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Press Release - 14 September 2007

Funerals without religion set for huge increase

The number of people in the UK who opt for non-religious funeral services is set to rise dramatically over the coming years, according to a presenter at the Death, dying & disposal conference organised by the University of Bath today (Friday 14 September).

Around two per cent of UK funerals are currently non-religious, but according to 2001 census figures 27 per cent of the population consider themselves to be non-religious.

This, says Simon Allen, a Humanist Officiant, suggests that the current growth in secular funerals is just the beginning of an immense and rapid change in funeral practice.

There are statistics from other sources that suggest the percentage of people who state they have no religion – and no interest in acquiring one – is very much higher than the Census.

He says that families are retaking control of the funeral, leading to changes in many aspects of religious funerals, as much as secular ones.

The most noticeable change is the music but there is hardly any aspect of a modern funeral that is unchanged.

“The secularisation of funerals is the simple result of the secularisation of the populace,” said Mr Allen, who works in West Hertfordshire, the North West Home Counties and North London.

“But families are also taking more control to make sure they give loved ones the send off they want.

“This has seen the reintroduction of the horse drawn hearse, wicker coffins and the vicar replaced by an officiant who can do as much or as little religion as they want and, increasingly, no religion at all.

“The end of the funerals as a taboo topic means that people are thinking ahead to the kind of funeral they want, and talking about it with friends and family.”

The eighth international conference on Death, dying & disposal is organised by the Centre for Death & Society and ICIA at the University of Bath and takes place from 12-15 September 2007. More than 200 academics and practitioners from around the world will gather to discuss the latest research on issues relating to the social aspects of death and dying.

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