A few weeks ago I was at yet another funeral. Oddly enough I find funerals to be rather uplifting affairs, bringing together a family and giving everyone a chance to reflect on the brevity of life and the limited time we have to do something really meaningful with it.
For me, a lifelong atheist, nothing throws this into sharper focus than the 30 minutes or so spent in a cold church, muttering hymns at my shoes and shuffling uncomfortably as the vicar tries (and on one splendid occasion failed repeatedly) to remember the name of the person he’s paying tribute to. For me the church, at least as a physical building if not an institution, is full of well-meaning folks who are completely wasting their lives talking to the sky.
I’m a liberal sort of fellow and have no objection to anyone doing whatever they wish with their time, within the bounds of not harming anyone else. Standing there in a cold church listening to a vicar none of us had met and an organist who couldn’t play I couldn’t help but reflect on the irony. Life is not everlasting. We can do good things with the brief time we have. The vicar and the organist were clearly ‘good people’, but to my mind they were great examples of how easy it is to waste it.