Sunday, 24 January 2010

No atheists in foxholes?

Note to self: don't go on for too long on one post!These are areas of thought and belief that I need to explore with care, but I find too much text at once on a screen is pretty wearing and I expect you do too, so I will try not to ramble.

A famous American World War II general was quoted as saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. I think he's probably wrong, but I'm not prepared to visit soldiers under fire to check it out. I know that the Battle of Britain pilot Richard Hillary, when he thought he was going to die in the English Channel, was proud of the fact that he did not find himself praying, or converting himself on the spot.

Whether there are really significant differences between how atheists and religious people actually confront the process of dying is perhaps beside the point. It's surely more important to understand that each of us will do so in a unique way - My Way, in fact, to quote my least-favourite funeral song. I'm exploring ways of doing so (other than Sinatra's)

There are, arguably, two sorts of people in this world: the sort of people who like to divide the world into two sorts of people and the sort who don't. I tend to find that the latter are more rewarding company. We suffer from too much crude polarisation in our political and social discourse, especially in matters of religion and belief.

The term "atheist" is in many ways a poor one because it defines people by what they are not. You wouldn't call a historian a "non-geographer." When it comes to trying to live a decent life, being mindful of who you are and where you are, and understanding what matters to you and why, then these labels seem pretty useless to me. I probably wouldn't go any further than "I do/don't follow a system of religious belief." Enough already with the zealots, fanatics and puritans!

As a funeral celebrant, I help families to develop a non-religious ceremony and I generally avoid scriptural quotes and hymns so as not to confuse the issue. After all, I have announced it as a nonreligious ceremony, at the family's request, and if you're buying baked beans you don't want to find sardines mixed in, do you? More on this later.

No comments:

Post a Comment