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Old 12-30-2013, 06:45 AM
 
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One problem of relating to the OP question is the apparent assumption that Christians who visit the graves of their loved ones do so because they think that they can make a direct like to Uncle Louie there or that he peeks down from his heavenly rest to check on who is visiting his rotting corpse. And then asking do non-theists do it for the same reasons too.

My mother's family a mixture of Christians and non-theists didn't have those attitudes. Family grave plots, and they were family plots of several generations, we family monuments that were kept up and confirmed family bonds. I never knew anyone to talk to the dead while visiting the graves, though the living certainly talked about their shared past with some of the dead.

As a non-believer visiting family plots is a matter of confirming family bonds among the living, or enhancing/recalling memories of the past as part of the annual ritual of cleaning the grave site.
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Old 12-30-2013, 06:56 AM
 
Location: Space Coast
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I love going to cemeteries and looking at gravestones. I wonder about who they were and what they were like. I also wonder things like how many acres is this place and what the natural habitat would have been like if it hadn't been developed to put dead bodies in the ground. My immediate family members were cremated with ashes scattered. In those cases I wonder about things like wind currents, erosion, and such. Once someone is dead, they're dead. I don't spend time wishing they weren't or thinking 'what if' and things like that. I remember the good times with a smile, glad to have known that person for a while as I move on with my life. Death is a natural part of life, and I would much rather spend my energy making the most of it and leaving this planet in better shape than it was when I got here rather than worrying about when it ends. It's like going to a party. You know it won't last long, so drink up and enjoy rather than sit in a corner pouting because it's temporary.
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Old 12-30-2013, 07:42 AM
 
Location: Type 0.7 Kardashev
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It is a cathartic ritual.

Why look at a photograph of a lost loved one? It's not them. But, of course, looking at those colors on film-stock or a computer screen evokes memories. They are a connection which allows us to delve deeper into our memories and feelings for someone with whom we can no longer interact in a bilateral way. The same is largely true for a visit to a grave site.

The explanation is quite simple, ordinary, and obvious - the "Ha, gotcha, you're not really an atheist!" sub-text of your post notwithstanding.
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Old 12-30-2013, 07:52 AM
 
Location: Middle of nowhere
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I have never been to visit anyone at a cemetery after the funeral is over. Why would I? I have gone to old cemeteries to do rubbings of interesting gravestones.
I have found myself "talking" to my father in a sense, but it is more like "what would dad do" when facing a specific circumstance.
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Old 12-30-2013, 07:57 AM
 
Location: The backwoods of Pennsylvania ... unfortunately.
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I think visiting gravesites and talking to the deceased is a throwback to ancestor worship, the first type of "religion" that occurred before deity worship.

Losing a close loved one is very difficult - it leaves such a massive hole in one's life, especially if it is a parent or child, people you are accustomed to being with you. Friends, yeah, they may have meant a lot to you, but we all know that friends can come and go, but your mom? No, she is unique, irreplaceable, no one will EVER love you like your mother did. Visiting her gravesite is a way in which to alleviate the emptiness, to fill that gaping void just a little bit - at least until you've worked your way through the grieving process. Quite often, with time, people visit gravesites less and less as the realities of life begin taking root once again.

But many of us still think that our loved ones are looking down on us, watching our actions, judging us. We believe that we can make our deceased parents proud or ashamed, we believe they can give us guidance and advice through mystical symbology or bizarre events, and we definitely want to be in good standing with our ancestors when we arrive in the afterlife. Hmm, doesn't that sound familiar ... ?

At some point in our early history, we began replacing ancestors with deities - not a good thing in my book because it allowed for organized religion and now look where we are. Ancestor worship was far more personal and it couldn't be organized in the same way a central deity can be.

But at any rate, as an atheist, I can't say for certain there is no afterlife. Who knows? I do not have the wisdom or the experience to say definitively that we just cease to exist. I recently lost my grandfather, so family visits to the grave are common - but there are other family members buried up there and no one has visited their graves in years, perhaps even decades. As with their graves, visits to my grandfather's grave will cease at some point as we come to grips with his loss.

I do not believe, however, that my grandfather is looking down at us from on high, watching and cheering and booing us as we live our lives as if he is watching us on television - and equally as powerless to interfere with the unveiling plot of our stories. Who really wants to think that, anyway? The last thing I want is my grandfather watching my every move, even when I'm alone, so he can nitpick my decisions to death when I pass into the great beyond. No thanks, I enjoy my privacy.

But I do understand the sometimes irresistable urge to give voice to things you never had the chance to say to someone recently deceased. Going to the grave makes it more ... real. It gives your words a focus, even if only upon a slab of stone. Because that stone is a representation of your loved one, a symbol, a stand-in for the person who is no longer there. We touch the stone, caress it, even kiss it as if the stone is the flesh of those we miss.

That doesn't mean we really believe in an afterlife, or that our loved ones can actually hear us. But it does help in bringing a sense of closure, something that is very important from a psychological perspective. Without it, moving on can be very difficult if not impossible for some.
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Old 12-30-2013, 08:26 AM
 
Location: Florida
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My mother died 20 years ago. I've never, ever done what you suggest. I don't talk to the dead at all.


Having said that, I think many cemeteries are quite pretty. And they are usually quiet places, too. Many times I've taken walks in cemeteries and looked at the beautiful art of the graves, the interesting history you can see there and the nice views or landscaping.
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:02 AM
 
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Why would I visit a grave site, no one is there.
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:51 AM
 
Location: The backwoods of Pennsylvania ... unfortunately.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asheville Native View Post
Why would I visit a grave site, no one is there.
Except ghosts.

Boo!
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Old 12-30-2013, 09:00 PM
 
Location: NJ
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I have never visited a cemetery after a funeral was over. I don't think I ever would. But I can understand why people would do it and that it doesn't have to have anything to do with spirits/religion/etc. Just a way to cope with grief. As someone else pointed out why do we look at pictures of people that have died? I would view this the same way. You do it to remember that person. To think about them. Jog memories. I can even envision having a "conversation" with someone who died. But it certainly wouldn't mean I think they are anything but dead.
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Old 12-31-2013, 12:19 AM
 
2,415 posts, read 2,431,053 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eresh View Post
I love going to cemeteries and looking at gravestones. I wonder about who they were and what they were like. I also wonder things like how many acres is this place and what the natural habitat would have been like if it hadn't been developed to put dead bodies in the ground. My immediate family members were cremated with ashes scattered. In those cases I wonder about things like wind currents, erosion, and such. Once someone is dead, they're dead. I don't spend time wishing they weren't or thinking 'what if' and things like that. I remember the good times with a smile, glad to have known that person for a while as I move on with my life. Death is a natural part of life, and I would much rather spend my energy making the most of it and leaving this planet in better shape than it was when I got here rather than worrying about when it ends. It's like going to a party. You know it won't last long, so drink up and enjoy rather than sit in a corner pouting because it's temporary.

A truthful & sound perspective to take about life. Every single individual moment we live is precious, finite, and won't be repeated again. Whether there is actually an "afterlife" of whatever type or not that we move on to after our leaving this existence, none of us know anything about it at all and there is no evidence whatsoever to support such a proposition. Hence, as you said (a bit paraphrased and modified by myself): "(Life) is like going to a party. You know it won't last long, so drink up and enjoy rather than sit in a corner pouting . . . because it's temporary". Yes, it's temporary and won't be repeated again.
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