I was talking to a friend the other day about the reasons for, and importance of, remembering the dead. His position was that, whilst the act of remembrance was undoubtedly of some importance, the real reasons for doing it were inherently selfish, centred around making the people who are still alive feel better. "How could they be anything else?", he argued, "after all, the dead are not around to benefit, therefore it is only beneficial as a comfort to those still here".
Furthermore -- and with particular reference to World War I -- he reasoned that once the direct connection with the generation that fought and died is broken, we are only really using the act of remembrance to glorify what was a terrible episode and to attempt to reflect some of that glory back onto ourselves -- in addition to trying to make ourselves feel better about it all.
So, my question is, are there any other reasons for us to remember to dead beyond self-comfort? I'm particularly interested in non-self centred (i.e. self-comforting) reasons for doing so, as well as ones that don't rely on the assumption of a god and/or afterlife in order to be compelling.
Also, are there any reasons to remember the dead from a generation with which we no longer have a living connection?
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