Non-Religious Funerals - Humanist
By Martin Heikens
A Humanist funeral, according to the British Humanist
Association (BHA), is 'simply more appropriate for those
who neither lived according to religious principles, nor
accepted religious views of life or death. A Humanist
Funeral or memorial ceremony recognises no after-life,
but instead uniquely and affectionately celebrates the
life of the person who has died'.
In other words, Humanists do not believe in a God, but
rather in taking responsibility for one's own life and
actions, based on tolerance and respect for fellow human
beings, as well as for the world in which we live.
Demand for non-religious, humanist funerals in modern,
secular society is growing, as people for whom religion
has no real relevance in their everyday lives become
increasingly alienated by the format of religious
In this context, a Humanist ceremony provides an
alternative celebration of a life that has ended, which
is free from religious worship; the focus is entirely on
celebrating the life and unique humanity of the deceased
and on offering comfort to those mourning the death of a
The Funeral Ceremony
The ceremony is first and foremost a celebration of an
individual's life and their unique human value and
The format is, therefore, largely determined by those
who wish to speak or contribute with readings, tributes
and fond memories of the deceased. Ultimately, the aim
is to provide mutual support and comfort for the
saddened and bereaved, in a non-religious setting.
Reassuringly, there are no 'rights and wrongs' where
organising this type of civil funeral is concerned
apart, of course, from adhering to the basic legal and
The following considerations, therefore, are mentioned
merely as guidelines:
No two Humanist ceremonies are alike. By its very
nature, a humanist ceremony is highly personalised and
individually composed, with tributes, readings, poetry
and speeches, all equally acceptable. The eulogy is,
essentially, spontaneous and follows no strict format.
The ceremony can be conducted by a friend or relative
or, more commonly, by an accredited Humanist celebrant.
For a list of Humanist celebrants see resources below.
Official Humanist celebrants are trained to conduct
funerals according to the wishes of those closest to the
person who has died. They will take their time,
beforehand, to gain an in-depth understanding of the
true personality of the deceased in order to pay a
profound, honest and befitting tribute, without
reference to religious observance.
British Humanist Association (BHA): www.humanism.org.uk;
tel. 020 7079 3580; address: 1 Gower Street, London,
'Funerals without God': 'A practical guide to
non-religious funerals'; booklet available from the BHA.
Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS):
Funeral Services Guide is a comprehensive guide which
provides services for in life planning, arranging a
funeral, remembrance and coping with bereavement. For
more information on Non Religious Funerals - Humanist
Funerals, please click on the following link: Humanist