Do I have to have a religious funeral if I’m not religious?

Have you ever been to a funeral and thought “Does my own funeral have to be religious if I’m not religious?” Non-religious funerals are still very much the real deal. Here, we detail a few ways you can have an alternative non-religious funeral.

The reasons for not having a religious funeral are unique to each person. Some of us may feel it has no real meaning to us personally, some find it too formal…and some may simply not be religious at all!

Some people may not be religious, but their families are – so they may believe in having a religious funeral to help their loved ones cope and process all the emotions that come with death.

In many cases, people choose non-religious funerals because they identify as atheist or agnostic.

It’s very important that we point out non-religious funerals aren’t ‘anti-religious,’ they’re just an alternative to those who don’t identify with any religious beliefs.

Types of non-religious funerals

Humanist funeral: A humanist funeral can include readings, music, poetry and tributes – with the latter usually being the main part of the funeral. Tributes can be written by friends, family or a celebrant. There’s usually a eulogy about the person’s achievements, personality traits and their values in life. There may also be a few minutes of reflection, lighting candles and then a final thank-you to the gathering. Humanist funerals can be held anywhere such as a crematorium, woodland burial ground or even someone’s home or garden.

Atheist funeral: Atheist funeral customs will leave out any religious connotations such as heaven, an afterlife, reincarnation and so on. It’s very similar to a humanist funeral in that the person’s favourite music is usually played, with an emphasis on readings and speeches from loved ones. An atheist funeral service can also be held anywhere – just like a humanist service.

Direct cremation: This is where a coffin immediately goes to the crematorium and is converted into ashes without a traditional ‘funeral’ (David Bowie famously wanted to “go without any fuss” and had a direct cremation). But the coffin is still carried down the aisle, so friends and family are more than welcome to come along and play music, sing, give a reading or even observe a few minutes silence if they wish to. A direct cremation isn’t strictly non-religious, but it is more popular with those who weren’t religious in life.

Memorial service: Most commonly held after a direct cremation, a memorial service is a favourite with non-religious people as it can be a lovely way for friends and family to swap stories and memories about the person who passed. It’s also used as an outlet for grief and can provide closure for some loved ones.

The most important thing is a person’s right to choose how they want their own funeral to be conducted.  Understandably we often avoid conversations about death and funerals with our loved ones, but if we all had the conversation we could break the taboo and promote a more positive and open discussion about this difficult subject.

Did you know you can put your funeral wishes in your will? Let our expert time guide you through the process, so you can ensure your wishes are in good hands!

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