Funerals: Special Occasions for The Dead Or the Living?

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“Funerals are for the living not the dead”

My initial thoughts to the statement are that I partially agree, due to the fact that I believe that funerals are both for the living (as a final send off to God from a religious-Muslim perspective to make the bereaved feel better about where the deceased will eventually end up-re-assurance), as well as the dead to respect and celebrate the events in their lives. Furthermore, at Muslim funerals, people are encouraged to read surah’s i.e. Surah Yasin and recite Du’ahs to make the occasion easier to bear with; by reading the words of God, as well as the Surah’s being read being believed to bless the dead so that Allah has mercy on their soul, suggesting the funerals are both for the living and the dead and also because many Muslims believe that the dead can still hear the living, so funerals are important to say good things about those that have died.

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In addition to this, Atheists my strongly disagree with my viewpoint regarding the statement and would strongly support the statement, because they do not believe in a soul and therefore, the funeral is not to wish for blessings of the soul of the deceased in order for them to reach Heaven. However, an alternative could be that funerals are only for the living as a reminder of how to live your life right in a moral sense (due to the different messages implied in the various readings), so that those attending can reflect and find meaning and purpose in our continued living, even in the face of loss following the service. Also, further enhancing that point, Atheists may argue that funerals are for the living not the dead, due to the person whose funeral it is being dead and being unaware that the funeral is even taking place.

However, a limitation to this view is that it seems a bit selfish to attend a funeral just to think that it is for you, because it might distract you from the reason you are actually in attendance; to mark the significance of the life that was lived. Funerals are also perhaps for the dead as they bring together people who care about the person who died in an atmosphere of love and support which is likely to be what the deceased would have primarily wanted. Therefore, some may believe that funerals are for the deceased and not really for the living because the living are ‘re-paying’ the dead for bringing happiness into their lives by being a loved-one that has attended the funeral, which is what the dead person would have wanted.

Furthermore, many Fundamentalist Christians would agree with my viewpoint, because they believe that funerals are for the living, to help come to the realisation that that the deceased is no longer suffering, because they believe that if the person that died was a good Christian, then they will end up in Heaven (even if it’s through Purgatory), because the Bible recounts that Jesus said, ‘The only way to get to Heaven is through me’. Also, the Bible says, ‘There are many rooms in God’s house’, being another quote to reassure the living that the dead will be fine in the afterlife. With regards to how Christians believe that funerals are for the dead, any prayers of forgiveness for example for the deceased could be the difference between him/her going to Hell and having a chance to go to Heaven through Purgatory, which is an obvious benefit for the dead.

On the other hand, limitations to this point is are that some liberal Christians may say that although funerals are for both the living and the dead, they are more so for the living, because they encourage love and uniformity of families and also encourage people to follow one of the most important rules in Christianity (The golden rule), stating, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’, implying that if you do so, you will one day make it to Heaven. Therefore, some liberal Christians may argue that funerals are a way of getting blessings just by attending mainly for yourself and not necessarily for the dead, as you show love due to sharing a common factor; that someone you know died and so by loving each other, it helps you console one another. However, none of this benefits the dead person, due to the fact that it only makes the living feel better about the situation.

In light of the discussion, I have come to a sustained conclusion that funerals are equally for the living as they are for the dead because they help people reflect on life and perhaps not take it for granted, as well as helping people to embrace the wonder of life and death, but also, funerals are for the dead as they are held to emphasise the respect shown for the deceased during the time they had as a physical being on Earth, as well as treating them with dignity once they have died. For example, even Pontius Pilot allowed Joseph to take Jesus’ body down for the cross in order for him to be buried and to have a small funeral service for him at the tomb.

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