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Atheists, please share your viewpoint


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#1    J. K.

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 03:44 PM

I remember reading about a movement to remove some memorial crosses from military land somewhere.  I tried to find the article again, but couldn't.  If my memory is correct, an atheist group wanted the crosses removed in regard to separation of church and state.

This thought occurred to me later.  I've been a believer in God since childhood, so the concept of an afterlife has always been present with me.  However, I wondered how an atheist would deal with that concept.  Does it affect his view of memorials such as the Vietnam Wall?  Does it affect her view of a cemetery?

(And I do realize there will be different opinions, that all atheists probably don't have 100% identical outlooks).

I am curious; how do you feel about these things?  Do memorials and cemeteries serve a purpose, or are they seen as primarily symbols of a religious outlook?

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#2    Magicjax

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 04:22 PM

I've been to many memorials. I find them just as emotional as any religious person would. Some of them have brought me to tears.

At the Vietnam memorial it was pretty overwhelming. I looked at all the names and knew that every single one of them represented a real person who died. Every one of them had a name, a personality, a family and a story. On top of that seeing people either crying or you could just see in their eyes that they where experiencing deep emotional memories.

For me life is about being remembered how I hope I'll be remembered. It's up to me to present myself through my words and actions to accomplish that goal. After I die I won't feel anything. So if in that last moment I can think to myself that I was able to earn the respect of the people I love then that will be the greatest moment of my life. That's my goal. And it'll be the sum of my entire life leading to that moment. After I'm gone it'll be up to the ones I left behind to keep my memory alive. So since I don't know when my last moment will come I'd better use every day to be in that place where I'm earning and retaining people respect. This, as an atheist, is what gives me what you might call morals. If I do others harm then that will tarnish my last moment of life.

And what is a memorial? It's a way of honoring someone life and accomplishment. It's a way of keeping someone's memory alive. Someone has earned that kind of respect to those left behind and someone respected them enough to build a monument to better ensure they will not be forgotten.

So yes. As an Atheist I definitely can be moved by a memorial and feel emotions from what or who they pay tribute to.

Edited by Magicjax, 13 April 2012 - 04:24 PM.

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#3    HerNibs

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 04:50 PM

View PostJ. K., on 13 April 2012 - 03:44 PM, said:

I remember reading about a movement to remove some memorial crosses from military land somewhere.  I tried to find the article again, but couldn't.  If my memory is correct, an atheist group wanted the crosses removed in regard to separation of church and state.

This thought occurred to me later.  I've been a believer in God since childhood, so the concept of an afterlife has always been present with me.  However, I wondered how an atheist would deal with that concept.  Does it affect his view of memorials such as the Vietnam Wall?  Does it affect her view of a cemetery?

(And I do realize there will be different opinions, that all atheists probably don't have 100% identical outlooks).

I am curious; how do you feel about these things?  Do memorials and cemeteries serve a purpose, or are they seen as primarily symbols of a religious outlook?


I don't see memorials or cemeteries as having anything to do with my atheism.

I visit memorials quite often.  To reflect and remember what the memorial stands for.  I also visit the graves of family members for the same reason.  

Regarding removing religious icons in a cemetery, nah, I just want each cemetery (government run or owned) should allow EVERY symbol that represents the person being interred.

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#4    Rlyeh

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 05:47 PM

Religious symbols on memorials doesn't affect me, I think of the people who lost their lives, who passed on, etc.


#5    Euphorbia

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 07:21 PM

View PostJ. K., on 13 April 2012 - 03:44 PM, said:

I remember reading about a movement to remove some memorial crosses from military land somewhere.  I tried to find the article again, but couldn't.  If my memory is correct, an atheist group wanted the crosses removed in regard to separation of church and state.

This thought occurred to me later.  I've been a believer in God since childhood, so the concept of an afterlife has always been present with me.  However, I wondered how an atheist would deal with that concept.  Does it affect his view of memorials such as the Vietnam Wall?  Does it affect her view of a cemetery?

(And I do realize there will be different opinions, that all atheists probably don't have 100% identical outlooks).

I am curious; how do you feel about these things?  Do memorials and cemeteries serve a purpose, or are they seen as primarily symbols of a religious outlook?

As a lifelong Atheist, I believe that there are places in government (both land and buildings) where religious symbols and texts should not be present as they tend to endorse only one kind of religion.

Cemeteries and memorials however should be exempt from these exclusions (at least to an extent). In a cemetery, I believe that each plot is owned by the person buried in it. They should be able to have whatever they want on their tombstone or marker as long as it isn't offensive language (which I've never seen). So I'm not offended by religious symbols or words at cemeteries.  Memorials generally also have markers for all of the faiths of those that are memorialized. At least from what I've seen.

Some cemeteries have sections for Christians and different sections for Jewish people, etc. This I am also OK with. My only objection would be at memorials where there is a huge Christian cross overlooking plots representing people from many different religions (or including the non-religious). I would be rolling over in my grave were this to happen to me (like I could actually do that).

There's always going to be a small minority of Atheists that are going to be very demanding and very outspoken in their views. While I can sympathize with some of their views, this is one that I am completely against!

As far as Atheists go, there are as many views as there are Atheists out there. Our only real link is a lack of belief in a god or deities.

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#6    Meiliken

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 10:27 AM

I'm not an atheist, but I don't believe in manmade religions.  With that in mind, do memorials bother me? Nay, for they are there to remember the past.  Cemetaries on the other hand I think has outlived its usefulness.  Saving bodies that are doing nothing more than decomposing, and at a much slower rate than normal thanks to embalming fluid makes no rational sense.  If you add together all the cemetaries in the U.S. you could have enough farmland to eliminate hunger the world over, much less the cemetaries in other countries.  Like animals in the wild decompose and refertilize the land, we need to allow our bodies do the same.  I think all bodies should be cremated and the ashes plowed into the ground as fertilizer.  South Park did a good musical number from Mr Hanky the christmas poo about everything starting our as poo on the ground, making plants grow.  Then animals eat the plants, meat eaters eat the plant eaters, and mankind eats both.  Then it all turns back into poo again.  You came from the ground.  Denying the ground your bodies which was made from it is simply not fair.  Oh no Earth, you've got a case of the Humans! ;)

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#7    Mr Walker

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 02:20 PM

As a social historian and genealogist I love cemeteries. I loved them as an atheist and as a theist. I have visited hundreds of them and the information one can gain about people and societies is fascinating.  I have done a number of full cemety studies creating maps and gathering statistics of country cemetries going back to the  mid 1800s and looking at things like infant mortality rates and cause of death as well as life expectancies. It is horrifying to realise how tenuous life was in those days.

One woman inmy local rea (she lived only a mile or two from where we lived for 20 years)lost all 14 of her children, over 2 years, to diptheria in the 1860s. She then committed suicide. In the mining town of moonta, where my great grandfather taught in the 1870s, infant mortality was something like 70%. He lost two of his own 3  infant children born while they were there. Then piped water was brought in, and the infant mortality rate immediately fell to less than 20 %, as diseases like typhoid and cholera disappeared.
I have been several times to the small quorn cemetery. Ther you get all the afghan graves pointing to mecca. All the catholic ones pointing to the rising sun withtheir priests at the head of the section and closest to the sun so tha they can lead them forward on the ressurection day. MAny people are buried outside the hallowed/consecrated ground, and a fascinating overview of ordinary australain pioneers and their descendants over  more than a 130 years, makes up the rest of the site.

Edited by Mr Walker, 14 April 2012 - 02:33 PM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

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#8    White Crane Feather

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 02:53 PM

Memorials are for the living not the dead. I sort of think it's silly to occupy  piece of land for so many years . Just bury me under an oak tree so I can become part if tge tree or coat my body in honey and peanut butter and leave me out in bear country. No sense in waisting all this flesh I have stored up over the years.

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#9    ShadowSot

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:40 PM

The issue with the crosses was due to the laws giving assigning crosses to anyone who died and was buried in a State cemetery, regardless of their religious beliefs or wishes.

  Personally, as long as the person's wishes are respected I have no issues with cemeteries, and especially not with memorials.
Memorials are there to be reminders, so that hopefully, whatever events inspired the memorial do not occur again.
(Not that this usually works, unfortunately.)

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#10    willowdreams

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 10:30 PM

View PostJ. K., on 13 April 2012 - 03:44 PM, said:

I remember reading about a movement to remove some memorial crosses from military land somewhere.  I tried to find the article again, but couldn't.  If my memory is correct, an atheist group wanted the crosses removed in regard to separation of church and state.

This thought occurred to me later.  I've been a believer in God since childhood, so the concept of an afterlife has always been present with me.  However, I wondered how an atheist would deal with that concept.  Does it affect his view of memorials such as the Vietnam Wall?  Does it affect her view of a cemetery?

(And I do realize there will be different opinions, that all atheists probably don't have 100% identical outlooks).

I am curious; how do you feel about these things?  Do memorials and cemeteries serve a purpose, or are they seen as primarily symbols of a religious outlook?

thinking bout it.. and i realize.. i never thought of it, not really.

Memorials and cemeteries are important. NOT to the dead, but to the living, and not as in giving comfort, though emotionally I am sure it does to many, but for 'remembering'.

War/military memorials are important for remembering WHY there is a memorial, who and for what purpose the memorial was built. In hopes of our future and helping people to think twice before doing something.

Cemeteries are not so important and i think will eventually die out to where there are only a few, and the cemeteries that do exist will change shape. More and more people are being cremated unless there is some religious reason not to be. Ashes take less space, and many scatter them to begin with.

I actually think this can be a good thing. Originally our bodies were to decay and recycle in the earth, with coffins and 'metal boxes' that the coffins are put in when in the ground, this is no longer a major factor any more. So ashes are fine

That is my opinion on those, and as to religious symbols or any symbol for that matter, they do not effect the dead, they are for the living.

to each their own.

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#11    Meiliken

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:58 AM

View PostMr Walker, on 14 April 2012 - 02:20 PM, said:

As a social historian and genealogist I love cemeteries. I loved them as an atheist and as a theist. I have visited hundreds of them and the information one can gain about people and societies is fascinating.  I have done a number of full cemety studies creating maps and gathering statistics of country cemetries going back to the  mid 1800s and looking at things like infant mortality rates and cause of death as well as life expectancies. It is horrifying to realise how tenuous life was in those days.

One woman inmy local rea (she lived only a mile or two from where we lived for 20 years)lost all 14 of her children, over 2 years, to diptheria in the 1860s. She then committed suicide. In the mining town of moonta, where my great grandfather taught in the 1870s, infant mortality was something like 70%. He lost two of his own 3  infant children born while they were there. Then piped water was brought in, and the infant mortality rate immediately fell to less than 20 %, as diseases like typhoid and cholera disappeared.
I have been several times to the small quorn cemetery. Ther you get all the afghan graves pointing to mecca. All the catholic ones pointing to the rising sun withtheir priests at the head of the section and closest to the sun so tha they can lead them forward on the ressurection day. MAny people are buried outside the hallowed/consecrated ground, and a fascinating overview of ordinary australain pioneers and their descendants over  more than a 130 years, makes up the rest of the site.


As much as I think it is pointless to save dead bodies, I have to whole heartedly agree.  I love archeology and history.  It would be exciting to be in such a field.  Studying the past is most interesting.  I suppose if we didn't save the bodies, we'd have no link to them?  So I'm conflicted, sue me.

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself
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There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance
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A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
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Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
Aldous Huxley

#12    Mr Walker

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 01:58 AM

View PostMeiliken, on 15 April 2012 - 12:58 AM, said:

As much as I think it is pointless to save dead bodies, I have to whole heartedly agree.  I love archeology and history.  It would be exciting to be in such a field.  Studying the past is most interesting.  I suppose if we didn't save the bodies, we'd have no link to them?  So I'm conflicted, sue me.
There is another solution, although not as beautiful as cemeteries and unfortunately not as widespread. When our nephew died we paid for his cremation and had a plaque erected in a garden  attached to the funeral home.

We visit it now and then, and sometimes take his two girls, who were only babies when he died,  with us to think about him,

But this is not a public space like a cemetery, and while the present owners allow open visitation this is not assured. Also many people leave no historical record  of their time on earth Facebook doesnt cut it for me I am afraid Many of the graves i visited were wel over 100 years old. I doubt my history will still be available on the internet tha tfar in the future. This amkes it hard for genealogists.
A lot of cemeteries, even the old historical ones now have a wall or something like a rose garden  for such plaques and creamtion urns. This records the details but adds no social commentary about the society of the time, as the tombstones in a grave yard do.
Or perhaps it is the ultimate social comment on death in our times compared ewith past times. It is viewed as something utilitrian and the great equaliser, rather than a spiritual event and one where a persons social standing was reflected in their grave furnishings..
I began my family history by tracing back 4 generations of my family in the one cemetery going back to the mid 1800s in my home town. The stones gave details which allowed correlation and confirmation of family members,  relationships etc.

And old cemeteries are simply so beautiful, peaceful, and atmospheric, They often have the oldesr trees in a town, and you can find flowers growing there, wild and planted, which are no longer grown anywhere else. We often picnic at a small, and very old cemetery, right on the banks of a beautiful creek, shaded by old gum trees, where some of my mothers family are buried.

Edited by Mr Walker, 15 April 2012 - 02:03 AM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#13    Rocketgirl33

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:02 AM

I am not an atheist but I don't believe in God, Christ or any religion. I believe that everyone has the right to have their memory respected in any way that they wanted to be remembered or their family chooses to remember them. If they were Christians in life  then they deserve a christian burial or what their family wants them to have. I do not believe that ANY religious articles, symbols or writings should be displayed in public or in the constitution, our schools or any other public place. Christian writings and symbols should be confined to their private homes or house of worship, NO EXCEPTIONS.(this goes for ALL religions) People get so offended when atheists put some advertisements out in the public or even stand on a street corner and hand out pamphlets about atheism. My oldest son is an Atheist and his rights should be respected just the same as a Christians rights should be respected. So how would the Christians feel if he put an upside down cross on the hill next to their giant white cross? Angry, that's what they get! Funerals and burring the dead are observances for the living. Once your dead there isn't anything your going to care about down here!

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#14    Arbitran

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:27 AM

View PostJ. K., on 13 April 2012 - 03:44 PM, said:

I remember reading about a movement to remove some memorial crosses from military land somewhere.  I tried to find the article again, but couldn't.  If my memory is correct, an atheist group wanted the crosses removed in regard to separation of church and state.

This thought occurred to me later.  I've been a believer in God since childhood, so the concept of an afterlife has always been present with me.  However, I wondered how an atheist would deal with that concept.  Does it affect his view of memorials such as the Vietnam Wall?  Does it affect her view of a cemetery?

(And I do realize there will be different opinions, that all atheists probably don't have 100% identical outlooks).

I am curious; how do you feel about these things?  Do memorials and cemeteries serve a purpose, or are they seen as primarily symbols of a religious outlook?

Memorials don't concern me. I would personally see cemeteries as rather a waste of space and resources. Believe me, I wish to honor my deceased loved ones as much as anyone else, but I would firstly insist upon cremation as opposed to burial, and I try not to mourn to strongly. Death is a natural part of life: I try not to become terribly attached to things in general--particularly people. It was very hard for me when my late wife passed away, but I can't miss her too terribly--everything fades away eventually.

Additionally, I am a Hindu atheist--I accept the principle of reincarnation. That, as you can imagine, has a profound affect on my outlook as well. Namely, I do not fear death in the least. Nothing can ever truly harm anyone. Our souls, our minds, they cannot be damaged, or destroyed. We all ultimately live forever--only those that are truly at peace, and are completely assuaged can rest for a time. There are ghosts, and there is much more--much more than I can write out here that is. But these are my essential views on the matter.

In short, I would essentially cast my vote towards the "NO" category: I do not think that crosses, or cemeteries, or anything of the like is called for in the slightest.

Try to realize it's all within yourself / No-one else can make you change / And to see you're really only very small / And life flows on within you and without you. / We were talking about the love that's gone so cold and the people / Who gain the world and lose their soul / They don't know they can't see are you one of them? / When you've seen beyond yourself then you may find peace of mind / Is waiting there / And the time will come / when you see we're all one and life flows on within you and without you. ~ George Harrison

#15    Alienated Being

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 04:44 AM

Just because I am an atheist, that doesn't mean that I do not possess the capability of feeling emotion around death. I see memorials and funerals more-so as paying respect to those that have died rather than a religious ceremony.





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