Should the Atheists Baptize Their Future Baby? August 16, 2010

Should the Atheists Baptize Their Future Baby?

Reader Jordan broke away from Christianity a while back. His wife is an agnostic but still “culturally Catholic,” meaning she attends services with her family when she’s visiting them, among other things. She likes the tradition and ceremonies but doesn’t hold Catholic beliefs.

They’ve talked about having kids and the issue of getting the child baptized comes up frequently. Jordan is very much against it. His wife likes the idea. It’s become a point of contention and Jordan made a list of the pros and cons.

His reasons for the future child to get baptized:

  • It would be a beautiful ceremony.
  • If the child grows up and wants to be Catholic, he or she would have completed the baptismal sacrament.
  • There could be a lot of criticism from/conflict with her Catholic family if the baby is not baptized.
  • The baby wouldn’t remember the baptism, so what’s the big deal?

His reasons for the future child not to get baptized:

  • Neither of us believe in the concept of salvation or damnation; our infant will be innocent and blameless without superstition.
  • I do not want to pay homage to a corrupt, hate-filled church.
  • Our child should not be subject to a religious rite before he/she has a choice to do so.
  • The chain of a faulty “family tradition” needs to be broken at some point; why not with us?

It’s a decision each couple with religious family members has to make for themselves.

Ultimately, as atheists, we know the baptism won’t actually do anything, but it’s the principle of the matter. At what point does the lunacy stop?

What would you advise Jordan to do?

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Benjamin

    I say no. Of the reasons for baptism (and believe me, I make lists too, and laying out the pros and cons is brilliant when faced with this sort of decision) only the child’s hypothetical future desire to follow Catholicism is in any way meaningful. If and when that time comes, the child can go ahead and get baptized.

  • VXbinaca

    No way. Theres no practical or logical reason, like circumcision.

  • Kenna

    Don’t go through with the baptism. It sounds like it’s just to placate family members, and the decision is not theirs to make. It will be your baby, and as neither you or your wife believe in Catholicism, why do it?

  • gski

    I would advise to not baptize. It’s never too late to be baptized so let the child decide for itself when it is old enough to understand. Deciding to baptize now is using the baby as a pawn to appease delusional adults.

  • Liam

    I would not.

    That said, perhaps a naming ceremony – something to commemorate the birth of the child and present them to the family – might be nice.

    I was baptised and confirmed before I was old enough to understand what I was consenting to. I have a lot of anger towards my parents because of that. For his own future relationship with his child, I would suggest Jordan not force beliefs he doesn’t even hold on his child. Remain informative and supportive, though, on matters of faith and the child’s own decision-making. The “pro” that the child would have already completed the baptismal rite is a bit silly: it can always be done in the future, but it can’t be undone.

  • JJR

    I would also say no. Being an ex-Presbyterian I would also be of the opinion that infant baptisms are meaningless, but then again, so was my own baptism at age 13 and my confirmation a couple of years later. I was just going along with what the adults expected of me, I didn’t actually believe either–one of the fringe benefits of having a science teacher for a dad. I eventually got bored with the church crowd, and as I entered puberty and saw how anti-sex the church crowd was, I washed my hands of them.

    I do think Jordan should hold the line here. If he gives in here, next his Cultural Catholic spouse will be talking about parochial school in a few years.

    Matt Dillahunty’s take on “cultural Christianity” is that it’s like joining the KKK because you like Southern cooking and hospitality but disavow “all that racist stuff”.

  • fish

    Nobody has ever died from not being baptised, so why risk it?

  • J9

    No baptism. And I agree with VXbinaca: no circumcision. We did not circumcise or baptize our son, as both are done for religious purposes. If he decides to be religious later, he’s more than welcome to participate in the ritual and to mutilate his body, but I cannot in good conscience make that decision for him.
    Does my husband appreciate being mutilated before he was old enough to say “no”? Of course not.

  • Neither of us believe in the concept of salvation or damnation; our infant will be innocent and blameless without superstition.

    Jordan might not, but I’m not so sure about his wife.

  • Olifantje

    I say no. I am trying to get ‘unbaptized’ now, because I do not want to be part of the Catholic church in any way. Of course I’m being told that this is not possible and technically they are of course right. What is possible is to get a comment that says something like “unregistered” in the baptism register. This requires a formal letter and a lot of checking on them afterwards. This is a different process than unregistering from the Catholic Church, which went easy. Let your child decide whether he or she wants to be part of the Catholic Church.

  • Citizen Z

    None of the pro choices have anything to do with the well-being of the child, so I’d say no. Even the bit about it already being done if he chooses to become Catholic. A quick glance at guides for Catholic baptisms say baptisms should be performed on infants to 1) show the parents are “accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith” and 2) to avoid risking the baby’s immortal soul. Neither of those are true.

    The conversation should really be about whether or not you want to perform the ceremony as a sop to religious family members. Don’t pretend it’s about something else.

  • Sean

    I’ve been there – in exactly the same situation. I didn’t think it was worth the hassle with the extended family who would never understand. It grates on me that we went though with it – but there are bigger battles and we are in no danger that our children will become religious – but it will help them to fit in at school. That being said, I agree with all the points made – on both sides but just didn’t feel the pointless ceremony warranted so much potential strife.

  • kungfu

    As an atheist with an only-because-her-family-is-Lutheran wife, this is a conversation that comes up often. I’m completely against it and have jokingly threatened the post-baptism hairdryer debaptism, but there’s one nagging idea that keeps coming up that offers softens my resolve a bit.

    It seems like this ceremony is more about the parents than it is about the baby. The ritual depicts the baby being shown to the tribe with the expectation that the parents are promising the kid to be raised in what they deem the “right” way, and that the tribe is in some way responsible for keeping the parents accountable.

    Going with that idea, I have tentatively agreed to be present if she absolutely must go forward with the magic water. Though we are not part of any church community, if she feels that she must absolutely do this thing, I only request that I am able to state my position during the ritual. This would involve some kind of short monologue about how I will raise the child with the secular beliefs I hold dear, with heavy emphasis on the critical thinking aspect of it.

    A long shot, but I’m out of ideas.

  • alex

    This is what I don’t get: why does the extended family always have so much say in this? This is not the first post about a situation like this one — and always the religious family plays a big role. They had their chance (or maybe will have, depending), let others live their own damn lives.

    If that’s his wife who insists on this, on the other hand, he has a whole new set of problems, with which the atheist community is unlikely to be able to help. And yes, of course the response from atheists will be predominantly “of course not; are you crazy?” Just like if he’d ask a Catholic forum, they would be all for it.

    Personally, I’d say, let the kid decide for him/herself. And I do mean that, do not pressure them into baptism for their entire childhood like JJR described it. I personally don’t see anything beautiful in a baptism, especially to a child. Meaningless hypocritical ritual, just like the rest of them.

  • Citizen Z

    Are you planning on holding a Namkaran in case the child decides to become Hindu?

  • I don’t know. I did find one good reason for infant baptism

  • Reginald Selkirk

    No need to bother; it’s covered. Their child, and them, and many other people they know, will probably all be baptised as Mormon after their deaths.

  • TXatheist

    I think it all boils down to bullet point number 3…There could be a lot of criticism from/conflict with her Catholic family if the baby is not baptized… We didn’t baptize our son but did have a UU ceremony for him. Only great grandma kept asking “but if you don’t dedicate him to god WHO are you dedicating him to?” I said humanity and that didn’t go over well but when I told her there was no god to dedicate any child to she shut up. p.s. I’m not worried about my relatives giving me grief cause I’ll argue my side with no reservation.

  • nankay

    I was there in your shoes 15 yrs ago with our first born. The in-laws were shocked and dismayed..and oy, the pressure on we new parents was terrible. BUT we were (and are) the parents. We were/are adults and sometimes adults have to make unpopular decisions and let the chips fall. The storm blew over eventually and the issue never came up when our 2nd child was born. We do get a random, “I keep hoping we will all be there together in heaven” comments from time to time. Meh. I’m a big girl, I can take it. And so is my now 15 yr old daughter.

  • Ben

    Why would you want to make your child a member of the world’s largest pedophile ring?

  • Hitch

    Do what you feel most comfortable with.

    But a few reactions:

    *) It would be a beautiful ceremony.

    You can have a secular ceremony.

    *) If the child grows up and wants to be Catholic, he or she would have completed the baptismal sacrament.

    You can do adult baptism.

    *) There could be a lot of criticism from/conflict with her Catholic family if the baby is not baptized.

    Should we do things that we think are right, or should we act out of fear of being judged?

    *) The baby wouldn’t remember the baptism, so what’s the big deal?

    True. No big deal!

    *) Neither of us believe in the concept of salvation or damnation; our infant will be innocent and blameless without superstition.


    *) I do not want to pay homage to a corrupt, hate-filled church.

    Fair point.

    *) Our child should not be subject to a religious rite before he/she has a choice to do so.


    *) The chain of a faulty “family tradition” needs to be broken at some point; why not with us?

    Yep, why not.

    Can I be honest? You are afraid of your relatives. That is the one point that holds you back making a certain decision. You have to deal with it in either case.

  • Silent Service

    No. Jordan should make a point of the corruption in the Catholic Church. I wouldn’t allow my son to be indoctrinated into the Evil Empire either.

  • phira

    So I guess I’ll take a less popular position. It should be said, though, that I’m coming at this question as a Jewish atheist, not a former Christian of ANY kind.

    The baptism will please extended family, and unlike, say, circumcision, it will not leave any sort of mark or injury. The reasons against it are valid; I don’t exactly like paying lip service to an institution I (for lack of a better word) hate. But here’s how I see it.

    You wouldn’t be doing it for that reason, though. You would be dipping your child’s head in water in a meaningless rite that will please your inlaws. If your child decides later in life that s/he doesn’t want to be Catholic, then the baptism is meaningless, and no harm done.

    It’s taken me a VERY long time to change my mind about circumcision, since none of the Jewish men I know are displeased with their bodies (or at least not because of the circumcision), and since it’s SUCH a big part of the covenant. But since it can be done surgically with, ahem, anesthesia as an adult, I now think that it can be an adult choice.

    I know that you can be baptised as an adult, but again, the issue here is the family.

    Again, this is coming from a Jewish atheist who went to Hebrew school from the ages of 5 to 13, became a Bat Mitzvah (I recommend being middle class Jewish JUST for that, by the way, best party ever), and doesn’t regret any of it.

  • nankay

    Acquiesing to a ritual that you do not believe in is an insult to your Self and to the people that support the rite. How would they feel about someone taking communion who does not believe in transubstatiation or even the divinity of Jesus but just “doing it” because someone else told them to?

    A sign of maturity is making decisons on your own for your own good or bad reasons–not allowing others to pressure you in to something you don’t want. What’s next if they are allowed to “force” you to baptize? Will you allow them to take the kiddo to Mass to make them happy? 1st communion? Penance?Confirmation? When does one stop making decisons based on what makes the extended family happy?

  • hippiefemme

    If you’re concerned about the backlash, you could explain that it would be a mockery of the religion to go through the motions without believing the dogma. I never understood why people would want family members to go through a ritual that would mean nothing to the parents.

    I feel the same way about Pascal’s wager. Making a rational decision to have faith is oxymoronic; faith cannot be reasoned.

  • Troglodyke

    I do not want to pay homage to a corrupt, hate-filled church.

    Well, there you have it. As good a reason as any. Since it appears most Catholics are pretending the church is not the least bit at fault for the atrocities it has caused, it’s up to reasonable people to state the obvious.

    Also, there are other (non-religious) ways to “present the baby to the tribe,” as it were, if you choose.

    I definitely understand the concept of “going along to get along.” Extended family can be troublesome, and you want to make sure things are smooth. I get that.

    You have to choose your battles. If the extended family is all religious wackos who will take your kid off to the side later (or on day trips) and try to proselytize, or make you out to be evil because you don’t believe, or tell him he will go to hell, then you’d probably better do it. In other words, if your refusal to baptize him will mean that adults scare him before he is old enough to understand, then it may be wise.

    I understand why you are torn. Family strife is never fun to deal with. But it’s true: YOU are the parent. Period.

    It’s time to stand up for what you believe. Religious people do it all the time, and even die for it. I think we nonbelievers generally expect the worst when it comes to expressing our beliefs, and maybe we shouldn’t.

  • I am with Phira:  Please don’t compare baptism to circumcision!

    Sean wrote “but it will help them to fit in at school” — but how would baptism ever come in a non-Catholic school?

  • ewan

    I don’t see how you can actually make it through a baptism ceremony, making the promises that you need to make, with everyone around you knowing that you’re lying through your teeth. What value is a phoney commitment like that going to have even for the extended family?

  • Potco

    This is the only reason that matters to me.

    “Our child should not be subject to a religious rite before he/she has a choice to do so.”

  • Aky

    You shouldn’t, because the child cannot choose, so it would basically be forcing a faith on them and thus violating the poor kid.

  • Kelly

    It’s not like a baptism is going to cause actual harm to the child (as long as they don’t drown the poor thing). I don’t think arguing over a hypothetical baptism is worth causing marital disharmony and strife. It’s harmless. There’s no reason not to do it if one parent is strongly in favor of it.

  • The parents in a Catholic baptism ceremony don’t have to promise anything. It is the godparents who give the priest the formulaic responses about “rejecting the devil and all his works”, etc. (The last time I was with my parents at a mass service where the priest announced he was including a “renewal” of our baptismal vows, I had a remarkably easy time saying “I do” to the question, “Do you reject Satan?” Goodness, yes! (And a lot of other stuff, too.))

    No one should tells lies throughout a sham ceremony just to please family members. However, if the parents have sincere Catholic family members who would want to serve as godparents, then the godparents can do the whole sincere schtick about the devil and all the rest. The parents don’t have to say a word.

    The down side? The godparents might be sincere enough to harass the parents and child about further religious instruction or observance of religious holidays. Godparents may consider it their job to do so. Could be a pain.

    The up side? The religious family members will be appeased and (except for the godparents) may give the parents and the kid some space. Also, the godparents are supposed to give the kid presents at Christmas and birthdays forever after. (It’s a sacred obligation.)

    I think I’d give the whole thing a pass, myself, but it depends on the family situation and which battles you want to fight.

  • P

    It would be a beautiful ceremony.
    > Ok, I can understand this in a sort of ‘Oh how touching this is’ sort of thing. But really, the only reason one would baptize a baby would be because one believes the booger is damned from the get go and in need of salvation because someone a trillion times removed from it committed some pathetic ‘crime’. This belief, which Jordan and his wife both reject, fortunately, is fairly ugly and makes me question how ‘beautiful’ it really might be.

    If the child grows up and wants to be Catholic, he or she would have completed the baptismal sacrament.
    > The child can grow up and be a member of any faith, so why stop with just catholic birth rituals when I’m sure there are dozens (more?) of infantile rituals all around the globe. This kind of reminds me in a vague sense of Pascal’s Wager.

    There could be a lot of criticism from/conflict with her Catholic family if the baby is not baptized.
    > It’s your baby for Zeus’ sake, raise him however you want!

    The baby wouldn’t remember the baptism, so what’s the big deal?
    > I don’t really get this, I mean, a baby’s not going to remember everything, or even most things, but this isn’t reason for or against doing or not doing anything.

  • The Other Tom

    It would be a beautiful ceremony.

    Not to the father it wouldn’t. It would be an ugly symbol of the fact that his wife puts his feelings and needs at the bottom of her priorities, somewhere below her affection for an ugly and hate-filled church institution. It would also likely leave him with lasting fears that she is suddenly going to start taking his child to church and indoctrinating his child with religious nonsense.

    If the child grows up and wants to be Catholic, he or she would have completed the baptismal sacrament.

    What a lame excuse. If the child grows up and wants to be Catholic, there will be no shortage of priests willing to dunk them.

    Further, it’s an additional sign that she is thinking about taking the child to church. Otherwise, why wouldn’t she just be hoping that the child will grow up to be an atheist?

    There could be a lot of criticism from/conflict with her Catholic family if the baby is not baptized.

    That’s their problem. She needs to put her spouse and (hypothetical) child first. If she can’t do that, she should divorce the poor guy so he can go find a wife who actually cares about him, and never have children.

    The baby wouldn’t remember the baptism, so what’s the big deal?

    The father will.

    I strongly advise Jordan not to have any children with his wife until and unless she moves away from her eagerness to appease her parents and church at all costs and shows some understanding that she is going to put her child and husband first and has solidly made up her mind to raise any children with rationalism, scientific fact, and atheism, not religion.

  • beckster

    First they will pressure you to do baptism. Then there will be pressure for Catholic school. Then first communion and so on and so on. Might as well take a stand now while the baby is too young to take notice of the conflict. That is what we did with our oldest and it seems to have worked so far.

  • GSW

    Much the same situation, just offset a generation.
    It should be made clear to a lot of people that the catholic church actually gains much of its power through people thinking that other people think that they ought to get baptised.

    In catholic areas of Europe, whole towns of non-believers get their children baptised – and confirmed – so that they will “not be singled out at school”, however, when I did an anonymous poll, HALF of everyone asked, said that it was “only so that the children wouldn’t be outsiders” that they were still members. More than 50% only went to church at Easter/Christmas, for weddings and christenings.

    Had all those parents had the courage to admit that they are actually not interested, then the amount of money paid over to the vatican monthly (based on the number of ‘sheep’ in their flock) could probably be halved.

    Out yourselves calmly to your relations, one at a time – in private where they don’t have to worry about what the others will think – and when you know how many actually give a damn – you can decide what is more important – your principles or your in-laws.

    I think you may be surprised.

  • Carrie

    I agree with Jordan on most of the points, and wouldn’t want my child baptised. But this point seems kind of silly to me: “Our child should not be subject to a religious rite before he/she has a choice to do so.”

    You are going to be subjecting your kid to all kinds of things that they don’t have a choice in. Baptism is harmless. Your kid won’t remember it. They won’t be scarred by it. I think you are putting way too much meaning on the act.

    Now, I wouldn’t do the baptism, because it is a silly tradition and why should you take part in traditions that you find silly? But your kid won’t be haunted by it if you go through with it.

    I was baptised as a baby, but I was raised in a completely secular environment. I was never anything other than an atheist. I don’t spend my days regretting that ceremony.

    I actually had a plaque with that daily bread prayer on my wall the whole time I was growing up. It was a baptism gift from a couple that I didn’t know. But as far I can remember I never asked about its meaning and it was never explained to me. It was just a poem to me, not a prayer. I always thought God was a fictional character. Like Papa Smurf. Except I knew more about Papa Smurf. I was actually a teenager before I realized that other people literally believed in God.

    I understand that Jordan feels strongly because he had to break free from Christianity. But the good thing is his child won’t have those same struggles.

  • SH

    Like Jordan and commenter Sean, I have been in exactly this situation. I don’t come from a religious background, but my wife was raised Catholic (though doesn’t practice at all since moving in with me years ago).

    We’ve been married for about four years, and I remember the arguments about whether or not we would have a wedding in the church. But I swallowed my pride, though I disliked having to lie before her family’s faith to get married.

    Since then, we’ve gone through the same battle with our daughter being baptized. I never was, I’m Humanist, so I don’t believe in any of it. I’m in the camp that a child should be given the choice of religious involvement, not have it presumed. But again I bit my tongue long enough to get through it.

    And really, it means nothing to me. However, it meant worlds to her family. We live near them, and rely on their help with household projects I cannot handle myself, so not burning that bridge has made a difference in how smoothly our lives with her family’s have been.

  • Evan

    I was baptized and raised in the a catholic fashion. I don’t resent it per se, but I really would have liked to have been able to make the choice rather than have it made for me before I was remotely capable of having an opinion in the matter.

    This isn’t something thats undeniably good for your child like a vaccine, this is superstitious lore that has no merit.

  • While it would be funny to hear someone answer the “Do you reject satan?” question with “yes, and jesus too” I think it would be better not to do the baptism.

    First, he can tell the family that he is respecting catholic dogma the way he’d like catholics to respect his beliefs. The church teaches that a child should only be baptized if there’s an expectation he or she will be raised in the faith, which isn’t the case here.

    Also, the church teaches that folks who are baptized have an obligation to submit to the rules of the church. For life. Since the parents aren’t willing to do this, it would be hypocritical of them to make this commitment on behalf of the child. As said before, if the child decides to become catholic someday, baptism is eay to obtain.

    The more practical resaon is to avoid confusing the child growing up-if baptism is a meaningless ceremony, why did you do it to me? The catholic family members will always be bringing it up to the child and trying to get him or her to identify as catholic as a result.

    Much better to put the church in a position of trying to explain away its faults and foibles in an effort to win over a mature freethinker than to have freethinkers trying to help a “demi-catholic” sort out the psychic dreck they accumulated as a result of being “sorta” catholic. The fact that the wife is wavering and conflicted is proof of this.

  • Tim

    The child will accept the fact that they weren’t baptized when they get older. So it’s really up to how much you want to battle with the family. If you don’t want that kind of battle with the family, then get it over with. But I wouldn’t baptize my child. My family will just have to accept that not only am I Atheist and so is my wife, but we chose what to do with OUR child. They can pray for my child if that makes them feel better.

  • TheDeadEye

    If you give your in-laws an inch, they will expect a mile. Put your foot down with regards to the Baptism, and you’ll have a much easier time saying no to Sunday School and the rest of the religious crap.

  • Carlos

    Ok, here’s my personal situation: From my father side every uncle/aunt is baptized.

    From my mother side no one of my uncle/aunts are.

    In 26 years of having interacted with both sides I see no real difference. For either side is like a social-family process.

    Seems to me that getting your son/daughter baptized is more of a familiar choice.

    If you have NO social or family pressure and are doubtful of getting your child baptized, don’t.

    If you have the pressure and family ties would be ‘relaxed’ if you do, then do it. You’ll remember it as a process anyway and the child in question won’t feel any different from others.

    Unless you put him/her into a catholic school…then there will be social pressure for the child.

  • If that were my family’s list, I would go with no.

    Our own list had some added items on the negatives column, so it was actually a very easy decision for me. But, like Jordan, I had a spouse who felt the “yes” reasons were quite compelling.

    The deciding factor was that my husband eventually admitted that he assumed getting baptized would lead to getting confirmed. Then I put my foot down, saying my willingness to compromise was withdrawn if I’d be expected to compromise again and again later.

    No consequences of note have arisen. My husband and even the devout members of our family have quietly grown accustomed to the idea.

  • Here is what you should do.

    Step 1: assign each pro-and con a point value.

    Step 2: sum up the pro and con points.

    Step 3: see what the points say.

    Step 4. If you don’t like the results, then add more pros or cons or change the assigned point values.

    Step 5. Iterate steps 1-4 until you are happy with the results.

    Step 6. Act on your decision.

    This will also inform you of how important each of the pros and cons are to you.

  • Sarah

    When my brother and his wife got their baby baptized Catholic, they had to go to DAYS of training and classes, plus prove that they were members of a parish. It’s not as simple as just taking the baby in and handing it to the priest. Same deal with getting married in the Catholic church – you can’t just go do it, they make you prove yourself first.
    I’m now an atheist, but I do respect the fact that Catholics put some weight on their sacraments, and they don’t just hand them out to everyone who wants a photo op.

  • Aaron

    There could be a lot of criticism from/conflict with her Catholic family if the baby is not baptized.

    This seems to be the only pro-baptism argument that has any merit at all.
    Whose kid is this? Yours or your in-laws?
    Who changes the diapers?
    Who feeds it?
    Who stays up with it when it is sick?
    Who teaches the child to ride a bike?
    Who sprays anti-septic on the skinned knees after trying to teach the child how to ride a bike?
    Who weeds out the dangerously irresponsible friends?
    Who bails the kid out of jail after it listens to its stupid friends and steals the neighbor’s car and goes for a joy-ride?
    Who pays for the kid’s college?
    Whose grand-kids will the child eventually have?
    This is your kid, not your in-laws. Raise the child according to your values, not the values of someone else who has a smaller stake in the child’s life.
    Here is a phrase that will be useful later on: “Not your kid. Get over it.”

  • Katie

    Hemant writes “At what point does the lunacy stop?”

    If this child is raised to have a skeptical mind and grows up to be agnostic or atheist, then by the time that child is old enough to have children of their own Catholic Grandpa and Grandma will have likely passed away. With a pair of skeptics for parents I’d say the chances of this child baptizing their own children is close to nil.

    In all probability this is the last generation in this family where the baptism debate will matter (barring an adult conversion.)

    As long as the baptism isn’t followed up by demands for religious indoctrination, then why not make the old folks happy?

    In any case the whole situation, even positing the occasional church visit, is likely to be a medium for discussion of religion with their child. It’s much better for them to be exposed to the church, talk about it with their parents, and form their own opinion, than to hide the existence of religion. After all, folks didn’t discuss sex with their kids in times past, and think of the misunderstandings that people had, not to mention the lure of the forbidden fruit. Don’t make church the forbidden fruit- expose it for the show it is.

    One of my favorite memories of church, growing up, was helping my grandma to clean the sacristy and the votive candles at our local Episcopal church. Nothing like getting to play with the props for taking the mystery out of religion!

    On the other hand, if the Catholic Church receives money for every baptized person in their congregation, then that’s another issue entirely. I wouldn’t want to fund the church with a baptism, even if it was just to please the in-laws.

  • Gammidgy

    I know of a Catholic grandmother who took her grandchild to be baptised without the atheist parents’ knowledge. A harmless enough deed, apart from the worrying context of mistrust and deception within the family.

    Jordan could leave the baptism entirely in the hands of those family members who care about such things. Allow it to go ahead, albeit in a low-key way, but refuse to attend. The family will get their baptism but know the child is not going to be raised within the Church.

    Either way, do not allow the religious family members to conflate the ceremonial nonsense of baptism/naming with the natural celebration of welcoming a new baby into the family. I would plan a big celebration for the child on a different day.

  • Mary

    I think a blessing celebration might be a nice option. You could still dress up the baby in a nice white outfit, invite family over, and invite everyone or certain people to express their love for the child aloud or in writing. Then you get the family time and photo op without the religion.

    I know that it’s not traditional, but everyone will feel the love, and perhaps it will open their eyes that religion is not the only necessary component of a loving family tradition.

    We are considering doing this when our little one is born. It will give my parents an opportunity to see her in my christening gown, to take pictures with her, and to share them with people. They don’t have to even tell people that it wasn’t an official “Christian dedication” or baptism. If they call it a blessing, I have a feeling people will assume, which will make it easier for my parents and for other people, with no sweat off my back. 🙂

  • Claudia

    OK, so obviously I’m biased, but it sure seems like the con list is a lot more weighty than the pro list. Especially relevant is the fact that NEITHER of the potential parents think this ceremony is relevant. It might be acceptable to go through with the silly sprinkling if one parent was a True Believer, but going through the entire con list just because it’ll momentarily please other relatives?

    Your child will be born totally innoccent. I find the idea that they need to be “cleaned” of sin (what sin? It’s a BABY!) almost offensive. Not nearly as bad as circumcision, which is physical mutilation, but not great either. Tell your relatives that you don’t think you should impose a religious tradition on your child, that they can get themselves baptized when they’re old enough to decide their views on their own.

  • On the other hand, you could perform a satanic damning ceremony (I’m just making this up).

    If a baby goes through an infant damning ceremony and then later in life (as an adult) confirms the damning, then the person will enter hell in a privileged position as a harpy. Harpies get to fly around in hell carrying pitch-forks to keep the damned masses in the lake of fire (kind of like border collies). Your in-laws will at least get to know that their grand-child will spend eternity in relative comfort (being able to fly and all) where as if he/she was an atheist and did not go through with the damning ceremony then he/she would merely be one of the ones being forced by the harpies to remain in the lake of fire. Just something to think about 😉

  • If you don’t believe you should not get your child baptized.

    You lie at a ceremony, to your own displeasure. Your extended family should support you, because is it not a mockery on their faith to go through the motions?

    Be firm! Don’t do it! I had my children baptized because at the time I was still doubting and holding on to the shreds of my faith. Only the oldest is confirmed, though.

  • Siamang

    Are you planning on holding a Namkaran in case the child decides to become Hindu?


    Citizen Z nails it.

  • Elisabeth

    I was also raised as a Catholic (complete with church every Sunday, parochial school, and a VERY religious Italian grandmother), and I still retain a certain fondness for Catholic iconography & imagery. However, when my daughter was born I was adamant that she not be baptized. My family members were not thrilled–none of them approved, but some were more upset than others–but I stuck to my guns and they eventually got over it (or at least realized it was a lost cause and stopped bringing it up). I should probably mention that there was no father in the picture, and that undoubtedly made the whole thing less complicated for me.

    Your reader brings up some very good points both for and against baptism, but for me it all boiled down to the concept of “original sin” and how abhorrent that is to me. I wanted to do what was best for my baby, and I didn’t see how baptism would benefit her in any way–it would only serve to satisfy the superstitious beliefs of certain members of my family, while making me feel bad about not standing up for my beliefs. I also felt that it would be wrong for me to make that kind of choice for my daughter while she was an infant and completely unaware of the meaning of the whole thing. After all, she could always be baptized into the church as an adult if that’s what she wanted. I chose to raise her without any religion, but I have not raised her as an atheist, either. Instead I’ve allowed her to explore and discover things on her own without the burden of my opinions. Whenever she asks me questions relating to religion (which is fairly often), I answer them as plainly as possible and then give her my personal opinion separately. I want her to be tolerant of what other people believe and understand that everyone has beliefs and opinions, but they should not necessarily influence her own decisions. She is nearly 15 now, and despite the concerns my family (and other people) have had over the years, I think she’s a pretty good kid. 🙂

    When a child is born, family members may insist on baptism (and other things) for the baby, but if they love the child and its parents, they will respect their decisions even if they don’t agree with them. As a parent, I can guarantee that baptism won’t be the last thing you’ll disagree about with relatives…they’re bound to have plenty of opinions on everything you do as a parent, and you’re going to have to put your foot down at some point. If you did allow your child to be baptized, wouldn’t those same relatives expect the child to go to church, attend Sunday school or parochial school, receive First Communion, be confirmed, etc? It seems to me that baptism is just the first step down a long road of nonsense that’s likely to do your child more harm than good in the long run. I think as long as you are patient, calm, and clear with your relatives when explaining the reasons behind your decisions, you should be okay. They should be able to see that you thought the matter through carefully and weighed the pros and cons. The fact that you are willing to even consider baptism shows that you are respectful of your family members and their beliefs. Hopefully they will extend that same courtesy to you. 🙂

  • Richard P.

    Here is a secular institute for secular ceremonies. I came across this yesterday.


    This might be interesting to look into.

  • We elected not to baptize our son, even though we’re not “out” to my very Catholic mother-in-law. She shed a few tears over the decision, but life moved on. If an adult is motivated to violate their own convictions by criticism from parents, they have more issues to resolve than this.

    There is also a case to be made that going through with baptism is telling a very public lie to a lot of people. A parent promises to raise the kid Catholic and makes multiple disavowals of “Satan and all his works,” etc. As a simple matter of integrity, it doesn’t seem right to proclaim a belief in all these things when you don’t believe.

  • Stephen P

    I have to admit we did have our children baptised. My wife wanted it, it was several years ago and my atheism hadn’t really got a proper grounding then. But most important: it was in a fairly inoffensive church.

    If it was now, in the Roman Catholic Church, given everything that has come to light in recent years, I would unquestionably refuse. I would not wish to be associated with that organisation in any way whatever.

  • Simon

    In related issues, my girlfriend is jewish, though secular (I am not baptized, and my parents are secular catholics). We’ve had some discussions as to how we’ll let our future children keep their jewish cultural heritage while also respecting my wishes to give them freedom to choose their beliefs. For instance, I’ve told her I would rather not have any sons circumcised, and she seems receptive to that, but she also wants them to have bar/bat mitzvahs, which she assures me her family celebrates with no religious implications (as, for example, my family celebrates Christmas as a family gathering rather than a religious celebration). Being considerably less familiar with jewish culture, it’s a little hard for me to tell where the line between culture and religion is. I am, however, confident that nobody on her side of the family will teach our children jewish religious beliefs, as her parents are also completely secular and supportive of my dating their daughter (as my parents, who are some of the most rational people I know, would never teach them catholic dogma). I imagine it’s an issue any cross-cultural couple has to deal with.

  • ed

    Don’t do it. This is your kid, not the in-laws.

    But if it’s impossible to overcome the family dynamics plan B should be:
    You do not attend.
    Better if your wife doesn’t attend also.
    No party back at the house.
    And NO money changes hands. Will the priest even do it if he’s not paid?

    Either way you are making a statement about the future, and how you are rising your child.

  • liz

    I completely disagree with this statement: The baby wouldn’t remember the baptism, so what’s the big deal?

    And I also completely disagree with anyone who’s saying that “it’s for the extended family” is even a half decent reason.

    Your baby might not care about it now and they might not even care about it when they’re older. But do you really want to take the chance that they will care about it later?

    It IS about your child, whether you think it is or not. Your family will move on once the baptism is over. They’ll move on (even if it takes years) if the child is unbaptized. But your child will always be the one who went through with it, whether they remember it or not doesn’t matter. The fact that they don’t remember it may bother them even more. The fact that they had NO say in it.

    And the fact that you brush it off as a meaningless ceremony, might make them very uncomfortable about it when they feel as if they were forced to do something they disagree with.

    I wouldn’t want to risk my child feeling betrayed or even feeling a little weird about it. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but you never know how your child will react to the decision when tit’s brought up later in life. That;s why i think it’s best left in the child’s hands. And since they;re too young to decide, it shouldnt be done.

  • MayorHardin

    Haven’t seen anyone bring up this point: what about Santa Claus? If you’re going to go along with that story “until the child works it out on their own”, you might as well baptize the child and explain that it’s a metaphor like Santa. (That’s basically the famous answer given in the “yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” piece. Obviously, I lost the argument over Santa from birth; my oldest got this explanation when he was still 7.) And believe me, this is not a trivial decision.

  • Richard Wade

    A future conversation with your kid:

    “Mom and Dad, why did you have me baptized?”

    “Well, we wanted you to have the best chance to grow up to be a person of integrity, a person who thinks for himself, who follows his principles and doesn’t give in to pressure or temptation from others, a person who doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not just to ingratiate himself with people.”

    “Uh, but…”

    “So, we decided that the best thing to do would be to start off on the wrong foot as soon as you were born, by lying to our families and our community about our own beliefs and values, and having you officially initiated into the Catholic Church, a vast, wealthy, and powerful organization fabled for its hypocrisy, its debased and cynical disdain for integrity, and its remarkable ability to pressure, bully and guilt-trip people into pretending that they are something they’re not, just to ingratiate themselves with others.”


    “Yeah. And the only reason that we did this to you was because we were caving in like soggy origami paper figures to please our extended family and anybody else who might disapprove. Of course, we cooked up a list of “pros and cons,” supposedly other reasons to do it or not to do it, but those were really just a smoke screen to kid ourselves into thinking that we were being really thoughtful about it instead of simply being cowardly.”


    “You see Son, It’s very important for a person of integrity to have a good system of rationalizations for doing something completely false, phony, disingenuous and insincere, so he can keep on thinking he’s a man of integrity.”


    “I’m glad we had this talk, Son.”

  • nankay

    Oh, Richard……..Bravo!!!!!!!!!!

  • LeAnne

    i can’t come up with any decent reasons that a kid should be baptized. honestly, if you’re an atheist you have no solid reason to baptize. (unless both are not atheists, etc)

  • SillyBuns1138

    Alright, well, I think I may have come up with a good comment that I do not believe has been made yet, at least not that I saw. Now keep in mind that I am coming from the Episcopal Church in Oregon, which I think is very much not a hate-filled church, and I may have a different view of baptism from the Romans, but I think it’s close enough to the same ceremony.

    Anyway, the point I haven’t seen made is that the baptism of an infant is really a promise being made by the parents. In the ceremony the parents and godparents renounce sin and promise to raise the child in the Christian faith. Now if the parents have no intention of doing that, then they’re really just participating in a lie and making an empty promise. My feeling on the matter is that such a lie is not only unnecessary, but ultimately more insulting to the beliefs of the in-laws that Jordan would be trying to please. I’d probably try to explain it that way to the other parties involved as delicately as I could, and choose not to baptize the child (that is if I were an atheist in Jordan’s position 🙂 ).

    Oh, and MayorHardin says to point out that I’m the son he’s referring to. I guess he’;s proud of me 🙂

  • Plan9Studios

    Honestly, I find some of these arguments about the dangers of baptism as flimsy as people preaching the eternal benefits of it.

    It’s water. That’s all. It doesn’t help us make friends, it doesn’t lock them into their religious choice for life, it doesn’t repair or exacerbate family tensions, it doesn’t admit defeat, it doesn’t regularly drown the child, it doesn’t mutilate the child’s genitals, it doesn’t prove there is a god, it doesn’t do *anything*.

    I have no need to protect my child from the evils of religious fiction any more than protecting my child from Star Wars and I would caution against unintentionally legitimizing the power of ritual in our need to prove its inconsequence.

    If you need the feeling of influence in this situation, I’d remember that the influence you’re looking for should come in about 10 years when the kiddo can understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Right now, your protest is for you and you alone. Don’t convince yourself it’s for your child. It’s not.

    As a compromise, you may approach the priest and ask if they are willing to modify what they say that day, to remove any language you find offensive. If not, tell the family you’re willing to go through with it if you’re allowed to choose a more flexible minister. They are out there.

    Best of luck.

  • Robert

    Jordan, I think the key phrase here is “future child”. Once you have a child and experience the awesome joy and responsibility I firmly believe your attitude will change from this “pro’s and con’s” approach to a “no way is my child going to go through that sham of a ceremony”. The decision making process with a real child will be much easier than with a hypothetical one. Bob.

  • Entropist

    The cons definitely outweigh the pros here. Besides, if you placate family members with baptism, what else will you do to placate them? “Oh come on now, you got our grandchild baptized, can’t you send her to catechism too?”

    Give an inch…

  • tigerlily55

    If you baptize the child, be prepared for further campaigns to send the child to religious education (CCD) classes which includes preparations for first penance and first communion and eventually confirmation. If an older child or adult wants to join the church they take a year of instruction and are baptized into the church usually on the Saturday before Easter.

    Have a naming ceremony. A welcome to the world ceremony. Not a baptism.

  • stephanie

    I disagree with the idea of having a baptism. Then again, I don’t have children. Of course, neither does the person in question.

    This religious future of a nonexistent child is not a debate I’m willing to have. Forgive me for being cynical, but once there is an actual child, I think emotion will hold sway and all previous arguments will be thrown out the window.

  • Demonhype

    I would make it clear that this is our child and not theirs, and it is our decision. Imagine if the two of you were Catholic and her parents and/or yours were secular or some flavor of non-Christian and threw a tantrum because you were going to go ahead with a baptism? The point is not that “its just a splash of water, what’s the prob, you don’t even believe in it so why fight?” The point is that these people feel they have the right to dictate how you raise your kids.

    What’s more is that many believers feel they have a superior right to dictate how you raise your kids simply because many believers feel their religious beliefs make them better people than you are, with far greater morals and integrity. It could also, in some cases, mean that they have subscribed to the “phase” argument, and once you have kids you’ll realize how important it is to raise them with God Given Catholic Morality lest they grow up to rape children…wait, what?

    So, yes, I would tell them that this is our kid, not theirs, and we are not going to debase our own views and sacrifice our own integrity just to make our Mommies and Daddies happy–which is no more than the same respect that they might ask of others.

    On top of that, I would ask them point-blank, as I did with my Mom years ago, why they want me to lie to please them, especially since they know it’s a lie and that I would only be doing it because I feel emotionally coerced.

    And if they want to continue forcing the issue, I would stand firm and if they want to cut me off, they can go ahead and do so. Anyone who treats me with less respect than they would want for themselves and requires that I lie about who I am and what I believe just to stay in their good graces can pound salt for all I care–and that includes my family. If they really loved me, then it wouldn’t be conditional upon my willingness to openly lie about who I am just to please them.

    I guess I see it this way: After all the church ceremonies atheists attend out of simple respect, even though we may disagree, all the religious weddings and funerals and baptisms and whatnot that we may find personally offensive on many levels (I’ve heard anecdotes about sermons that openly demonized atheists and unbelievers) but we attend out of love and remain silent out of respect and an understanding that others are not obligated to appease our atheism in their own personal decisions, because when we love someone it isn’t conditional on them living their lives based on our atheism, because this is our loved one’s day and not ours, and this is how our loved one wishes to celebrate………well, I just think the religious at the very least should be expected to return that basic respect when we refuse any religious ceremony for ourselves. When it was your day, I went to your religious wedding/baptism/whatever. This is my day now, and I am not.

    No, it is not just a meaningless splash of water. It is an indicator of how much respect your loved ones have for you, and how conditional their love is. If I can explain this all and they see my point, say “fair enough, you’re right, I don’t like it but it’s your decision and not mine” and let me make my decisions without passive-aggressive coercion from them, I would know that my family really does love and respect me and my views–even if they don’t agree. And if I could tell them all of this and they would still try to force the issue, I would have a much better idea of what kind of relationship I really have with my loved ones–one of conditional love and zero respect, wherein my views are seen either as a meaningless phase or something to be eradicated.

  • Norbury

    I went through this recently. We got married in a church, partly to please our families, but our atheism wasn’t particularly strong at the time. Since then (and before) I have been godfather to some friends’ kids. However when it came to christening our daughter we didn’t go through with it. I was arguing for it, if only because it would make people happy and we’d get to see some family – I don’t think there would have been any expectation of further church attendance afterwards. However we decided not to simply because we couldn’t be sincere about it.

  • I would say absolutely not. If you baptize your child, he or she is going to be considered a member of the Catholic church forever. They don’t let people leave, you know. Even if you jump through the hoops required for excommunication (which I understand is almost never granted), they still consider you a Catholic, just an officially damned one. Considering the horrible corruption and backwards social views of that institution, do you really want to help the church inflate its numbers? If your children want to become Catholics as adults, the church will be only too happy to oblige. There is no need to commit them to the church against their will when they are too young to consent.

    Sean wrote “but it will help them to fit in at school” — but how would baptism ever come in a non-Catholic school?

    Thought it was just me! This confused the heck out of me, too. How would the other children know whether or not Sean’s kids were baptized? Is baptism something that is commonly talked about among children from religious families? I grew up atheist and never had anyone (ever!) ask me if I had been baptized, so it would seem to be a complete non-issue from my perspective.

  • gwen

    My parents bucked their families and told them it was our choice to decide if or when we were baptized (Mom was atheist, dad agnostic). I did the same with my children. None of us are baptized. I doubt my grandchildren will be. Did you see the story of the infant who drown from the baptism??

  • muggle

    Why in the hell would you even consider it? Seems the only reasons are to not piss off Grandma and Grandpa. So for that you’re going to put this shit on your kid? How scared of mommy and daddy are you? You might want to put off having a kid until you can grow a pair. If I may be blunt.

    Because raising a child takes a spine and then some. It’s a hard task and you will often have to stand up to the world for your child. If you can’t even do it here, please don’t procreate.

    Oh, and as for they won’t remember? No, but they will be subject to all the memorablia of it and Grandma and Grandpa speaking glowingly of it and telling them they belong to Jesus no matter what Mommy and Daddy think. Is that your great plan at family peace?

  • muggle

    Anna, I’ve never once been asked that either! I too am nonplused just how that helps them fit in. Are kids in America really now going around asking one another if they’re baptised? So far, my grandson hasn’t come home with that one.

  • Boz

    This ceremony may cost you money.

    If it does, you are supporting the Catholic Church’s protection of child torturers.

  • Dan W

    If I were in these parents’ situation, I’d be opposed to the baptism. If you don’t believe in the dogma of the Catholic Church, why go through their rituals? I see no good reason to have your child baptised. If not getting your child baptised will annoy the child’s grandparents, too bad. It’s not their child to raise, it’s yours.

  • Deepak Shetty

    No. If they are even slightly honest Atheists/Agnostics they should want their child to choose when he/she is old enough to do so- That is whats best for the child and that should be the parents sole consideration.

  • Max

    (this comment comes from the potential perspective of the child) I’m 17 years of age and I always felt odd about having been baptized. My parents and myself have largely been atheists. It has always felt bizarre to me to have partaken in a ritual unwillingly that I didn’t care for and neither did my parents. The fact that it occurred doesn’t bother me much, all my feelings on the subject ever amounted to was a raised eyebrow to the pictures of me in that stupid dress as a child. not something I would go through with my child personally.

  • fritzy

    Be honest with yourself. Are any of the “pros” beyond placating the family really important to you?

    Raising a child should be about what’s best for the kid, not what makes grandma and grandpa and the extended family happy.

    Ultimately, how you raise your child is up to you and if you start raising your child, this early, according to the whims of the extended family, believe me, it will not stop at this baptism, particularly when it comes to “matters of the spirit.”

    If you wish to nip this in the bud and if I was in your situation, I would want that, have a secular ceremony (a naming ceremony was mentioned earlier) but stop short of any religious woo. Otherwise Pandora’s box has been opened. Today it is “why isn’t the baby baptized?” Next it is “why aren’t you taking your child to mass?” “what Catholic school will you be enrolling your kids in?” and “we’re so excited about our grandchildren’s catechisms.”

    I would like to think better of your family but not knowing them, I have to point out the possibility that they will use your kids to get you back to church as well.

    Of course, this doesn’t stop with just religion. There may be “suggestion” made on other parenting matters as well.

    It may be uncomfortable to put your foot down but the sooner you do it, the easier and less painful it will be.

  • Gloue

    I’m sort of going through this myself although I’m not quite ‘there’ yet as I’m yet to conceive. After 3 years of trying we’re having to go down the assisted conception route – something that the catholic church opposes.

    When we initially started trying for a baby, my husband (who is catholic) wanted a baptism. However, now that we’re going through infertility, he’s coming around to the idea of ‘maybe not’ (and actually questioning whether there is indeed a God (or also whethere there is a ‘just god’)). He’s not actually made a decision as to what he wants yet and I’m sure he’s thinking of what his family will say if we don’t go ahead with it (if and when we do have a baby of course!).

    The thing that’s playing on my mind is will I be so grateful for a baby that I wont care about whether it’s baptised or will I still be reeling from this whole infertility stuff and the catholic views on it.

    I like all the arguments against a baptism, the ones ‘for’ baptism aren’t good enough in my opinion so I’d have to answer the question as no don’t baptise.

  • Marvin

    I haven’t baptised my daughter and she seems to carry on being a chipper little girl. Of course I am in the UK where even though most people are still baptised no one commented it was odd in fact they probably put it down to “they couldn’t be arsed to sort it out” rather than “they have moral objections”.

  • TrogloDyke

    I guess I see it this way: After all the church ceremonies atheists attend out of simple respect, even though we may disagree, all the religious weddings and funerals and baptisms and whatnot that we may find personally offensive on many levels (I’ve heard anecdotes about sermons that openly demonized atheists and unbelievers) but we attend out of love and remain silent out of respect and an understanding that others are not obligated to appease our atheism in their own personal decisions, because when we love someone it isn’t conditional on them living their lives based on our atheism, because this is our loved one’s day and not ours, and this is how our loved one wishes to celebrate………well, I just think the religious at the very least should be expected to return that basic respect when we refuse any religious ceremony for ourselves. When it was your day, I went to your religious wedding/baptism/whatever. This is my day now, and I am not.

    BRILLIANT. ‘Nuff said.

  • SillyBuns1138

    I’ve found it the slightest bit odd that nobody seems to have considered my objection, and all the other arguments I’ve heard seem to be born out of selfish egoism, so I thought I’d restate it in a much simpler fashion.

    At baptism, you the parent promise to raise the child in the Christian faith. Atheist parents likely have no intention of doing that. So, you are making an empty promise that you do not intend to keep. It is immoral to make fake promises, end of story. No baptism.

    Thankfully I come from a church that doesn’t believe in the ridiculous doctrine of original sin 🙂

  • Joost

    As an atheist-raised, baptized-for-social-reasons person, I’d say:

    Getting baptized as an infant doesn’t hurt or have any influence on your life. I only got baptized because my grand parents were catholic.

    Personally, I wouldn’t baptize my kids if the grand parents were the only reason to do so. Let them get over it – they did too once my younger uncle flat out refused to get married or baptize his kids.

    If I had a wife to help in raise the kids and she seriously considered it important, I might though. It’s not like you’re doing anything irreversible like circumcision, and like I said, it’s not harmful in any way that I can see.

    As for the “fake/insincere promises” argument that SillyBuns1138 put forward: I do understand it, but I don’t mind lying to a figment of someone else’s imagination, or to priests, as long as the people who *do* matter to me know I’m just doing it to humor them.

    What I’m getting at, if you’re serious about atheism/skepticism/science/whatever is that there are much more important issues at stake when *raising* kids than just getting them born and dropping some water on their heads.

  • Demonhype

    @Anna: How did I miss that important part? You baptize your kid and their names are used to inflate their rosters–which are then shown to politicians to gain legislative influence. So yes, it most certainly does affect you! It will artificially enlarge the perceived influence of the Catholic church politically and legally!

    And I’ve heard it’s hard to get your name off that stuff–if at all–and even then you have to babysit it and monitor it to prevent them from pulling a fast one. No, it’s not irreversible but it might as well be, since even if you realize you should get your name off you have to fight tooth and nail for it, and there’s no guarantees they won’t just put it back on there once you’re placated. I really really REEEAALLY want to do it, but I don’t have enough time or energy right now for the potential fight and subsequent check-ups. When things settle down again, I’m going to do it for sure. And I know I will never put any of my kids in that position, and especially not just to appease my family. At least my parents had some belief in the ceremony at the time, but for me it would be a complete and utter sham, and I would never do anything to even slightly empower the Catholic church’s agendas.

    (And BTW, circumcision is technically “reversible” too, depending on how it’s done–at one point in history, the Orthodox Jews were pissed at Hellenized Jews because they were reversing their circumcisions because they didn’t want to be embarrassed while playing in the games naked or some such concern–it involved stretching or something, so the Orthos ended up making circumcision really complete after that, to prevent reversal of “God’s pact” by leaving nothing to be stretched in the future. Or at least, that’s what I read. I think it was in that Hecht book “Doubt: A History”.)

    @Troglodyke: Thanks! I guess I get frustrated with the calls for “respect” that seem to really call for their beliefs–but no one else, especially not atheists–to be a criticism-free zone. Like “You need to respect my religion! Which means I do what I want and you shut up, and you do what I want and you shut up!” I love to call them on their “respect” issue, because they rarely know how to react without sounding like unfair jerks who just want everyone to do things their way!

    Though perhaps some of them really don’t realize the implications of their behavior on that note. I think sometimes when I put it that way–the way you just quoted above–it makes them start thinking about things that hadn’t occurred to them before. I think I had more success pointing that fact out than I had with any other argument.

  • PWS

    As someone who is an adult convert to Catholicism (I stumbled upon the post and read through the comments, interested) who was raised by adamant atheists, I’d have to say most of this hand wringing is probably to no avail. My RCIA class consisted of 60 people (went to RCIA at a cathedral), nearly all of whom were raised by atheists or agnostics. If anything, my parent’s absolutely adamant disavowal of anything vaguely religious got me interested in the first place. Most people going through the RCIA program were in the same boat- felt as if there was an essential, religious part of themselves denied to them by their parents.

    There really is no silver bullet. Get your kid baptized or not, raise your kid how you want to or not, they’ll probably wind up doing whatever they want in the end.

  • Great discussion. I came to it because I’m in that situation right now; Grandma wants the kid baptized. I was vehemently against it until I realized that my son (almost 7 yrs old) is excited about it. I let him go to church with her occasionally, figuring eventually he would see the farce for what it is, but now I think this is about fitting in. I explained that he must do it for himself only, not just to make Grandma happy. But he’s seven.

    I’m letting them go ahead with it (without me of course) because it’s ultimately meaningless. I really don’t want him to be a part of a ritual initiation into a cult, which is how I see it. But I came to the conclusion that as long as nobody’s forcing him, OK. If he wasn’t excited about it I would not allow it.

    Is it a cop out so I don’t have to be the “bad guy?” Perhaps. But I’m also afraid that if I actively push him away from religion that will make him more attracted to it.

  • Is it a cop out so I don’t have to be the “bad guy?” Perhaps. But I’m also afraid that if I actively push him away from religion that will make him more attracted to it.

    You’ve already made your decision, so it’s probably a moot point, but you could always say that he can choose to be baptized when he’s older. Seven is just too young to give informed consent. Parents made decisions for their children all the time. You’re the one who makes decisions about his education, clothing, lifestyle, etc. You wouldn’t let your seven year old get a tattoo just because he wanted one. In that instance, it’s perfectly appropriate to tell him that he can get a tattoo (or be baptized) when he’s 18.

    You don’t have to push him away from religion, but if you’re allowing his grandmother to expose him to only one point of view (hers), then your son doesn’t get any sort of balance. She’s clearly not shy about indoctrinating him. You’re the parent, though. It’s your responsibility to expose him to other ways of seeing the world. There’s no shame in teaching him that lots of people don’t believe in gods and goddesses, and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Consider exposing him to other god-concepts and also to the history of doubt and freethought. Don’t let the religious people in his life be the only ones who get to pass along their worldview.

  • Stan

    When a child is baptized the parents and godparents promise to raise their children in the faith. If you don’t believe what the Church believes why would you attend the Mass and pretend to do so? Why would you have your child baptized? Baptism isn’t a magic ceremony where people are imbued with all knowledge and faith. You have to raise children up so that they know that God loves them and that they are part of His family. Baptism does have spiritual benefits for the child and the parents, but if those graces are not nurtured through the child’s upbringing what the child learns is that his parents are intellectually and spiritually dishonest

  • Robert

    Stan said it very well. If you are doing it as a lie, then you would be disrespectful to the Church and your family. No need to make a mockery of what they believe.

error: Content is protected !!