Atheism and Death: A Case Study


  • I am an atheist. I came to this on my own. My entire family is Roman Catholic. I was raised as such and while in high school came to the correct conclusion that all of those teachings is false. I’ve talked about this with my brother and I believe he is an atheist as well (just not as outspoken as I am). My immediate family knows this.
  • I am a comedian at heart I feel. I’ve never been offended by a joke and the more “shocking” or “blasphemous” the better.
  • I’m not close with my extended family. No ill will necessarily but they are not like me. They’re the typical small town “country folk” with usually all that entails (hunting, fishing, not reading)
  • Last fact: my grandfather (Pap) passed away. He was my last living grandparent. I can’t say one bad thing about the man. He was in the Korean War and he was in an incident there. For a class project in high school, I attempted to get him his deserved Purple Heart but the hospital he was in got destroyed along with his records.


  • I knew things were getting progressively dim with my grandfather over the past month. I was at work and my mom called me and said “Pap is gone”. And that’s the beginning and end of it, to me. We’re born, we live, and then we’re gone. No magic involved. I’m positive in that instant there was no thoughts to heaven or judgement or any other of that Christian nonsense. Thoughts of heaven are for when you need a pick me up a few days later. In the moment, You. Are. Gone.
  • I told my parents I’d come over and be with them but after my secular social night. I knew what was coming so I wanted to be with them one final time. It was a good night out. I was walking to my car with my friend whom I’m very close with. She hugged me and said, “my thoughts and prayers are with you.” She gave me a joke about my dead grandfather and it was the most perfect timing. And that’s one reason of many that I really treasure her friendship.
  • My cousin came up to visit. Talk was made about how Pap isn’t suffering anymore. Cousin said it’s a shame the doctors couldn’t fix the problems and he had to suffer at all. My mosaid, “It was just his time….I know HE doesn’t believe that stuff”, which was directed at me. My mom is coming around to the fact that my beliefs are different and they aren’t like most people’s. The fact that she was able to recognize that in an instant are me happy. The fact that it felt like an accusation or a fault on my part, did not.

Day of viewing

  • It’s a half hour into the viewing and I’m outside writing this. It was really hot. I’m amazed at how many people are connected to my grandfather and how many I have no idea who they are. Funerals are a perfect for this activity because you’re not in a learning state of mind while standing next to a knowledgeable person rapid-firing info at you. Not many tears right now. Everyone is more catching up than reminiscing. I feel like Pap right now when I’m in a large environment. Everyone is talking back and forth and having a good time and I just stand in the back and observe. Just about no religious talk at all.
  • The second half started with a prayer

Day of funeral :

  • The religious service lasted maybe 15 minutes if that. It was the most uninspiring, morose speech I’ve ever heard. It was droning and monotone to us. There was zero life in it. This is not what I want. This is not what anyone wants for what they leave behind. And like, zero hope was given. There was talk of the afterlife but nothing to use today. My Pap was not newsworthy but he was just a good man, an example to live by. But that’s not what was said. Nothing about who he was or his character was talked about. Just Jesus and his paradise.
  • The one bright spot was when the priest (who’s a known drunk) misspoke and said “and the Lord put his son John (my pap’s name) uhh Jesus on the cross.” I nearly shit myself. I grabbed my mom’s leg because I didn’t wanna burst out laughing. It was phenomenal.
  • Kinda creepy to see the guy leaning against the backhoe at Pap’s gravesite as we drive into the graveyard 
  • Leaving the gravesite ceremony now. The priest said some normal stuff. Then the military portion. It was amazing. It stood in such amazing stark contrast to what the religious side was. Yes there was talk of God and God taking Pap but there was more. More about his service and love of country. About fighting, about answering his country’s call when it was sounded. It spoke more to who Pap was than any priest could. Neither the military people or the priest really knew Pap, but one clearly captured his essence and showed a love for him, for the idea of him, than the other. I was stable the entire time, but tears were shed for the military stuff. It was a good last memory.
  • At the wake, my oldest cousin was behind me in the food line. I turned around and chatted with him and after a bit he points to the atheist “A” pin I had one and said “The Avengers”. I let him have his moment.
  • Afterwards at home I brought up my issues with the priest’s words and kind of surprisingly my mom agreed with me. She too felt it was rather non-personal and not about Pap at all. I felt good about that.

All in all, I felt the religious aspect of the proceeding provides no comfort and I’ll be sure to be crystal clear with my wishes well before I pass away.


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