May 22, 2013

Humanist Funerals in Ireland

Political map of Ireland.
Political map of Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Religion News Service had an interesting story out of Ireland yesterday. As you probably remember, the Catholic Church in Ireland was finally exposed for "decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at Catholic Church-run reform schools for Ireland's castaway children." As evidence emerged that the Vatican knew about the child rapists among them at least as far back as the 1930s, I suppose you could say the church faced a bit of a PR nightmare in Ireland.

As often seems to be the case, the manner in which Church officials responded to the news made it worse. These scandals and the response to them, appear to have done exactly what one would think they should: drive growing numbers of Irish away from the church.

According to the Religion News Service, non-religious funerals have become popular in Ireland after one too many Catholic abuse scandals.
Although many observers have noted the impact of secularization and child abuse scandals on church membership and finances, only now are the Irish seeing the cultural and socioeconomic reverberations. These include a class of people willing to observe life’s most significant milestones outside the church.
The article describes "civil celebrants," which sound like humanists who preside over ceremonies like weddings and funerals.

I certainly understand the desire to have a secular wedding outside of any church structure. I would have loved to be able to do this. I'm a bit less clear on the desire for secular funerals, but I think this is because I've never seen much point in having a funeral for atheists. I understand why an atheist might want to have a secular funeral for a departed loved one; I'm just not sure why an atheist would want a funeral for himself or herself. How about you? Would you want those you leave behind to have a funeral for you?

In any case, it is great to see that Catholicism is on the decline in Ireland. I certainly hope to see a similar trend here in the U.S. Of course, I'd like to see a general decline in religiosity, but the crimes of this particular church make me hope to see it fade away first.

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