d urge anyone who’s considering cremation to look into a new (new being a relative term) technique I’d been reading up on… hopefully it’ll become more popular before any of us kick the bucket lol (see article here).

    Of course that particular article on the subject may be worth it’s own discusson on this site, but I’ll leave that up to the Moderator Gods 🙂

    Also, to the commenter above that mentioned that they’re an organ donor and the rest will be left to science (Wim, I believe), make sure that whatever organization your body is going to will accept donations that have had the organs removed. It was my recent experience with my father’s death where I learned that most educational and medical facilities that accept cadaver donations will only accept those that are completely intact. There may be many that will accept any, but that was definitely my not experience.

  • Kaylya

    The funerals I’ve been to have mainly been Anglican or other mainline protestant (United Church of Canada, generic funeral home chaplain) services which generally focus on being a celebration of life. These services have included some religion, but mainly of the “comforting” sort (and some general “formulaic” stuff, like maybe reciting the Lord’s Prayer or stuff along those lines), along with friends and family members speaking about the deceased, and usually a minister who knew the deceased well who had their own stories.

    So I find it hard to imagine a funeral where the preacher goes on and on about Hell. While I see how someone of the belief that people go to Hell if they don’t accept Jesus might feel the need to mention it, you can mention it for a minute or two of the service and spend the rest honouring and praying for the deceased. The point of a funeral isn’t to try and convert people to your church through scare tactics about Hell.

  • JulietEcho

    Tanya said:

    Talking about Jesus and how to get saved at a religious funeral – tacky but not what I would consider unethical. Talking about how the deceased is burning in hell and how you can avoid joining him in torment – THAT’S unethical.

    But from the POV of an evangelical, it’s even *more* ethical in a way. Nothing is more important than making sure that people don’t end up in Hell, and the ends justify the means, to them.

    What’s important to learn from these experiences is, as others have said, to *not* let pastors preside over funeral services. Don’t give them a chance to destroy the ceremony that’s supposed to be about remembering a loved one.

    (And yes, he did do an “altar call” although he had people remain seated while he prayed the Sinner’s Prayer and invited them to pray along if they wanted to avoid the fiery pit.)

  • cicely

    My own preference? Salvage any reusable parts, cremate the left-overs. No memorial service, as such; instead, hold a weekend-long D&D marathon, with pizza and munchies and age-appropriate beverages. No penalties levied for Monty Python or Princess Bride quotes. Let the bad puns fly.

  • Siamang

    I think I could make some good money selling rotten tomatoes at the beginning of these funerals.

    These people are vultures.

    We just had a great funeral for a loved one in the family. It was honest… even pointing out some of the decedents faults.. It was loving, and it was a celebration of the life of the man. It was very much to his taste and his personality, and the entire family enjoyed it.

    It was presided over by Reverend Cheryl Walrath-Duran, who officiated my wedding. And the interesting thing is this: I don’t really know HER religious beliefs. It is clear that she has some, being a reverend. But both in my wedding and in this memorial service, she was far, far more interested in asking us what WE would like the service to be like.

    My wife and I were both atheists when we got married. We allowed for her to offer her blessings and a bit of inclusive “prayer or silent reflection” ceremonial deism in our wedding. She referred to God once or twice, but when she did it it didn’t seem like she was defining the term in any way that was anything other than referencing her own concept of that.

    And again in the funeral there were moments for prayer or silent reflection that were always introduced with the phrase “because we come from many different traditions, beliefs and life-paths, I invite you all to pray or meditate with me in your own tradition…”

    Wonderful. Inclusive. Not in any way pushy.

    I firmly believe in having funerals. But I do wish that there were more place to have them that were secular, and that secular people had more options.

  • Carlos

    Like others have already said, the question of whether the minister acted ethically depends on his particular ethos. Barring any specific instructions from the family, it would have wholly UNethical of him not to preach – that’s his job and, presumably, his calling.

    What this seems more indicative of, however, is the situation in which many moderate or loosely-churched people may find themselves: Turning to or relying on a person who had little or no connection to the deceased to speak to that person’s life.
    I witnessed a similar occurrence many years ago, at the funeral of a dear friend of mine who died far, far too young at 19. I remember sitting in the pew, listening to the minister talk about someone who only marginally resembled my friend. He even referred to her by the wrong name at one point. I believe he was her parents’ minister, and I presume he would have been hers in her younger years as well, but he did not seem to know much about her.

    For many people who are more indifferent or even lackadaisical about issues of faith than we atheists typically are, this type of thing is largely irrelevant. For those of us with a certain position on religious matters, however, this reinforces the importance of making our wishes known, at least to certain loved ones or members of our families.

  • Twin-Skies

    When my uncle passed away a few months ago, the funeral service was held by a Catholic priest who was also a close friend of our family.

    He kept the service short and simple – instead of trying to press us on and on about my uncle’s death or his probable destination in the afterlife, he asserted that the best way to honor my uncle’s memory was to live life to the fullest.

    The grieving turned into a rather cordial reunion of sorts for my mom’s side of the family, and I noticed many of my uncles and aunts shared funny stories of how my late uncle lived. Partly thanks to the padre’s sermon.

    It’s because of events like these that I believe that having a religious service done isn’t necessarily going to cause a disaster like the example shown above.

  • The Other Tom

    If I was at a funeral where the officiant went on a tirade about hell:
    * If it was someone I wasn’t close to, I’d leave.
    * If it was someone I was close to, and in the officiant’s church, I’d approach them and quietly tell them their behavior is inappropriate and their job is to comfort the living, and insist they change the subject. If they didn’t, I would rally everyone to leave.
    * If it was someone I was close to, and not in the officiant’s church, I would probably demand they leave, and offer to the family to conduct the rest of the service myself.

    I have NO sympathy for those who feel it necessary to afflict the grieving with more heartache.

    My father is so insistent that he not have a religious funeral that he has instructed me that I am not to have a funeral for him at all, and that I am to forbid the rest of the family to do so.

    As for my own funeral, I really don’t care. I hope everyone who knew me will do whatever they think is best for them. I won’t be there.

  • I hope that at my funeral everyone remembers something funny I said during my life and laughs. Then I want everyone to go have a few drinks and hook up with somebody.

  • wintremute

    I attended the funeral of a very close friend this past weekend and got much the same thing. This was in a Missionary Baptist chruch in appalachia. We got preacher spouting about fire and brimstone, and how the only way we would see our dear christian brother Kenny again is to accept jesus and be saved. He didn’t know Kenny. In the many years I knew them man, he never attended church. He was a christian, but not in this way. There was maybe 5 minutes devoted to the memory of the deceased and an hour of proselytizing. I got angry and walked out (quietly, I didn’t make a scene). I think it was amazingly disrespectful to turn the funeral of someone he didn’t even know into a recruitment tool. I was unable to attend the burial, but my wife brought a copy of the eulogy home for me to read. A two page document about Kenny and his life written by his ex-wife was more fitting and gave me more closure and comfort than any funeral could have.

    I won’t even go into the laying of hands or circle prayers….

  • Siamang

    “Dear friends and loved ones of the dearly departed… we are gathered to honor the memory of someone who passed from us. He was a very good man and a loving husband and father.

    “But enough about him. What I really want to tell you about today is the Sham-WOW! Have you ever seen a car so clean as with the Sham-WOW?!?

    “But that’s not all, act in the next ten minutes, and we’ll throw in the Slap-Chop, a pair of his-and-hers Snuggies and a set of genuine Ginsu Steak Knives. NOW, how much would you pay to escape Eternal Damnation?

    “Many other religions would charge upwards of a hundred dollars for all this. But if you convert to Jeezus in the next ten minutes, you won’t pay $99.99, or $89.99 or even $59.99. Act now and you’ll get all this, eternal salvation, the Sham-WOW!, the Slap-Chop, the Snuggies and the genuine Ginsu steak-knives for an Amazing 29.95!!!”

  • JulietEcho:

    But from the POV of an evangelical, it’s even *more* ethical in a way. Nothing is more important than making sure that people don’t end up in Hell, and the ends justify the means, to them.

    You’re right, of course. If I actually believed that everyone I loved would burn in agony for an eternity unless they [insert action here], I’d spend every waking breath trying to get them to do so.

    I very much understand my grandfather’s reasoning, but the resulting pain infuriates me.

  • Siamang

    Of course that falls into the fallacy that if you believe something is true, you must act on it.

    For example, if I honestly and truly believe that you are satan, I really SHOULD try to harm you.

    This is a mindset that cannot be excused. I notice it a lot in Ray Comfort-style evangelism.

    He starts with the premise “what if I’m right?”, and then starts to prescribe a course of action based on that. He neglects the first step, which is actually *testing whether or not you’re right*.

    And really, that IS your first responsibility. If you think faith healing will cure your child, and the child dies, the fault IS YOURS, and the sincerity with which you held a false conviction will not excuse you, nor bring back a life.

    People who cause pain, trauma or push their crap on everyone else *because they neglect or fail to check their ideas about reality against reality* cause harm *of their own fault*.

    Almost nobody actually MEANS to hurt anyone’s feelings or traumatize them. But it doesn’t make them blameless for their insensitivity and their own fantasyland bullshit they inflict on others.

    But on the other hand, all listeners to these sermons should also grow a thick skin and recognize bullshit when they see it. Don’t be traumatized by being told by a preacher you’re going to hell. Call bullshit on him. Laugh at him. Drive him out.

    They’ve got some fucking chutzpah to fleece the flock, take the money of the bereaved *and* put on a snake-oil show in the middle of a mourning. Let them know that they’re not wanted, and they can take their two-bit thimble-rigging back to the carny sideshow where it belongs.

  • darryl

    Way back when, when I was studying for the ministry, they taught us to use events like this–events that are emotional and deal with the gravest moments of life, when people are apt to think about the BIG questions–as opportunities to preach the Gospel to the unsaved. Yes, it’s inappropriate and disrespectful, but it’s a tradition in some fundamentalist circles.

  • I would prefer to not have a funeral as they are, IMO, a waste of money. But if my loved ones feel the need for one I’d want a strictly non-religious one. Thankfully my wife, my mother and my sisters (should any of them be alive a the time) would ensure no religious individuals led the proceedings and would put a stop to any shenanigans such as you described. Though my mom and one sister are devout Christians they understand I am no longer a believer and would never dream of foisting religion on me, whether I were living or dead.

  • wintremute

    I think I would like to have a funeral, or lack thereof, the way my grandfather has planned. He is loosely catholic, but doesn’t attend mass. He says, and I quote “The last time you see me is the last time you’ll see me. Funerals are a scam. I want to be cremated. I don’t care what you do with the ashes, but don’t spend a dime on a plot.”

    His health is starting to slip. Makes me wonder if my family will abide by his wishes.

  • Amanda

    I want a hog roast type party (my favorite kind of party for no particular reason). Grass skirts are optional. Look through old photos (possibly video) of times gone by–hopefully they would use this time to remember good things and think of what they have in life to be thankful for. Drinking alcohol would also be a good thing to do.

    Basically, I want everyone to have a regular party instead of being sad because being sad won’t make me any less dead. Having a good time, however, will be a nice memory to look back on, especially since many of my family members are only able to travel for weddings and funerals. Heck–you get (sometimes paid) time off work for the shindig, and maybe even travel discounts. Everyone wins!

  • Cait

    I wouldn’t have a funeral, better to skip straight to the wake. Then everyone could get spectacularly drunk without having to listen to sermons/poems about heaven first (it seems that even the secular funerals tend to have a poem about heaven/Jesus slipped in by a well-meaning officiant). And nobody would have to recite 50 Hail Marys, as unfortunately happened at a funeral I went to a couple years back.

  • Dan W

    Ugh, I hate it when pastors (or whatever the clergy guy, and it’s almost always a man, is called) use a funeral, which I think should be an event for remembering the deceased, to prosetylize. This sort of thing happened at the funeral for a grandmother of mine nearly two years ago, and it really bugged me. I don’t know how religious she was, and hadn’t been around her when she might have gone to church, but even if she had been very religious it would still have bugged me that the pastor did what he did. In fact, technically I think the event might have been a memorial service, not a funeral, which makes that pastor’s prosetylizing at my dead grandmother’s service worse.

    I haven’t written up a will or any plans for what I would like done for when I die, partly because I’m only 20 years old, but I know I wouldn’t want any priests saying any remarks about me at any sort of memorial for me when that time comes. I’d want a very non-religious, non-traditional sort of event. Not that I think my soul will exist to give a crap, but that’s what I’d prefer anyway.

  • Dan W

    To be more specific, I’d want to be cremated, not buried, and it’d be more of a remembrance party, with pictures and maybe a video of me, so people can reminisce about times they’ve spent with me, and also there’d be food, drinks (including alcohol), and good music, some of which would be songs I like- none of which would be religious songs. There’d be no grand speeches, no priests would ask everyone to say prayers, none of that shit. Nobody would have to wear black (unless they want to), and nobody would have to wear formal clothing either (again, unless they want to). All this would be made clear in my will, which I haven’t written yet, but I’ll remember what I want at this sort of “remembrance ceremony” when I do write a will.

  • In reality, I don’t care at all. I’ll be dead at that time.

    I told my family that they could do what they wanted, that they should find a way to remember me but that they should also think of giving my body to science (I can’t give organs).

  • J B Tait

    Doesn’t the Bible say Jesus’ horrible suffering was a sacrifice atoning for the sins of all, thus canceling the need for Hell?

  • Anna

    How horrible! Funerals are for comforting the living! Not for converting! I’ve gone to a few funerals (my family is Roman Catholic) and not once was that done! The Priest would talk about heaven, and how the person was safe and in a loving place, but never about hell. How disgusting that hell was even mentioned!

    And yes, they say Jesus died for our sins, BUT you cannot go to heaven unless you ‘accept the word’. Or at least, that’s how I understood it…which to me, means, Jesus died for nothing ’cause their story sort of cancels itself out. Jesus dies – we go to heaven. Oops, we don’t believe, so it doesn’t matter if we are saved or not, we’re going to hell. Sorta funny in a weird sadistic way…

    I’d like to be cremated and the ashes spread around a forest or something. And then a helluva party afterward! Loud music, drinks, food…too bad I won’t be there…

  • Wendy

    My dad’s funeral was arranged by his devout, Catholic family. I didn’t give my say, because I was only 12, traumatized, and had no idea how funerals were supposed to be done. The service ended up resembling a regular old church sermon… Hymns hymns hymns, prayer and preaching. Only one person got up and told a story about my dad. I was PISSED.

    I want my memorial to be fun, secular, and as inexpensive as possible. And that night, I would like there to be much drunkenness and fornicating. That would please my inanimate ashes.

  • gwen

    I am a genealogy freak and I think it is cool finding the graves of my ancestors (but then again it’s NOT about ME, is it?). As an American of African descent,it is sooo cool that I was able to find the gravesites of one great great grandmother and a ggggrandfather. But I digress…the worst funeral I ever attended was for a darling 18 month old baby boy that I had cared for in our PICU for his entire life. The nurses pretty much adopted him and we made sure he had a loving and enriched environment. When he died, we attended his Jehovah’s Witness funeral. It was the most disturbing funeral I have ever attended. The minster told the audience that the child was in purgatory waiting to see what choices that would be made by his parents during their lifetime. If they were good, he would join them in heaven, if they did wrong, he would join them in hell. What if one was good and the other bad?? What did the poor baby have to do with his parent’s behavior? What if his grandparents were bad and dragged everyone down to ‘hell’? I was an atheist attending the funeral but the other nurses were christian, and we consoled each other afterward. We all agreed that the ‘minister’ (doesn’t that mean COMFORT?), was full of shit and none of us believed a thing he said!!

  • Funerals are for remembering the deceased.

    So are celebrations of life, which is what I request for me (it’s in my will). I want people to remember me and share any times they spent with me. And to also gather together as friends and maybe rekindle friendships.

  • Betsumei

    While I acknowledge that once I’m dead, what my family chooses to do with the body is ultimately irrelevant to me (because I will have ceased to be, and therefore can’t really have an opinion on the matter), if I wind up with some religious funeral thing, I’m haunting their asses.

    Wait, I should have worded that differently. But yeah, poltergeist time.

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