I went to a funeral today for the grandfather of a friend of mine from elementary school. I remember this person as always exhibiting wonderful humanistic values, though he was Catholic. I made it 80% of the way through the service without engaging in their rituals or rites, and thought I was in the clear until they asked me to turn to my neighbour and offer them peace. I was at a crisis! I wondered whether I would refuse to shake people's hands because of the implications of the hand shake... but was it the time or place to say, "Sorry, I'm not religious"? I mean, I WAS inside a church...
Anyway, I shook their hands, and wished them peace, which I did with a very humanistic mindset. Later on, talking to some of my old elementary school friends, I asked cautiously about their beliefs... some go just on holidays, some couple times a month, one guy named Nestor says he doesn't go anymore to church, and that he believes in Nestorism... I think I could convert him given a chance! haha.
That being said, I think the most liberating feeling for most pe0ple that CHOOSE to have Secular beliefs later in life is that they came to the decision of their own accord - nobody indoctrinated them, nobody forced them, nobody came door to door telling them what to believe. It is what makes people with these beliefs feel VERY secure in their beliefs, but it is also what often makes us difficult to have a unified front when we do wish to help "guide" others to what we believe is the correct or best way to view the world and its creation.
From what I have found in my readings and followings of famous Humanists (freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, etc...) is that the best thing we can do to give our way of life more recognition is just to simply NOT be ashamed of it. Yes, in certain circles, you may be ridiculed for your non-belief, but one day, very soon, I guarantee you that you will be in the majority.
I recently witnessed something so truly awe-inspiring that I nearly began to cry. Many may be familiar with the story of Pat Tillman (NFL player, gave up a huge contract to fight in the war, was killed by supposed friendly fire, in what turned out to be a huge government cover up of some sort. There's now a movie about it also.) In any case, and author and government official(Maria Shriver and John McCain) spoke at Tillman's funeral and were quoted as saying, "Pat - You are home, you are safe" and "You will see Pat again when a loving God reunites us all with our loved ones."
So, his brother gets up to the microphone, beer in hand, and says, "Thanks for coming, Pat's a fucking champion, and always will be. Just make no mistake, he'd want me to say this. He's not with God, he's fucking dead. He's not religious, so, thanks for your thoughts, but he's fucking dead." Here's the video. Truly inspiring. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwsy8FEL0ls
If you're ashamed of your beliefs in life, they can end up mocking you in your death. Please speak up about what you truly believe, to friends, family, relatives, to ensure your wishes and beliefs are respected in your death.