How to Plan an Atheist's Funeral

Secular services can include a candle-lighting ceremony.
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An atheist's lack of belief in a higher power and life-after-death concept means that his funeral arrangements won't follow the traditions included in Christian and other religion's funeral services. Respecting an atheist's views when planning his funeral requires taking a secular approach that avoids prayer and references to scripture, hymns and heaven. If the deceased did not leave instructions, you can celebrate his life with music, poems and memory sharing at a formal or informal gathering.

1 Service Components

Most secular ceremonies begin by welcoming attendees with words of appreciation for coming. Readings of poems or favorite passages and tributes follow, both in the form of memories shared by mourners and a prepared eulogy spoken by a close relative, companion or friend. Subsequent words of committal for the burial or cremation that include a moment for reflection may precede the closing remarks. The service ends with an invitation to gather for a meal or reception. Music selections can by played between each element, at the beginning or as a recessional as guests leave. However, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, you can skip one or more of these elements and change their order for a more personalized funeral.

2 Respecting Wishes

References to angels, the soul and meeting again with departed loved ones may provide some comfort to people of faith, but should not be mentioned at a funeral for an atheist. Speakers and the officiant should avoid highlighting any differences between the decedent's atheism and his family's religious leanings. The decision to bury, cremate or donate the body to science should follow the wishes of the deceased or be made out of respect for the likely preferences of the deceased.

Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.