Atheism is the belief that God does not exist and is closely associated with a humanistic or secular view of life. Atheism is not a religious belief, of course, but it does address many of the same topics that are important to people of faith.
Many people associate Atheism with Communism, since that form of government was infamous for their lack of religious belief. However, Atheism transcends all political and social beliefs. It is essential an ethical system and worldview and is not associated with other social or political beliefs.
An Overview of Beliefs
Atheism is a philosophy of life that teaches people can live a moral and ethical life without a dependence upon God. They believe that all "gods" are mythical and that humankind has the power of self-determination without recourse to any higher power. Atheism embraces the view that there is no scientific evidence for the supernatural and historically they have challenged the beliefs of those who think otherwise.
Views on Death and the After-Life
Atheist believe that the death of a person is no different than any other creature. The entire focus of atheists is life in the present and all concepts of an after-life are contrary to their belief system. Atheist do not believe that people have a soul so there is no part of a person that survives death. For them, when the brain ceases to function, all thoughts, feelings, memories and emotions are erased and the body is recycled by the environment.
Mourning and Funeral Rites
Most atheist have a very low tolerance for all things religious, so as an act of respect you would not normally want to include any religious rites or practices in an atheist service of remembrance. Instead emphasize quotations and poetry and the kind of music the deceased person appreciated in life. Family and friends should be welcome to eulogize the deceased in ways that bring people together. The scientific and humanistic orientation of atheists leads many to leave their bodies to science, so a wake may take the place of a regular funeral service.
How to Express your Condolences
It is always appropriate to share your sense of loss with the family and friends of the deceased. This should be done in person if possible or by letter or phone call if necessary. A card of condolence is far better than a email, but a text message should be considered inappropriate. Condolences should be directed to a surviving spouse, the adult children of the deceased, of the family member you know best. Many atheists will want gifts directed to humanitarian or scientific causes rather than flowers, and it is desirable to respect their wishes whenever possible.
Important note: The statements made about beliefs and rites are general in nature and may vary by sect, denomination, country or ethnic group. The information provided here is intended as an overview, and if you have questions about specific matters you should contact the clergy or other person conducting the funeral service. If you read anything in this section that differs from the beliefs in your tradition, please contact us so we can update this page.