“Now it is time to say our final goodbyes,” said the humanist funeral celebrant, a sour look on her face. “Hugo is gone. And we won’t see him again.” The curtain was pulled around the coffin. An uneasy silence descended.

I looked at my companion and he shrugged. I stifled a giggle, but I was laughing with nerves, for in truth the whole thing was so utterly disconcerting that I have rarely felt so depressed.

We had been subjected to an hour of poems and pop music, speeches and trite interjections telling us how to feel by this prim lady, the celebrant, in her strange business suit, standing on a platform that wasn’t a pulpit. She was talking down to us, only not with the authority of any higher being, which made her pompous attitude very hard to take.

Oh, the despair of a non-believer’s funeral. Surely, there is nothing so soul-destroying. I suppose that is exactly what these affairs are meant to do. Destroy any notion that we have a soul.

I have been to a couple of these strange occasions now, which seem to be growing in popularity. It always strikes me as deeply awkward when people attempt to give their loved one a send-off by proclaiming that they are not going anywhere. It’s much more convoluted than a conventional funeral with hymns and prayers.

And it doesn’t really work. In theory, I can totally understand why people might want to have a crack at atheism in this cynical world. But in practice, atheism does not deliver on any meaningful level and especially not once the chips are down. When push comes to shove, atheism is a fair-weather ideology.

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