Atheists Aren’t Buried Here March 22, 2010

Atheists Aren’t Buried Here

Photographer Jean Lewis is displaying some of her unique work at the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln right now.

The black and white photographs depict stylized architectural elements in gravestones, cemetery gates and storefront shops. Lewis took the photos during her 20-year career in Nebraska.

Specifically, she focuses on the Nebraskan Czech population and their connection with cemeteries. It turns out they had their own, but not necessarily because they wanted to be segregated from everyone else.

Why is that?

“About 50 percent of Czechs who immigrated (to America) had no religious affiliation,” she said. “They were agnostic and called themselves ‘free thinkers.’ Because of this, Catholics and Protestants refused to bury them in their cemeteries. So the Czechs had their own.”

Don’t you love that? Even in death, the Christians didn’t want to be mixed with the heathens. These are likely the same people who insist that we’ll end up in the same place in the afterlife, no matter what we say during our lives.

But they still don’t want you nearby, even when you’re dead.

Jesus must have insisted on that.

(Thanks to czechatheist for the link)

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  • Beelsabub

    This reminds me of my favorite cemetery in Chicago, The Bohemian National on Pulaski between Foster & Bryn Mawr. It has some of the best cemetery art around. From their website: “The Bohemian National Cemetery of Chicago is a Fraternal not for profit cemetery founded in 1877 by Bohemian, Moravian and Slovak immigrants and their descendants to provide a dignified place for burials free of religious restraints. The cemetery is available to all religions, nationalities and races.”
    It is well worth visiting.

  • That’s not surprising. There’s a Catholic cementery nearby where I live, and while there are a few non-Catholics buried there, they are buried across a little road, up on a hill, next to some trees.

    If you didn’t know about those graves, you’d never even see them. Those people were still Christians of some sort.

  • Killer_Bee

    Real estate can be important even in death. I remember the details that we took into consideration about the cemetary – was it secluded, well-maintained, secure from vandals, are there likely to be trashy people buried near by whose family might visit at the same time we do?

    I imagine Catholics may wish to grieve or reminisce with fellow Catholics or with others who share their traditions.

    I’ve seen gravesite visitors who light smokey incense. Others celebrate various holidays at the gravemarkers – they look like they’re at a picnic.

    Incidentally, there is a separate area in the same cemetary specifically for those of the Jewish persuasion.

  • Epistaxis

    Worms are worms.

    The real question is, why bury atheists at all? It’s a terrific waste of space. Just fire up the incinerator.

  • My father bought plots for each of his 5 children, the future spouses of his 2 sons(yes, he was an optimist) and my mother in a Muslim cemetery here in Michigan while me and my siblings were still kids. I don’t see a need to go out and buy another plot as I already have one. Yes, I’m cheap.
    My ex-wife (Christian) was enraged when she discovered these arrangements several years after we were married. It had never occured to me to discuss it before marriage.
    My current wife (who is an atheist) is okay with the arrangements as she is from Tatarstan and identifies culturally as a Muslim Tatar.
    Christians certainly aren’t the only ones to exclude based on religion. My father told me several times how Christians lived on the outskirts of his hometown in south Lebanon, but weren’t allowed to live in the town itself. They were treated as outcasts.
    I seriously doubt there are any Christians in the cemetery I’m going to be buried in. I’ve never seen any Christian markers the few times I’ve been out there.

  • I’ve got a plot already though I’m not planning on dying…ever. I suppose it will happen anyway whether I plan it or not. After any useful parts are recycled my family get to stick my corpse in a hole in the ground. It keeps the animals from attacking, reduces disease from rotting flesh and gets rid of the smell so I’m all for being buried.

    In England we have trouble with people buying up natural woodland. I like natural woodland and happen to think that we have enough shopping centres and purpose built flats already. If my rotting corpse can keep an English wood alive for a century or two longer then I can be happy in that thought. Well at least until I’m dead and then I won’t have any thoughts to be happy about.

    Natural burial means no grave stones or markers. I can have a tree planted on grave or just let it grow over. I don’t mind really. If family want to come visit a patch of brambles then they can get a map and enjoy the walk. That’s what I do when I go visit my mother or my unwife visits her father.

    As for the Czechs it is morbidly funny to think that those Christians may well have denied a grave space for them but they end up in the ground in just the same way. No heaven for them, above us only clouds.

  • When I die, just double-bag me and throw my carcass in the local universal animal disposal cold room along with all the laboratory rats.

    Or put my carcass in a burlap bag, weight it down with rocks, and throw me overboard to feed the crabs.

    I have simple needs after I die… just the desire to save my family the cost of an expensive funeral.

  • John

    Some of my relatives/ancestors are buried in those Czech cemeteries in Nebraska. The article didn’t surprise me; Saline County is still full of Czechs.

    Bohemians have been causing religious controversies – usually ahead of their time – since at least as far back as Jan Hus (

  • Tom

    Coming from a Pole, Czech’s are beautiful =)

  • Hazor

    Jeff: Do like I will, and let medical students poke it with sharp objects.

  • @Hoverfrog: I’m gonna do the same thing when I go. Don’t embalm me, don’t spend thousands of dollars on a tacky coffin, don’ waste a fortune on a gravestone. Just throw me in the ground and let me rot (after the useful bits have been “recycled” as you say).

  • CybrgnX

    This is no real surprise.
    Almost all religions treat cemeteries as Hallowed Ground. So just as you’re not really permitted in the church you’re really not allowed into the grave yard either.
    Me-I’m getting a Druid funeral. No embalming, throw me in a hole and put an oak tree above me, and let my spirit live on as a tree. Don’t believe it but ya know-pascal’s wager? it could be interesting. And the use of natural burial is increasing.

  • When my father died, (within the week of his death) a “friend” of my mother’s sent her a Christian tract about illness being caused by having made a deal with the devil. This so-called friend was a Lutheran who my parents had supported and nurtured through some very rough times. My father, being a Catholic, was, of course, beyond redemption, but the message to my mother was clear – make sure you’re straight with the big you know who or you’ll die too. What I wanted to ask this woman was who did she think was buried in the cemetery surrounding her church? Surely the righteous live forever, n’est ce pas? Anyway, better to be cremated or buried or whatever and used to grow home-grown tomatoes, as the song says, than share sacred ground with the undead ( Christians don’t die because death is the result of sin.) If I had been older I would have taken her on, but I was too young to feel her peer and too respectful to attack, what was only a limited intellectual capacity, of an elder.

  • This Monty Python bit from Life of Brian is of a similar theme. The link should skip ahead to the appropriate place.

    Instead of people only wanting to be buried along with “their kind”, this video is about people only wanting to be crucified along with “their kind”.

  • RaVeN

    At least they let atheists have a burial. In the country I live in, if you are an atheist and die, they refuse burial outright. Either they deem you a Muslim and you have a Muslim funeral or … In fact, that is all. You have no other choice. Cremation is also banned. If you are a vehement and outspoken atheist and they can’t claim your lifeless body is one of a Muslim, you can and will be denied burial outright.

    To be fair, Xtians have a right to bury their dead. Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is constantly threatened and harassed but international pressure lets them do their thing. Of course, you can’t also be Turkish and Christian(Or any other religion or non-theist). You will be killed you for it. (see. apostasy in Islam)

    I agree with Sarah, Jeff, Hoverfrog. My dead body doesn’t need any special treatment. I don’t really care even if I get a sky burial, however a religious funeral would be an outrageous disrespect to me.

  • Richard Wade

    Bigotry is eternal.

  • llewelly

    But they still don’t want you nearby, even when you’re dead.

    Don’t you understand!!?? If the proper Holy Rites are not performed, the body will rise as a zombie and lurch about eating BRAINS!!

  • Richard Wade

    Some folks will snub you even when they’re dead.

  • muggle

    They’re just afraid we’ll drag them to Hell with us.

  • polomint38

    Does nobody here fancy going to Gunther Von Hagens workshop?
    Get displayed in a musuem after being plastinated.

  • Hey at least they got actual graves with actual headstones, right? Some Atheists have been denied even that much, because of their activism. There ought to be a fund to ensure that their wishes not be totally ignored, and their identity hidden.

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