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Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 12:39amSanction this postReply
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A brief note: this article was submitted on July 31, which means the funeral described took place on July 30.

Merlin, I really enjoyed reading this. Your courage in refusing to pray (or even pretend to do so) at a family funeral is admirable.




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Post 1

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 3:54amSanction this postReply
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But later it occurred to me that maybe I should have done that—to see if anyone else was behaving like me. If so, I could have shown them a thumbs up and a smile.

Um, I am not sure they would have taken your gesture the right way.

Some people may not be religious, but they may take it as a signal to close their eyes and think about your uncle.

However, I also feel awkward when expected to pray in Church settings. I usually do not take part in prayers for the same reason as you, but for those that take part I wouldn't automatically assume that they are rejecting reality.




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Post 2

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 4:59amSanction this postReply
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When expected to pray, i do normally bend my head - i don't feel a need to close my eyes, but as a guest i do try to fit in, i'm not there to make a statement.

If i attend a funeral, i do so either to bring conclusion to some emotions involving the deceased or simply to show my sympathy to those left behind be it from loyalty or sadness that people i love are hurting. I do my utmost to respect everybody else attending the funeral - the only victims when someone dies, are the ones left behind. I think any guest detesting the ceremony so strongly that they find it impossible to gain or give any values in that setting, should refrain from attending.

When not turning extreme, and when choosing to by free will, i actually find it good that people believe in whatever deities they believe in, as they haven't reached a point where they are prepared to embrace reason alone, the alternative would be a hole, a lack of values, a nothingness that would be destructive.

I do not believe in a God, but it doesn't bring me happiness to denounce religion from the barricades, it brings me happiness and peace of mind to know where i stand, enough so that i don't need to convert anybody believing differently, as i expect them to refrain from trying to convert me.



Post 3

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 7:24amSanction this postReply
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Nice article, Merlin.
I won't be prey to a phony metaphysics.
Nice puns!

Thanks,
Glenn




Post 4

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 8:34amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for that article, and my condolences on your loss. My own uncle died last month, and I went to his memorial service and burial with my father (his brother). Since my father is religious to a point, I expected a service something like you described. I was startled and pleased to learn there was going to be no religious ceremony whatsoever ("he was not a church-going man ..."), and in fact there was some fun poked at religion. In particular, his daughter (my cousin) related how he taught them god's first and last names at home whenever he lost his temper, but she had never learned what the initial H in the middle name stood for!

The honor guard was a respectful way to say goodbye to someone who put his life at risk for our freedoms (gunner on WWII bomber in his case). The best parts for me were the long drive to and from with my father, and seeing my aunt and cousins again. The worst part was looking on the ground next to me, seeing a gravestone dedicated to a "beloved mother and grandmother," and realizing she was younger than me!

This is my first post here.
Regards,
Paul




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Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 9:14amSanction this postReply
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It doesn't matter what you call it, the word "prayer" is often used because it is highly familiar.

In a ceremony, the point is to request the group to have a moment of silence together for the same reason. What goes on during that is each person's business.
Generally, it is reflection, meditation, if it is not prayer. There are benefits when a group "sits in silence," as the Quakers put it. It's a different way of experiencing reality.




Post 6

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 9:31amSanction this postReply
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Thats funny, I went to the funeral of my grandfathers 1st cousin (my 3rd cousin I guess) in Texas yesterday. I didn't know the man but my grandfather can't see that well to drive and the man was a Hardy (and I had nothing better to do) so I went.

Being that our family is originally from Southwest Louisiana, we're all Catholic. His side went to the Beaumont area with Spindletop and the oil and all so thats why I didn't know them too well. Anyway, if you know anything about Catholic religious services compared to, Southern Baptist for instance, they're pretty short; not this one though.

Naturally I'm an athiest but I don't mind going to church for things like this. I grew up in the Church and everybody I know is in it. But the one thing I can't stand going through is a rosery. And I'm not the type of person to just walk out of a relatives funeral so I had to say through it. Bah.

The priest was an African who gave a horriable sermon, even my grandparents didn't like it. He actually told the man's daughter to stop crying because her father was in heaven now. That shocked the hell out of about half the people in the church, even if you believe in heaven you still won't see your loved one's until you die.

That was the wake, the funeral was actually nice. He was in the military too and the Southeast Texas Veterans Accociation did a good job with it. The Chaplin they sent made a great speech on soldiers and what they fought for. A three round salute followed and of course TAPS (the daughter started crying again and even my eyes got watery).

He was interned in a mausoleum and then we went to eat dinner. If you know anything about Southeast Texas, you of course know what we were having, barbecue. My cousin belonged to a men's social group (like a lodge) and the family went there, that was the nicest part. But it took like four hours of mostly religious talk to get there and that nearly drove me crazy. Even now, when they started praying I couldn't help but follow the words in my head, they're ingrained in me and probably always will be. And honestly I do resent that but there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Oh well.



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Post 7

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 10:34amSanction this postReply
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Rich Engle wrote:
It doesn't matter what you call it, the word "prayer" is often used because it is highly familiar. In a ceremony, the point is to request the group to have a moment of silence together for the same reason. What goes on during that is each person's business. Generally, it is reflection, meditation, if it is not prayer. There are benefits when a group "sits in silence," as the Quakers put it. It's a different way of experiencing reality.
Yes, and if you are staring around the room, you are certainly not reflecting. The two are rather incompatible mental states, I'd say.

Where you look in order to facilitate an inner-directed focus is highly individual. I often use the back of the head of the person in front of me. :-) 

And you certainly don't have to close your eyes in order to reflect on the departed or whomever. But to engage in active, outer-directed cognition during a moment of prayer/meditation/reflection is usually considered disrespectful.





Post 8

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 2:36pmSanction this postReply
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Death is the ultimate anarchist when it involves social situations, and not even just funeral rites. All kinds of things come out of people.

Whatever it is you do in those moments is, well, the thing you do, and it says something about how you really are about mortality, including your own.

That's why you even see people that normally put on a great front and talk a lot of smack fall into bite-size morsels under it. It's very telling. Very telling.




Post 9

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 6:14pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin, I'm sorry for your loss. Your uncle sounds like quite a guy.

John



Post 10

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 6:31pmSanction this postReply
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This kind of reminds me of a few of my better experiences at funerals.  My mom still doesn't want to accept my atheism but agrees that Objectivism has been a good influence on my thinking and my life.  That being said hopefully it will give context to my next statements.

Growing up I had a sort of third branch of my family... When my parrents were young they bonded with the family of one of their neighbors and by extension we became honorary members.  This family was officially Jehovah's witnesses but since the religion looked down on funerals in general they ran them as secularly as possible.

So naturally when my father died in 1999 my mother called her closest friend in our second family to help with the funeral arrangements.  It was really a good experience no speeches about heaven or hell, no sermons, just people sharing these wonderful stories and memories of my father.

A few years later a bandmate (Jamie) was killed in an auto accident a few days before a scheduled show.  I went to the funeral services which were insanely preachy and attended by someone who obviously didn't know the guy. I didn't want to ruin the family's proceedings but we still had that show scheduled.  I took the opportunity to invite all of Jamie's younger friends to our show... I went on alone last after most of the other customers and bands left... I did  a short introduction to each of the 4 songs which had special significance to Jamie and myself and allowed any of his friends who wanted to a chance to utilize the stage for a personal eulogy afterwards... his best friend PJ took me up on it and I collapsed into my fiancee Amy's arms the second I left the stage.  Afterwards the group of friends and myself stood outside and just talked about him for a few hours. The funeral proceedings concluded the next day.

One of the main things people need funerals for is to come to accept the fact that the person is gone and have one last great time to revisit what the person meant to them. I think it's sad that religious funerals tend to rob people of this.

---Landon




Post 11

Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - 7:32pmSanction this postReply
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Rich,

Death is the ultimate anarchist when it involves social situations.

That would be a great line for a tomb stone ;-)




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Post 12

Thursday, August 4, 2005 - 1:40pmSanction this postReply
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Marcus-

Yeah, wouldn't it? :) I liked when Hunter Thompson died and he had requested that his ashes be shot out of a cannon. There's nothing quite so priggish as being able to arrange for a party that mandates attendance, to an extent. One of the funniest things I ever read out of Thompson was when he "eulogized" Nixon.

I was going to go for a low-budget Viking funeral, on Lake Erie. Somewhere so they get shaken down by the park rangers while they're trying to be all serious. Citations for using inflatable objects on the lake, that's a no-no...

Landon- I agree with you entirely. There are other cultures that support the idea of celebrating someone's life.

I think it's interesting that, awhile ago on another thread about "religion" where it took me a while to halfway qualify my spiritual position, I got to the point where I asked Objectivists/atheists what their own plans were; did they agree with the whole embalming/internment idea (which I find nasty on a number of levels), or not?
No answers.

See, that's what I mean...death is the big equalizer.




Post 13

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 3:53pmSanction this postReply
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I did not grow up in a religious family...my parents never made me attend church when I was younger...and the friends I hung out with never went to church.  I have attended 4 funerals in my lifetime (3 family members and 1 very close friend).  What I think is bazarre is the fact that all the funerals were religious, it the meaning that the deceased was spoken of having made it to heaven....God took his child, etc.  Is there a non-religious ceremony also?

I was very little when I attended 2 of the 4 funerals.  I can remember during my Grandfather's funeral, I was running through the funeral home and found a room behind what was a closed door.  Behind the door were caskets.  The funeral director found me there and I remember telling him "the pink one" was the one I wanted. 

I was older when I attended the other 2 funerals.  Even though I did not pray, I do remember lowering my head.  I felt like that was the respectful thing to do.  People are grieving over the loss of loved ones, and to me, being respectful was the right thing to do.   




Post 14

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 6:21pmSanction this postReply
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Objectivists/atheists what their own plans were; did they agree with the whole embalming/internment idea.

Why should Objectivists/atheists have a special opinion about it? 

When I die the world ends, so why should I care what happens afterwards? I wont be able to enjoy it.

(Edited by Marcus Bachler on 8/05, 6:22pm)




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Monday, August 8, 2005 - 1:07pmSanction this postReply
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What I'm wondering is, if there are those that do, what is their logic for doing so?



Post 16

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 3:40pmSanction this postReply
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Funerals are for the living.  That's where I stand on embalming interrment and cremation.

Anyone that cares enough to actually pay for any of the things involved in taking care of my body after I've died can do anything to it that brings them comfort.

That's my stand.

---Landon




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Post 17

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 12:14amSanction this postReply
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I am grateful to the brave Americans, such as your uncle, who defeated our totalitarian enemies in WWII. I will never forget them.

You wrote a beautiful article, by the way.

I was raised by ultra-religious, Jewish parents who sent me to a terribly oppressive Yeshiva. I, too, refused to pray, and was expelled at the end of the 11th grade.

It was worth it.  




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Post 18

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 11:59amSanction this postReply
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"Funerals are for the living" is, in most of the Western world, a bromide. More accurately, in function, it is a sales pitch that funeral directors use.

I think its funny that Objectivists, with the atheism, and disdain of most ritualism, etc., would spend money, or approve of their family spending money, to have them done up like a grotesque mannequin.

I don't find comfort looking at a corpse that has been fucked up with technology for the purpose of being displayed for the purpose of some "catharsis". If you believe that when it's over, it's over, what's the point of the body? Even if you do believe that it's not over, do you think that the corporeal form is a part of what happens next?

In either event- embalming is grotesque, weird, perverse, and expensive. Sounds like a party to me.




Post 19

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 4:56pmSanction this postReply
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Well just speaking from experience I think the funeral industry has found some effective ways to milk the buying public but I still stand by what I said.  A funeral gives you an opportunity to, ideally, think through what the person meant to you and what it will mean to your life once your loved one is gone. 

You get a final chance to see the body, let it sink in, and discuss the person with others whom shared relations with them and what they meant to you and them.  You get a chance to really let all the emotion wash over you in a safe setting where you won't be judged harshly and you have plenty of sympathetic people to talk to. 

I gave this a lot of thought between 1999 and 2002 and that's where my rationale comes from.

---Landon




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