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View Full Version : Are funerals the ultimate act of human selfishness



Maciamo
06-02-07, 20:33
I don't believe in an immortal soul or heaven. For me, once you die, your are gone and that's it. Nothing to worry about as you won't realise that you are dead. So why have funerals ?

Originally, in ancient times, ceremonial burial was meant as a way for the soul to travel safely to the after-life.

Ancient Egyptians had a intricate process of mummification, with numerous symbols and all sorts of rituals, that were supposed to facilitate the defunct journey to his/her new home, and wait for reincarnation. Other religions have all had their beliefs and superstitions on how to proceed with the ceremony. The body had to be interred in the ground and preserved in a coffin, or, on the contrary, burnt to prevent putrefaction and accelerate the cycle of rebirth.

What is common to humans of almost all cultures and religions is rich or powerful people's desire to leave impressive mausoleums or monuments in their own selfish memory. Christian cemeteries in Britain, France, Austria, or the USA are good examples of this disproportional self-esteem, where mini-temples (some with statues) are erected to the glory of a single man (more often than women). But this is far from being a Christian characteristic. Some of the world's biggest tombs belong to other religions : the Pyramid of Giza (ancient Egyptian), the Mausoleum in Halicarnassos (ancient Greek), the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang (ancient Chinese), the Taj Mahal (Muslim Indian)...

In many parts of the world, funerals are an expensive business. It can cost tens of thousands of euros/dollars for a regular funeral in Japan, and sometimes several thousands euros/dollars just for the priest to choose a new Buddhist name for the defunct (see article (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8769)).

Even in the West, people spend huge amounts of money on stone monuments, fancy coffins/caskets, flowers, expensive ceremonies with as many guests as possible... and for what ? Nothing. The main concerned is not there to witness it. It doesn't serve any practical purpose. It causes financial loss to the grieved ones. And what is more, it is morbid.


So, are tombs and funerals just a way for someone to display one's financial success in life in order to boast one last time ? Is there any more egotistic behaviour than that ? I even hear people (on TV !) worrying that nobody would come at the funerals, as if it would matter for them at the time ! Unbelievable. I am speechless !


I have explained in this thread (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10555) (2.5 years ago) that I didn't want any funerals when I die. I go even further. I also do not want any (religious) ceremony, nor being buried in a cemetery (waste of space, religious connotation). I would give my body to science, but it seems that even this is not free in this country ! For philosophical reasons, I would much rather have my body eaten by animals (which accelerate the natural cycle of life) than to be cremated (which pollutes the air and destroy organic matter).

I would describe this choice as motivated by natural, ecological, practical, financial, and anti-religious reasons. I hope this becomes the way of the future.

Kinsao
08-02-07, 16:13
I can see your point about the waste of money and resources that goes into a big, expensive funeral, and the egoisme of ostentatious monuments.

On the other hand, the process of going through a funeral is part of the grieving process for some relatives and friends. Of course not everyone, but some people find it mentally helpful to be able to 'say goodbye' - have a final marking-off point, if you like, at which they can 'say goodbye' to that person. It can help them come to the realisation that the person is 'really dead' (yes, I know that is not logical, because they know the person is actually dead, but the emotions in the brain at such times of stress and/or shock often override the logic). It gives them a designated space, both physical and mental, to focus on thinking about the person, remembering them and such, and this can also help people to come to terms with someone's death. It also acts as important social networking at that difficult time, helping the people 'left behind' (a widow or widower, for example) feel supported by their family and community of friends. (Again, I know that it doesn't always work out like that, and the 'support' offered could be shallow or just out of social convention, but the way it makes people feel at the time still matters. And things do come out of that; for example, I am still in touch with an old friend of my father's who we had fallen out of touch with but he attended at his funeral and we have stayed friends since that time.) People feel more that they are not alone in their sorrow and they have people to turn to.

Personally, as I am not bothered by death I don't see funerals as morbid but I suppose that depends on the attitude and feelings of the person attending. Similarly I don't care what happens to my body when I die and I don't care if I have a funeral or not. I would of course like something most 'eco-friendly' rather than something that's going to be damaging to the environment. I realise there are space issues but burial seems to me to be a reasonable option (with a cardboard or willow coffin maybe), or I might donate my body to science. As I'll be dead I won't give a damn about my funeral but it is my relatives' and friends' last chance to 'say goodbye' and they can do that in whatever way the hell they want! I'd like to make it clear though that I wouldn't want a lot of money spent.

Maciamo
08-02-07, 17:52
On the other hand, the process of going through a funeral is part of the grieving process for some relatives and friends. Of course not everyone, but some people find it mentally helpful to be able to 'say goodbye' - have a final marking-off point, if you like, at which they can 'say goodbye' to that person.
I don't see how it changes anything. Funerals usually take places several days (sometimes over a week) after the death, and personally this is more than enough time to realise that the person is gone forever.

It gives them a designated space, both physical and mental, to focus on thinking about the person, remembering them and such, and this can also help people to come to terms with someone's death.
I really cannot understand why some people need a formal setting to focus on a person's death if they cared even a bit about them. For me it only accentuates the psychological pressure to see other people grieving. It has happened to me to cry and feel very uncomfortable while attending a funeral of someone I didn't even know, as if I "absorbed" the feelings of people around me (in the same way that laughter is contagious). I suppose it's only natural as I already cry (of joy or sadness) at the cinema, from seeing the actors' emotions, even when I know it's a fiction. So it can only feel stronger with real people.

It also acts as important social networking at that difficult time, helping the people 'left behind' (a widow or widower, for example) feel supported by their family and community of friends.
On the contrary, I feel it is pretty shallow to restrict this display of support to a formal event (the funeral), while anybody who actually cared could show their support to the widow(er) anytime by visiting them. I can't help seeing the funeral as a hypocritical event for those who do not care enough to be with the grieved ones the rest of the time.

If a funeral is just an opportunity to meet relatives or old friends you haven't seen in a long time, I find it is a morbid way to socialise. I am the kind of person who doesn't want to meet people (anybody, from close friends to strangers) when I am in a bad mood or feel bad. That's why I decided about 10 years ago never to attend funerals anymore.

Personally, as I am not bothered by death I don't see funerals as morbid but I suppose that depends on the attitude and feelings of the person attending.
I am not sure if it is because I do not believe in an immortal soul, but death does bother me somehow. Actually I can be very cold and insensitive about it when I don't care (or worse dislike/hate) someone who has died. But the reverse is true too. I only feel a greater loss when someone I am attached to disappears, as I do not have the comfort of thinking that I will meet them again in the afterlife, or that they are in a "better place" (heaven). But it is still a waste to spend money on a tomb because the deceased person absolutely cannot be aware it.

I also don't really care what people do with my body after I die, except that I find it would be utterly disrespectful to my memory to have a religious ceremony and/or tomb. And why would someone who doesn't respect me want to spend money for my funeral or tomb anyway ?

Mitsuo
10-02-07, 05:00
I also don't really care what people do with my body after I die, except that I find it would be utterly disrespectful to my memory to have a religious ceremony and/or tomb. And why would someone who doesn't respect me want to spend money for my funeral or tomb anyway ?

Why would you care. You're dead. j/k. I know what you're saying.
Personally, I would prefer my funeral to be more like a party. Not a party to celebrate my death, but to celebrate the life I lived. People laughing, throwing down a few drinks, music, dancing. All in the while my body is swinging around on the ceiling naked with a disco ball to my side...scratch that. But in all seriousness, I just don't like the idea of having people sad over me.

But like you Mac, I really don't care what happens to my body when I'm dead. If they want a week long funeral, then hey I can't stop them. If it helps them, then I encourage it. Although, a massive pyramid in my honor, on all continents would seem appropriate. But what can I do.

Duo
04-03-07, 23:12
Haha, this reminds me of the movie wedding crashers where the character played by Will Ferrell would go to funerals to pick up girls :D

Well i don't understand one thing about funerals. Why are countless acres of land taken up by dead bodies buried in them, which prolly dont even exist anymore, tomb stones lying around everywhere, in that case i think cremation is better or donating organs and other such things for transplants or medical students would be much better.

road-finder
19-02-09, 22:33
Agreed with Duo.
Donating organs and other such things for transplants or medical students would be much better.

JackMack
28-05-09, 23:34
I don't believe in an immortal soul or heaven. For me, once you die, your are gone and that's it. Nothing to worry about as you won't realise that you are dead. So why have funerals ?

Originally, in ancient times, cermonial burial was meant as a way for the soul to travel safely to the after-life.

Ancient Egyptians had a intricate process of mummification, with numerous symbols and all sorts of rituals, that were supposed to facilitate the defunct's journey to his/her new home, and wait for reincarnation. Other religions have all had their beliefs and superstitions on how to proceed with the ceremony. The body had to be interred in thr ground and preserved in a coffin, or, on the contrary, burnt to prevent putrefaction and accelerate the cycle of rebirth.

What is common to humans of almost all cultures and religions is rich or powerful people's desire to leave impressive mausoleums or monuments in their own selfish memory. Christian cemeteries in Britain, France, Austria, or the USA are good examples of this disproportional self-esteem, where mini-temples (some with statues) are errected to the glory of a single man (more often than women). But this is far from being a Christian characteristic. Some of the world's biggest tombs belong to other religions : the Pyramid of Giza (ancient Egyptian), the Mausoleum in Halicarnassos (ancient Greek), the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang (ancient Chinese), the Taj Mahal (Muslim Indian)...

In many parts of the world, funerals are an expensive business. It can cost tens of thousands of euros/dollars for a regular funeral in Japan, and sometimes several thousands euros/dollars just for the priest to choose a new Buddhist name for the defunct (see article (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8769)).

Even in the West, people spend huge amounts of money on stone monuments, fancy coffins/caskets, flowers, expensive ceremonies with as many guests as possible... and for what ? Nothing. The main concerned is not there to witness it. It doesn't serve any practical purpose. It causes financial loss to the grieved ones. And what is more, it is mobid.


So, are tombs and funerals just a way for someone to display one's financial success in life in order to boast one last time ? Is there any more egotistic behaviour than that ? I even hear people (on TV !) worrying that nobody would come at the funerals, as if it would matter for them at the time ! Unbelievable. I am speechless !


I have explained in this thread (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10555) (2.5 years ago) that I didn't want any funerals when I die. I go even further. I also do not want any (religious) ceremony, nor being buried in a cemetery (waste of space, religious connotation). I would give my body to science, but it seems that even this is not free in this country ! For philosophical reasons, I would much rather have my body eaten by animals (which accelerate the natural cycle of life) than to be cremated (which pollutes the air and destroy organic matter).

I would describe this choice as motivated by natural, ecological, practical, financial, and anti-religious reasons. I hope this becomes the way of the future.

Funerals are for the living....not the dead. It's better to neatly package up the remains and let the living grieve for a bit- and maybe even to display the "wealth" of the deceased then to simply let a body fall where it does and step over it. I think the Neanderthals or some form of early man used to do that.:laughing:

Maciamo
29-05-09, 12:27
Funerals are for the living....not the dead. It's better to neatly package up the remains and let the living grieve for a bit- and maybe even to display the "wealth" of the deceased then to simply let a body fall where it does and step over it. I think the Neanderthals or some form of early man used to do that.:laughing:

The Neanderthals buried their deads. I have heard people say that funerals are a civilized way of taking care of the deads, but burials have existed for far longer than civilizations. It's part of a primitive way of life. One advantage of the practice of burial is that it preserves valuable skeletons for archeologists, and leaves DNA for geneticists (as opposed to cremation).

himagain
29-01-12, 04:19
Call me morbid if you wish. I find visiting cemeteries fascinating due to my interest in history, sculpture, and as a place to sit and contemplate without interruption. I have visited cemeteries at night to set up my telescope for astronomical observations in a dark place. I appreciate cemeteries for the trees and bushes they preserve. In other words, while I am in sympathy with some of Maciamo's observations about the expense and ego involved, I feel that cemeteries, per se, are useful and valuable to me.

Jomid59
13-05-12, 23:11
For me, once you die, your are gone and that's it.
For me that is an untenable position, it removes any moral, ethical and psychological barriers as to how I act in the here and now.


simply let a body fall where it does and step over it.
When did "man" realise that dead & rotting bodies can harbour disease? they smell pretty bad as well.


leaves DNA for geneticists (as opposed to cremation).
Shame, I would like a great party around my pyre and ashes scattered to the waters. But then I do hope to have my entire genome sequenced before I die.

OP: Are funerals the ultimate act of human selfishness ?
I think so, yes.

Selfish: "devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others."

By stating how I wish my dead body to be dealt with I am by default thinking only of myself even if I think it is best for the environment, or that it will save money, or that it is what my family would want, or .....

Those who mourn do so because of the hurt (mainly) that the loss has caused to them, the individual realisation of how fragile life is for all of us, spoken words to show others (external validation) that we cared regardless of what may be the actual truth - "do not speak ill of the dead".