Atheists have started a petition to help secure them a secular cemetery in Copenhagen.
A 6,000-sqm corner of the cemetery Vestre Kirkegård was set aside in 2008 for atheists but the 2.5 million kroner needed to transform the plot into a non-religious cemetery never materialised.
The petition, which was started by the atheist association Ateistisk Selskab, is designed to place pressure on the City Council to set aside the necessary funding during the summer’s budget negotiations in order to develop the burial site.
“Many of us Copenhageners are not religious and don’t live our lives according to a religion,” Ateistisk Selskab’s chairman Joachim Robert and deputy chairman Tommy Petersen said in a statement on the organisation's website. “I have chosen to live as a non-believer but when I die I am forced back into the Christian narrative despite having rejected it my whole life.”
Ateistisk Selskab points out that over 6,500 Copenhagen residents leave the Church of Denmark each year and less than 50 percent of the newborn children in Copenhagen are registered as church members.
The 535,000-sqm Vestre Kirkegård is located in the southern district of Sydhavn and already has areas set aside for Muslim and Jewish burials, as well as a mass grave containing the remains of German refugees who travelled to Denmark following the end of the Second World War.
The plot of land set aside for atheists has not been used before for the burial of other religious groups which Petersen argues is preferable as, on ethical grounds, they would rather not have to desanctify ground that had been set aside for religious burials.
"The site is currently being used for a couple of containers and some gravel, and was set aside as a burial place for us non-believers," Robert and Petersen's statement reads. "Unfortunately, politicians at City Hall don't approve the use of the land for that purpose. Therefore we non-believers need to put pressure on the politicians. Promoting and protecting diversity in Copenhagen requires among other things that we non-believers have the opportunity to be buried as we have lived – free from religion."