Who Needs a De-Baptism When You Can Have a De-Bat-Mitzvah? June 5, 2009

Who Needs a De-Baptism When You Can Have a De-Bat-Mitzvah?

Atheists have been making news for having de-baptism ceremonies, But that leaves other faiths out of the fun.

YouTuber graaar is Jewish and she has decided to throw herself a nice little personal de-Bat-Mitzvah celebration. It involves an explanation of why she’s doing it and a recitation of a lovely Monty Python song 🙂 (Video starts at the 1:05 mark)

Why bother doing this now? As she says, “Baptized babies have no ability to refuse. I had the chance and I did not take it, so I am taking it now.”

And she gets to keep her presents! (Very generous of her, though, to offer to give them back.)

Can this de-Bat-Mitzvah/de-Bar-Mitzvah thing catch on? Because it totally should.

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  • Larry Huffman

    Yes…atheists need to surround themselves with as many ceremonies and rituals as the theists. I guess we have heard people call us a religion so long that we have decided full force to prove them right.

    For a group of people who claim to stand on reason…preforming de-anything ceremonies for rituals that we claim meant nothing in the first place makes us look far less than reasonable.

    It is being accepted because it is ‘cute’…and it has an element of ‘i’ll show them’…but the illogic of removing something that we claim was not there in the first place…through ritual or ceremony…is just irrational. If I was a christian, I would hold this kind of thing over any atheists head. “So…you actually think there is something to remove? Hmmmm”

  • ZombieGirl

    So once we decide that we are atheist, we shouldn’t participate in any more rituals?

    (not a challenge…I’m just trying to understand what you’re saying.)

  • medussa

    I actually believe rituals are good for people. They create a sense of belonging and community, a source of solace for hard times.
    Wedding ceremonies don’t have to be religious or “spiritual” in nature, they can be a ritual to celebrate and formally announce to your community of friends and family. Similarly, funerals or memorials are a way for a community to reconnect after a loved ones death.

    Rituals are not inherently bad, nor are they harmful. It’s the content and the inflexibility that can make them negative. The key is to not create a ritual that gives power and authority and credence to non existent things, but to make them meaningful for yourself.
    This girl clearly did just that. She felt she participated in a religious and cultural ceremony before she was mature enough to make an informed decision about it, and now she is symbolically rectifying that. She is neither calling on a god, nor asking for forgiveness from some deity or authority figure, she’s simply taking back her right to commit to something SHE deems important, which, it turns out, happens to be fun sex.

    Personally, I was very touched, and I can’t argue with her choices, lol.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Ritual itself is no danger. Ritual with no purpose does.

    Graduation is a ritual.
    Marriage is a ritual.
    When you go to prison you go through a ritual (change of clothes, given a number, haircut, etc).
    When you retire you get a ritual.

    Rituals are good at marking life events and can act to bring people together.

    I personally think that we miss out, not just athiests but everyone on ritualising somethings.

    I work in the field of probation (within criminal justice) and have heard it argued that release from prison and successfully finishing a probation term should both be marked by a ritual symbolising your return to civil, law abiding society.

    When you remove ritual, people often create their own to bring themselves together. Successful criminal gangs often indulge in rituals, look at the Mafia, the ritual for being “made” can get quite complex. Kids often develop rituals amongst themselves to mark themselves as part of a group.

    The trick lies in using ritual wisely to bring people together, rather than as a way to shut yourself away. Religious ritual is sometimes also flawed in that it may have exclusively supernatural aims, such as a bris or even taking communion. A religious wedding though uses only religious language to celebrate a rather really practical occasion.

  • Larry — It has nothing to do with removing anything. It has everything to do with publicly stating — usually with a good dose of humor — a break with a religious tradition. It’s a symbolic act, nothing more. Humans often mark important events with ritual. Ritual can be religious, but it doesn’t *have* to be. Why, every year, some of us crazy, irrational people insist on celebrating our birthdays with cake and presents and blowing out of candles.

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…it depends on the ritual. A baptism is believed by those performing it, to wash away sins and re-dedicate the individual to god, by the power of the priesthood (or at least by some authority calling upon god). So…if we wish to have a de-baptism…we are, whether we like it or not, admitting that there is, in fact, something to get rid of.

    Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are more rites of passage… but they are presided over by a rabbi…and are part of a ritual put forth by god (a god we are saying does not exist).

    I don’t know…maybe my logic is flawed, but to me, there is nothing to remove. It is not as if god existed when we did it and now does not…we merely believed he existed. Therefore, when we say there is no god, we should also realize there was nothing at all to remove.

    We constantly fight this notion by the religious that we are just a form of religion as well. It seems to me that, by illogically espousing these de-rituals, we are in fact adding fuel to their fires.

    Unless you think a de-baptism or de-bar-mitzvah actually does something?

    I find it very intellectually gratifying to say about my baptism, ‘there is nothing there to remove, since it was just a religious ritual that in reality carried nothing more than the actions.’

    I would say that any ritual that is calling upon some supernatural (irrational) power…or undoing something placed there by some ritual in the name of some supernatural power in the first place…would be irrational to participate in.

    Any ritual at all? Well…we are speaking about baptism and bar-mitzvah here. And, we are not just speaking about people being present or participating as onlookers…we are speaking about atheists, who claim to have left their faith and belief in god behind, now performing rituals on themselves to remove the ‘things’ that religion claims it placed on them, through ritual. The logical conclusion should be that there was nothing there to remove in the first place.

    And, I know there has to be some form of ‘I’ll show them’ to this…but in reality simply stating there was nothing there to remove in the first place is striking a far deeper blow to the religioun and god…it negates their rituals and god altogether, rather than hold it up as something that now must be removed…giving the ritual far more credibility that it ever should have.

  • Larry Huffman

    OK…so these people cannot just say, “I no longer believe in god…and by extension, I no longer believe that my baptism means anything.”? Instead they have to perform a de-ritual…to pretend to remove what they claim is not there in the first place? Illogical…no matter how anyone tries to justify it. Unless there is something to remove.

    I understand…but saying “I am an atheist” does the job just as well.

    As a former mormon, I was not only baptized…I had a bunch of other rituals and ordinances placed on me. I state i am an atheist…and I wrote a letter to the church to remove me and my family from the roles. I do not have to undergo a ritual to remove what is not there and never was there…and if I did, I would be acknowledging that there is something there in the first place.

    Believe what you want…I know the chrisitans I have spoken to about it laugh at us because of it. It is contradictory in the highest degree…no matter how cute you think it is.

    But I know a lot of atheists really want to demonstrate they are no longer christian and use this as the way. They never stop to think that they are also making the statement that there was soemthign there to begin with. And they are ritualizing a lack of belief. Which is silly.

  • Larry, no one is saying there is somethign to remove! Your claim that atheists doing these rituals think they are “removing something” is nothing more than a strawman argument. Invent a motive, attack it! You’ve now repeated it twice, despite having the error pointed out. You seem to be pretty darn sure you know what other people are thinking and feeling.

    If you care to give us some examples of atheists who claim that something was magically “removed” by doing a deconversion ritual, do so. Further back it up by demonstrating, with facts, that most atheists who do these ceremonies think like that. Otherwise, yes, your logic is deeply flawed.

  • Larry Huffman

    Gribble…it is not merely ritual…it is ritual that claims god or some other supernatural power had some affect on the person. And the de-ritual is claiming it is removing something…what? What that god or supernatural power put there. Illogical.

    Graduation is not a ritual…it is a tradition. Ritual, in the truest sense of the word, applies to some form of rite…as in religious rite. However, there are some that are also rites of passage…which is why I stated that it depends on the ritual. We are speaking about baptism and bar-mitzvah…religiously commanded and considered religiously sacred.

    Marriage is indeed a ritual…most atheists are not married ritualistically, they are married traditionally and civilly. The ‘what god has joined, let no man tear asunder’ part is what made it a religious ritual.

    Retirement is not a ritual…it is a party…or some such.

    If you want to use the word broadly, fine…then we will stick to any ceremony where a sky-fairy allegedly intereacts and not use the word ritual, even though it fits perfectly except for people who really really really want a de-baptism to make sense, whether is does or not.

    Whatever the word…performing a ritual to remove what you claim is not there in the first place, is illogical…lets not get too hung up on terminology merely to distract from the illogic of it.

    I love that atheists are willing to defend their illogical de-rituals just as fervently as the theist does. Nice. Again…if you think the ritual has merit, then you are absolutely acknowledging that the baptism in the first place had meaning.

    If atheists want to have some form of ‘ritual’…though tradition would work more logically to describe it…that says “I am no longer christian”…call it that. Do not pretned to remove what is not there. And then argue as if it is legit…which is the funniest part of all this. At the very least, admit it is just a big lampooing and that it is illogical. Trying to justify it as anything more is just sad.

  • Larry Huffman

    De-baptism. Kind of proves you wrong simply by definition, gregory.

  • Miko

    Ritual itself is no danger. Ritual with no purpose does.
    When you go to prison you go through a ritual (change of clothes, given a number, haircut, etc).

    So… the purpose of this particular ritual is what exactly?

  • No, Larry, really, I’m not. Again: prove it. Prove your assertions, or all claim you make to being supporting rational thought is just so much hot air. Prove these people think their “de-baptism” ceremonies — which usually include elements mocking the silliness of the ritual of baptism — “remove something.” You can’t, can you? Because none of them say any such thing. They laugh, instead. It’s as much a satire, as anything else, coupled with a celebration of sorts: “this is who I am now.”

    So — once again you are persisting in making a claim that you refuse to demonstrate the factual basis for. Nice.

  • Twewi

    I’ve never really understood this. My baptism doesn’t mean a thing to me. They splashed some water on my head when I was too young to understand or even remember what was going on. There’s nothing I can do that will unsplash the water from my head twenty years ago, and trying to do anything more signifigant than that simply gives the original act signifigance when it has none to me.

    Maybe it’s because my mom was irreligious and my dad was lax with the whole Catholic thing, so I didn’t have to do the whole church every week thing and I never really thought about God much until I was 13 or so (then I read the Bible and became an atheist), but I find it hard to imagine a part of my life less meaningful than my baptism.

  • Tom

    I do things during my day that I don’t have an immediate logical explanation for. I know everyone in this thread does too.

  • Twewi

    Sure, I do… I don’t seek them out, but they happen.

    I’m kinda unsure what your point is.

  • Tom

    I’ve never really understood this. My baptism doesn’t mean a thing to me. They splashed some water on my head when I was too young to understand or even remember what was going on. There’s nothing I can do that will unsplash the water from my head twenty years ago, and trying to do anything more signifigant than that simply gives the original act signifigance when it has none to me.

    You’re thinking too hard about it.

    You can’t really understand it unless you consider how someone feels. I understand it because I get how she feels. So, she is doing this de Bat Mitzvah because it feels right.

  • I agree with Gregory Lawrence and Tom.

    If this girl feels that this is the right thing for her, then it really doesn’t matter what we think of it.

    I agree that ritual can serve many important functions – not all of them may be immediately apparent, but that is no reason to shun them.

  • littlejohn

    I feel no need to somehow undo my infant baptism or adolescent confirmation (I belonged to an Episcopal church). They were both meaningless to me, and I don’t remember ever believing in god. Since neither ritual actually did anything to me, there is nothing to undo.

  • beckster

    I think the reason for doing things like this is the same reason for having a wedding ceremony or any other ritual. A chance to have a fun party!! My family drank as much at baptism barbecues as they did at wedding receptions, so it was always a good time. It was like the churchy part made up for the later debauchery. Personally, I prefer to just go with the debauchery 🙂

  • Brian Westley

    As long as it’s conducted in de-bat-cave.

  • medussa

    Again: rituals have whatever meaning you give them. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHETHER OR NOT YOU ALL GET IT, she’s not doing this for you.

    Rituals don’t have universal meaning where you can debate and decide their value. Rituals are assigned meanings, as they are merely symbolic.
    She did this because it felt right to her. She made the ritual, she gets to decide its meaningfulness and decide what that meaning is.

    How nice that Larry doesn’t feel the need for ritual in his life. Many others feel differently, and many of those are atheists as well.
    Don’t equate a desire for meaningful rituals with theism, they are 2 different concepts.

  • CatBallou

    I just hope she doesn’t think that’s the real spelling of ludicrous!

  • To each his/her own. The only thing atheists have to agree on (to be atheists) is that we are not theists. Theism=belief in (personal) god(s). Some may quibble on whether the term “personal” is needed. We are free to disagree on everything else. That is what makes the world interesting.

  • Tony

    I think these little celebrations are worthwhile for the same reason that I continue to celebrate christmas: They are a fun excuse to eat and drink too much with your friends or family. I don’t think we need to imbue them with any particular meaning beyond that.

  • I can definitely understand and respect the reasons behind these rituals. I myself was baptized by choice at 17 in a Southern Baptist church in my hometown simply b/c my best friend was doing it too. I didn’t believe in anything I was doing, and as I was being dunked under the water, I remember feeling like the biggest fraud in the world.
    4 years later in that same friend’s dorm room, I told her I was an atheist, and her only reply was to pass me a joint. Coming out to her and getting stoned that night was probably my de-baptism moment, and I will always cherish it.

  • Tom

    Pfft… fun can be so illogical.


  • Heidi

    Perhaps it’s her family she needs to convince that she’s gotten rid of something? And that she’s serious about this?

  • AxeGrrl

    Heidi wrote:

    Perhaps it’s her family she needs to convince that she’s gotten rid of something? And that she’s serious about this?

    Great point 🙂

    I don’t see her actions as being ‘illogical’ or necessarily giving credence to religious rituals…..I see it as simply making a statement using the same ‘construct’ that made her feel dishonest in the first place.

    And as Heidi just said, perhaps a part of it is that such an action would be something that would make her family/parents ‘take it seriously’.

    Just as a bat mitzvah marks an important ‘turning point’ or change in status, a DE-bat-mitzvah can have the same symbolic relevance to the person in question.

    I do understand some peoples’ feeling that such an action is ‘silly’ or ‘cute’, but if you take the time to look past the superficially ‘retaliatory’ aspect, I think you may also be able to appreciate that such a ritual can be truly meaningful to those who engage in them.

  • There seems to be confusion about “ritual” and about “tradition” and about religious vs. human need for “rituals”.

    I would encourage you to read “Deeply into the Bone” by Grimes. It’s a great book and explains that we need rituals about graduation, marriage, de-bat-mitzvahs, divorce, etc. because rituals perform a very important psychological and social function.

  • Mark

    I was raised as a relatively religious Jew and I think that this idea is a very nice one.

    It’s not so much that, in the case of a de-bat-mitzvah or de-baptism, we are trying to actually undo the ritual; but, instead, we are providing ourselves with a chance to throw off the robes that we had been wrapped in unwittingly.

    Certainly, there is no actual substance, physically, to the ritual itself; but there is something emotionally fulfilling to it, I think, and that’s all that matters.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    OK, Miko first.

    One of the purposes of the new prisoner ritual is to get the prisoner into a new frame of mind. On the outside, the prisoner was a person, with rights, freedoms and the right to live as he wanted. In prison, he is not. He lives as the prison wishes him to live, he wears what they want him to wear and he does what they want him to do. Haircut, prison number, removal of clothes and personal posessions are a de-humanising experience. The prisoner symbolically loses his individuality and becomes simply a prisoner. One amongst many identically dressed numbers. He is being punished by society by removal of his self determination. This is why i believe that on leaving prison some kind of ritual to reverse this could be a good idea. A ritual that returns the prisoners clothes, welcomes him to civil society and returns his freedom might drive the point home that the ex-prisoner has finished his punishment and mind act as a reminder that although he is no longer being punished, if he re-offends, the liberties returned to him can be taken away again.

    Note that the military has a similar system. New recruits get their number, uniform and haircut. They leave behind the civilian them and ritually become the soldier.

    And to Larry. Rituals actually serve no real function beyond what the people involved take away from them. Rituals don’t have to be religious, most aren’t. Someone mentioned birthdays, there is a cake, with candles which you blow out while making a wish. No one actually expects this wish to come true because of the ritual, its just a nice way to mark your age and the passing of time and to make a hope for the next year. Birthdays with the cakes and candles are rarely done alone, one tends to invite friends and family and this is the strength of the ritual. It brings those loved ones together and renews the ties that bind them by shared participation in the ritual.

    Now many atheists are deeply affected by their religious past, I’m not and felt no particular need to mark my departure from my faith with any kind of ritual. But to someone whos life has been intimately tied to the church, leaving it as an atheist is a huge event and worthy of being marked somehow. A ritual doesn’t remove any kind of divine blessing or sanction, it is simply a way for the atheist to declare their severance from their old faith. It clearly marks the before and the after and is a good excuse for a knees up.

    I think its an excellent idea for those that would like it. Again its not for me, but i had a very mild religious upbringing and left the church early.

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