When I retired as a humanist celebrant I thought I'd stop writing this blog, but my fascination with all things death-related prompted more posts. They're just written from a slightly different perspective, that's all. Oh, and I still do the odd one, by special request.

Friday, July 12, 2013

On a good man's death, and a difference of opinion

I've just been talking to a young woman about her grandfather, who died recently. He was a friend and I know his views about religion, which were that it's all nonsense and he couldn't understand what anyone sees in it. He recently wrote,
On the rare occasions that I’ve discussed religion with a person of faith, I’ve asked if God made everything. The answer was always "Yes". I then asked why he made, for example, cancer. End of conversation. It all remains a mystery.
I don't know what it says on his death certificate about the cause of death, but cancer was part of his problem. Seems that he never discussed any of this with his granddaughter, who told me that the family are all Christian and it will seem strange having a humanist funeral. She expressed regret that he died without religion. I find it sad that she feels that way. I said that her grandparents had a very happy marriage, despite their differing views on religion, because they adopted the philosophy of "Live, and let live." She said we'd have to agree to differ. Made me wonder if she expected him to adopt his wife's faith, to make the family happy? They were happy, as far as I can tell. Incidentally, his wife is a non-conformist from an organisation that doesn't proselytise.

My friend was one of the kindest, gentlest people I've known; a man of few words, but when he did say anything, it was often after careful thought and worth listening to. He had a very dry sense of humour and very green fingers; his friends will remember his gifts of runner beans. Why does his granddaughter feel that it's regrettable that he rejected religion? Surely not because she fears for his salvation? If there was a god, and if he, she or it judged my friend wanting, I'd question its judgement.

I look forward to conducting my friend's funeral, and to making it clear that there is no reason to feel that there was anything missing from his life.


Tulpa said...

It saddens me that there are still attempts made to shoehorn someone's philosophy to make it fit.. Even AFTER death. I come in for a great deal of criticism, (some of it virulent) for being a fairly quiet but firm atheist. Whilst we are very unlikely to make a personal attack on an individual believer, we appear to be fair game for people of faith. Whether it is via sad, sympathetic looks or overt aggression. As we move towards a more and more secular position in this society, i see a deal of anxious kicking and screaming going on.. Help us all, everybody! ;-)

Margaret Nelson said...

Thanks Tulpa.

I've noticed that when there've been strongly opinionated Christians at one of my funerals, they've sometimes tended to wait until almost everyone has left the chapel, or wherever we were, so that they could shake my hand very firmly, and say something like, "Such a pity that he didn't let God into his life!" while fixing me with a steely gaze. As there's no point arguing with such people, I'd usually respond by saying something like, "Thank you for coming." I don't know if any of them expressed their opinion to the next of kin on these occasions.

Mister Me said...

The World existed billions of years before Jesus arrived, let alone any humanoid capable of linguistic communications! Religion, to me, was initiated in response to the question "Why?" and someone else giving their opinion. Why are we here? Who decided there would be bugs, fish, dogs and plants, etc? Why does the sun disappear each day? Where is the end of Space? We come, we go. A simple burial or cremation and a gathering of friends and relatives to CELEBRATE the life of he/she whose life has ended regardless of their beliefs.
Two examples which have impressed me - Friend x who organised her wake while she was still alive and kicking so that she could meet all her friends and relatives (and is now about to organise wake 2 as she has lived a further 15 years!); Uncle Y who was an "un-advertised atheist" ... He had the simplest of funerals. A month afterwards a celebration of his life was held in the village hall attended by friends, relatives, clients and colleagues. This was arranged with Y's approval and included films, pictures, comments, jokes, cakes and buns! VERY popular and the hall was full to overflowing. Everyone was happy and cheerful ... and not in black!

Margaret Nelson said...

Thanks for that. You might like to know that, after my friend's funeral, his granddaughter was most complimentary. She'd probably imagined something very different.