There are many people today who are not religious. The fact they are not religious is not a philosophical or theological belief; for them it is simply a matter of getting on with the practical matters of life, including job, family and friends, and religious matters never claimed a portion their life.
An Overview of Beliefs
Non-religious people are just that. They are not anti-religion as atheist are, or even agnostic, unsure if there is a God. Often non-religious had a family religious tradition to which they felt connected when they were younger, but did not practice it when they became older. Some non-religious people live very simple lives, others are consumed by work or investments and material gain. They do not normally think in spiritual terms, but are often concerned that their families are well cared for after their demise.
Views on Death and the After-Life
Non-religious people have widely varying views about death and the after-life. Unless you personally know the views of the departed it is probably best to stay away from discussions on this matter at the funeral. Some people who attend the funerals of the non-religious sometimes try to impose their own beliefs on the family and friends in attendance, but this is never a polite thing to do. It is best to accept the fact that the deceased did not have any compelling views on death or the afterlife and be satisfied with that knowledge.
Mourning and Funeral Rites
Non-religious people will either prepare a service that they feel will meet their needs before they die, or they will be happy to let their family decide on the content of the funeral service. Sometimes the funeral of a non-religious person will be very much like that of a religious person, or it could be a time of sharing stories and listening to the music the deceased person liked best.
In many cases, there will be no public funeral at all. The only observance may be a simple graveside remembrance limited to members of the immediate family.
How to Express your Condolences
Expressions of sympathy can be a note of condolence, flowers, meals for the family, or a donation to a favorite charity. It is always best to express your condolences to the surviving spouse and family when possible, but otherwise you should send a card or letter of condolence when you first hear of the death. If you send a card it would be respectful if you selected one that was non-religious in nature.
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 usso we can update this page.