Monday, August 6, 2007

Religion and Funerals

It occurred to me the other day how . . . opportunistically religions use funerals. How it's part -- a very important part -- of the scam that religion is. Think about it. Right when a group of people are particularly emotionally vulnerable a priest comes forward and promotes their faith. They cast the life of a human -- frequently a person they don't know at all, I should further point out, save perhaps in the limited context of religious observances which is a very distant and formal association, really -- in purely religious terms. The value of the person's life, and death, rests in the "next world". Isn't that really wicked ghoulish?

Now, obviously, religious people are going to say that, even beyond the existence or non-existence of god or heaven or whatever, religion at a funeral with its pablum about better worlds and eternal life is comforting. First, this is a false dilemma. The argument is that the comfort that religion provides can't be provided, and better, without religion. The choice isn't between no comfort and religion.

Second, it assumes religion is actually comforting. I, myself, do not find it to be comforting, not in the lease. The pablum of a priest and a bunch of sacred words ignores that, well, in virtually all religions that paradise is far from assured. Even as we all tell each other that so-and-so is in heaven, religiously speaking, we are also fearing that they're in hell. After all, we don't know. But I know that, for my own part, even when I was Christian that funerals always were difficult because the same grief that makes us grasp for concepts of non-physical immortality also make us consider the alternative. So, the comfort of religion is, itself, pretty thin -- offering, as it does, both heaven and hell. That your loved one might be roasting in the fires of hell isn't precisely comforting.

Third, there's the predatory element. If I came to a funeral and started preaching politics, saying that so-and-so might have lived if we had public health insurance, most people would think I was really tacky, using that moment to preach politics. But isn't that precisely what happens? Churches are very human institutions. By their presence at a funeral, they're doing what they can to insure the continuation of both their church and religion, generally, by stressing that religion is what's really important when someone dies. To my eyes, this is viciously opportunistic, a kind of sick promotion. And that stuff about grief and comfort is just the mask that religion uses to tart up it's intrusion into people's private grief.


Robert Taylor said...

Nice post :D

L. Raymond said...

If you saw this story about the bridge collapse, you can just taste the hypocrisy:

But critics accuse the church [of Scientology] of using these disasters to convert people at their most vulenrable [sic] moments to their religion.
"They did this at Ground Zero [after 9/11]," Ross told the paper. "They did this in New Orleans [after Hurricane Katrina]. They look for very high-profile disasters that can be milked for photo ops" to promote the Church.

As you say, when Christians do it, they're showing compassion, but anyone else is just a jackal.

Chris Bradley said...


Holy moly! The obviousness of the religious bias there is particularly striking, isn't it? Like there weren't Christian groups offering spiritual aid and such to people at all those places? But it's bad when Scientology does it, but OK when Methodists do it? WOW.

L. Raymond said...

My dream is for one of these vultures to tell the survivor of a horrible accident that God wanted her to survive, and hear a reporter ask why God wanted all the other people to die.