Sunday, August 13, 2006

"Jesus Christ Wants YOU!"

Yesterday I went to a funeral so bizarre in nature I had to take a day to write about it. As I wrote earlier my boss was killed in a motorcycle accident. It turns out that for the past two years he has been involved with a Baptist Church so it makes sense that his funeral would be there.

As anyone following this site knows, I am an atheist. That does not mean that I have any disrespect for religion or people who are religious. I quietly hope that someday people will realize that some aspects of religion are really good (“Love Thy Neighbor as thyself”) some aspects are mere ritual (eating only fish on Friday) and some are very harmful (“homosexuality is a sin.”) I think religion had its place before science to provide some acceptable way to explain the world. It is time to move on.

I am certain that most of Pat’s friends are not born again Christians or Baptists but we all went to the service to honor his life. I have been to several funerals. I don’t know about the ones any of you have been to but there is usually an acknowledgement of more than just, “He went to this school, he married this person, had three kids, and worked at such and such a job.” But that is what we got in the eulogy from his mother who, I suspect, was a bit shell shocked.

That irritated me a bit but it was later that I got angry.

The service started off with everyone singing Amazing Grace. A song I happen to love. But it was delivered in a rather flat-bland sort of way. This despite two soloists that came later. Then a preacher stood up and read to us from a script. First a prayer, then a scripture reading. He was just above a monotone. This guy knew Patrick but there was no feeling in his voice.

The first soloist came next and this over produced flowery recording came on. She sang and sang and sang this long song about the greater glory of God until I was convinced the only reason she was up there singing was for the greater inflation of her ego.

At this point my eyes were glazing over and it occurred to me that this ceremony was the most sterile and plastic I had ever been to. Pat’s casket was here and I am certain his body was inside it but it could have been anyone. They would have done the exact same service. There was absolutely nothing pertaining to the deceased at all outside of the eulogy of facts and figures which followed.

Looking at the program I can see that at this point there were supposed to be some comments. None were asked for and none were given. This apparently was not the point of this ceremony. Neither was Patrick.

Then we were asked to sing, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”

I remained in respectful silence, (Interesting to note here that I was flanked by my roommate on one side and a coworker on the other, both of whom are also atheists.) We had our own little service going.
Another Soloist, not quite as irritating as the first and then came the clincher.

Another preacher came to the stage. No script and a great speaking voice. At first I was relieved. Finally someone would talk with feeling and with his own words. That relief lasted for a few moments. He actually did speak a bit about Pat for a little while but then he launched into the rhapsody which he mentioned four times. Then he got into this weird bit about how when it came all who had believed in Jesus would be resurrected in the perfect body of Jesus Christ at the “perfect” age of 33.

Then it became a recruiting seminar. This diatribe went on and on and on. By the time he asked us to bow our heads in prayer, which out of respect for those who believe I usually do, I just stared at him. Then he asked people to raise their hands if we wanted him to pray for us. There was something i wanted to raise, but believe it or not i am a fairly polite person. To me this was like taking a poll. My best guess was he had about an 18% support rate.

Then he announced that there would be a funeral procession to the grave site followed by a return to the church for refreshments and conversation. Half the attendees got into their cars and sped away at this point.

I was really angry and wanted to go to the cemetery but skipped the procession. The nice thing about the cemetery was it was not wired for sound and I could stand just far enough away without hearing a word he said.

Needless to say I did not return to the church.

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