Popular Secular Funeral Readings Taken From Fiction

A funeral is, at its core, a celebration and remembrance of a person’s life, and as a result, a lot of the elements of the ceremony are often moulded around the particular tastes, interests and lifelong passions of the person who is no longer with us.

If that individual is religious then this often takes the form of passages from religious texts that help to capture who they are in this life, what we can learn from them as well as assurances about what comes next. Often these are printed onto memorial bookmarks so we can retain these lessons.

However, not everybody’s life is shaped by their faith, and to commemorate them and provide hope and reassurance to everyone who knew them, there are many places to find meaningful readings, from speeches and essays to works of fiction.

Here are some of the most popular and why they mean so much to so many in such difficult circumstances.


Tears In Rain Monologue

The Phillip K Dick Novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep has a lot of interesting questions to ask about the value of life in all forms, both organic and artificial, and those questions would be brought to a wider audience in the form of the 1982 film Blade Runner.

However, despite the amazing writing of Mr Dick, the most powerful 42 words in the entire film came as the result of an ad-lib by actor Rutger Hauer.

Playing Roy Batty, a replicant artificial human who knows that their short life is about to end reflects on all of the sights they have seen, ones that are beyond the comprehension of many of the people he has met in his life, before lamenting that these memories will be washed away like tears in rain.

It was used in Rutger Hauer’s own obituary, David Bowie also quoted it when sending flowers to his half-brother’s funeral and has been a powerful message in many secular funerals since.


The Agnostic’s Prayer

The 1969 science-fiction novel Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny was published largely by accident, was out of print for decades until long after he had died and was filled with unique mythological allusions and odd writing choices.

It also has the funny, ironic but surprisingly powerful Agnostic’s Prayer (also known as Madrak’s Possibly Proper Death Litany), a caring and heartfelt expression of the often-confused feelings that can come from death and the genuine hope that wherever and whatever happens next, they are cared for.

This may not be the best choice if the person was not known for their sense of humour and was not specifically agnostic or atheist.


Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury’s legendary novel about censorship and book burning Fahrenheit 451 is mostly a passionate defence of literary freedom in the face of increasing censorship and book burning caused by the Red Scare.

However, it also has an incredible passage near its end (Page 200 of the Harper Voyager edition), about the importance of memory and legacy, and how it is measured in the way we change and imprint the lives around us, be that a child, a garden, a painting or a book.