Little book brings new ideas to funerals

  • by Kate Bowman
  • June 16, 2023

Have you heard of humanism? Many people are humanists without even knowing it. If you are non-religious and look to science, reason, empathy, and compassion in order to live an ethical and meaningful life you might be a humanist.

Throughout recorded history there have been non-religious people who have believed that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They have trusted to the scientific method, evidence, and reason to discover truths about the universe and have placed human welfare and happiness at the centre of their ethical decision making.

Today, people who share these beliefs and values are called humanists and this combination of attitudes is called humanism. Many millions of people share this way of living and of looking at the world, but many of them have not heard the word ‘humanist’ and don’t realise that it describes what they believe. A motto might be, “Think for yourself, Act for everyone“.

Humanists have developed their own unique approach to questions about life, death, and mortality over thousands of years. Recently, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson has co-authored a book with writer and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts.

The Little Book of Humanist Funerals, published on 8 June, invites readers to begin thinking about mortality, death, dying, and grief. Using quotes, meditations, and stories from Humanists UK celebrants, the book is both comforting and thought-provoking, drawing on the wisdom of some of history’s greatest thinkers to inspire readers to reflect on death and how this can shape their lives for the better. It quotes everyone from Shakespeare to Stephen Fry, Nelson Mandela to Zora Neale Hurston, and Marie Curie to Marcus Aurelius.

Taking readers on a journey from thinking about death to starting to think about the ideas, beliefs, and values that inform a funeral, Alice Roberts and Andrew Copson draw on these moving quotes, as well as the expertise of Humanists UK celebrants, to provide inspiration for organising ceremonies that are memorable and meaningful.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, says,

‘The book isn’t a “how-to” guide to arranging a funeral but an all-in-one book that will help readers begin to reflect on their own thoughts on death, dying, and grief – questions we so often put on hold! I hope it brings comfort to readers and inspires them to think about death in a way that shapes their lives for the better.’



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