The Beauty Of A Funeral That Is Spiritual, But Not Religious

I remember growing up and going to funerals of distant family members… and, I rarely enjoyed them.

They always managed to look, sound and feel the same to me.

And when it came my time to be a part of a close family member’s funeral, I tried to throw in something that was NOT a part of the “program”. I felt determined to switch up the way we remembered our loved ones,  because otherwise it felt meaningless to me.

But what do I know? I was young, and I wasn’t aware of the traditions, religions and meaning behind the typical funeral practices that exist today. I was, after all, raised in a “spiritual, but not religious,” family.

But recently, I read a fact that said about a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) now say they think of themselves as “spiritual” but not religious.

Does that mean there are more people like me, who don’t have a reason to follow religious traditions, and are seeking ways to create meaning, ritual and intention around a loved one’s death?

The answer: YES. An astounding yes.

The shift from religious to non-religious… what does it mean?

If you’ve dug your nose in any news headlines about funerals or death, you’ll notice that just about everyone is looking for (and creating) something that is non-traditional and non-religious for their own, or a loved one’s funeral.

This something is what I call “spiritual, but not religious”.

I know that many communities thrive on the religion they follow. And that religion is still very much an importance piece of culture.

But in the future, I don’t see religion remaining as important as it does today.

In fact, a recent study done by Doug Gober noted that of the families in America planning funerals today, 19%  have no religious affiliation, 24% affiliate, but are inactive and 43% don’t attend church.

So what do we do with these changes? Do we point at them and say “bad!” Do we try and wish them away? Or… do we embrace them? I tend to think the latter.

After all, we’ve learned that by embracing change in the funeral profession, magic can actually happen. Take Eterneva, Soul Midwives, or these other start-ups, for example.

With all that to say, here are 5 things I think make the movement of funerals that are “spiritual, but not religious” beautiful (and what we can learn from them):

1. They invite people to decide what’s meaningful to them.

Rather than following traditions or religions that do not resonate with them.

2. They can create new and positive rituals.

Rituals that are more relevant to the beliefs of modern humans and future generations.

3. They create a space of creativity.

Where there is no tradition or schedule to follow, there is a brand new space to be filled. And this space will require people (and businesses) to get their creative juices flowing.

4. They often focus on individualism and authenticity.

Funerals that follow no tradition are often focused more on the individual and their unique story, rather than a story that has been told many times before.

5. They bring people together.

If there is no church to go to, where do people gather? Who serves the food? This experience offers a chance for the community to step up and support each other in new ways.


Final words

As you can see, a lot of what makes “spiritual, but not religious” funerals beautiful centers around community, meaning and authenticity. And it’s no coincidence that these three keywords describe, in whole, what a lot of the families of the future are looking for.

All of this beauty around non-religion doesn’t make religion bad. It just highlights the need to create options around non-religious folks.

What do you think  about the matter? What do you find beautiful in “spiritual, but not religious” funerals? Tell me in the comments below!


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  1. BCO

    For sure funerals bring people together, and that’s amazing in some cases because normally there are problems in families… Funerals are sad moments, but they can help make families stronger.

    Also, agree with all your words.

    Thanks for your article.

  2. Krystal Penrose

    Hi BCO, thank you for the comment. It’s true, a funeral isn’t at all butterflies and rainbows. It’s tough for families, and what a beautiful time to show ourselves and each other all of the opportunities for healing that are there for us. I can be quite an optimist when looking at this, because I’ve faced a lot of death in my life and have seen it bring my family together. Although I see both sides, and I hope that we can all see these as opportunities to grow. Thanks!

  3. Keith Sanders

    Funerals are horrible moments, but they usually make people come together so I think they are kind of good in some ways