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12 January 2015 @ 05:54 am
Picking verbal lice off our fellow primates  
Slate Star Codex on phatic communication
Marissa Lingenmrissa on January 12th, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC)
It's especially useful if you and the bereaved share a religion, but some religions excel at non-offensive set words that work interfaith also. I'm thinking particularly of "May [their] memory be a blessing" from my Jewish friends. I'm not Jewish, but that doesn't presume anything in particular theologically, from where I sit. Some of the "standard traditional" Christian words upon bereavement can be pretty upsetting for me even though they're hypothetically closer to my own beliefs and background. Other Christian groups do better, though.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on January 12th, 2015 05:57 pm (UTC)
Well, I avoid "may their memory be a blessing" to friends whom I know are atheists, because the notion of "blessing" can be seen as explicitly theological. I'll sometimes rephrase it as something like "May their memory be an inspiration" or "a source of joy" instead. Naturally, some atheists do use the word "blessing" to mean things like "a source of joy" or "an inspiration", but I find it's probably safer to avoid the word unless I know they use it themselves.

On the other hand, if I know someone is religious, in ANY religion which has the notion of "blessing," I do use it, because, like you suggest, it can be broadly applicable without being too pushy of any specific set of beliefs.