Holy Saturday and the Atheist’s Funeral

On this first Saturday between Jesus‘ death and resurrection, the disciples must have really contemplated death. The events of the previous day had begun to sink in but tomorrow’s hope had not yet dawned. This hopeless meditiation on death made me interested to read Richard Dawkins’ views on dying. The archpriest of the new atheism is getting on a bit now and has evidently made plans for his send-off.

Sophie Elmhirst, writing in the Guardian back in 2015, recorded him saying

“I’d like to go on living for a while longer.” Death itself didn’t worry him, though he expressed frustration at the thought of all the scientific and technological progress he would miss. His funeral was semi-planned. There will be no prayers, obviously, but the ceremony will include the first sentences of his 1998 book, Unweaving the Rainbow: “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born”. Also, the Elephant March from the opera Aida, “It’s triumphal,” Dawkins said. “Going out on a high.”

When he passes from this life to the next, fully conscious, fully him, just without his body, what will he think? How long will it take him to realise he’s still alive, and no-one is playing a prank? How soon will it be for him to think “Oh dear, I was wrong about this one”? His friends and fans back at the funeral will be none the wiser. They’ll be eulogising a life spent attacking religion and remembering him by his favourite music.

Of course, he might say the same of me. I spent my life dedicated to a Saviour who is not there to greet me when I enter heaven. I simply stop existing, because I am nothing more than my body. Having died and not received my place in heaven, I shall not be disappointed or annoyed; after all, I don’t exist anymore.

I trust the promises Jesus made: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:3.

If I am wrong, then I am a fool, but I’ll not be there to feel stupid. If I’m right, then the day of my death will be the best day of my life. Unlike Dawkins who wishes to be here as long as possible, I’m happy to be taken when my Lord sees fit. The Christian dies and suffers in this world just like everyone else. But we know that Sunday‘s coming.  

Image by Neil Chappell from Pixabay