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Can an Atheist Attend a Roman Catholic Christening Ceremony?
 
The Roman Catholic Church invests the rite of baptising babies with huge significance. It sees it as making them Catholics, members of the Catholic Church and subjects of Jesus Christ through the Pope. It sees it as cleansing them from the sin we are supposedly all born with, original sin. Baptism into the Catholic Church is a bigger deal than baptism performed in any other religion.
 
Should the atheist who regards religion as foul superstition attend a baptism ceremony for a child who is a family member? He should have a bigger problem with Roman Catholic baptism than any other form of Christianity.
 
The Reason not to Attend
 
People think they can choose the means, or way to do something, without choosing what the means lead to.
 
As Father Bunge puts it, "Choice of the means already determines the result" (page 70, Buddhism from a Catholic Perspective, Paul M Williams, Catholic Truth Society, London, 2006). He speaks in the context of how if a Catholic practices Buddhist meditation, that meditation is an expression of Buddhism and the person will be led perhaps in subtle ways to the Buddhist faith. He is right. The meditation expresses Buddhist doctrine. And nothing expresses Catholic doctrine and Catholicism better than baptism. Even the Mass cannot happen without it. There can be no Pope.
 
To choose to enable a baptism of a child is to choose to help form the Catholic Church.
 
An atheist cannot betray himself or herself by getting involved or encouraging.
 
Body and mind are virtually the same thing. So to enable the baptism of a child is to enable the Catholic faith in principle. The body of the child is washed and the child is literally enrolled in the Church.
 
Reasons not to Attend
 
A higher principle is always to be served even at the expense of lesser principles. For example, it would be wrong for a person who knows better to freely attend an animal sacrifice ritual even if he or she is merely a guest or observer. Attendance implies that there is something to be celebrated and that there is no serious problem with the sacrifice. Attending to please others is simply failing to see that the principle of respecting animal life is far more important. You would be unable to thank anybody that invites you to the sacrifice.
 
Could disapproval of infant baptism be a higher principle? Yes. If you know infant baptism or enrolment of children in religion is wrong that means the principle to uphold this and not undermine it in any way takes priority over the principles and feelings of the others who facilitate them.
 
Principle always matters more than people's feelings. You cannot please everybody. If you give up principles for the sake of the feelings of others you will lose the respect that is due to you. It is better to be respected than liked. It is worse in the long term to give in.
 
If it were not for infant baptism the Church would not have as much power and influence and money. If it had to depend on evangelising people to get them converted it would be no bigger than the Mormon Church probably!
 
The intention of the Church is to use the ceremony as a means to get the baby ceremony says the baby needs to have its original sin forgiven by baptism. This accuses the child of being an enemy of God.
 
The ceremony purports to mark the child with the obligation to be a Catholic. The obligation means the babies are bad people - whether they know it or not - if they disobey the church and refuse to believe in its gospel in its fullness.
 
The baby might make up its own mind and decide not to remain Catholic - but baptism is an attempt to take this right away. It forces a religious identity on the child that he may not want. The baptism ceremony does not mention or sanction the right of the child to renounce it later.
 
The Church sees baptism as more important than marriage for baptism marries you to God. Yet priests baptise merely because they are asked to. Its hypocritical. And more so when the priest knows that parents don't know enough about the religion to make a responsible decision. And even worse when the child of anti-religion parents is baptised. The priest is facilitating the parents taking false and invalid and unfair vows to make a good Catholic of the child which is really perjury.
 
And religion is very untruthful even by its own standards. One example out of thousands follows. Consider how nearly all Catholics will deny you have a right to judge anybody else's behaviour. They quote Jesus saying do not judge. But Jesus said do not judge but the exception is that you may judge if you look at yourself first for if you don't the judgement you pass on others will be passed on you. It is not right to expose a child to such hypocrisy. Religion has implications that are worse than anything it actually teaches. Liberal religion is not as liberal as it looks. If you tell the liberal Catholic that God wanted people destroyed for it says so in the Bible they say, "But the Bible says God is love." In other words, the Bible does not command evil even if it does. That is pure fundamentalism. Also, the liberals interpret the Bible in line with their preconceptions so they are really saying, "What a great God I am for my opinions are God's and they are the word of God!" Fundamentalism again!
 
The fact that religion is man-made means that even if it is a good means of social control it cannot last. Many people claiming to be Catholics claim that you can invent any faith you want as long as it makes you feel good.
 
Baptism implies the child must hear only the Catholic side and be indoctrinated.
 
Baptism cannot be said to be intended to put genuinely good spirit forces or powers into the child.
 
Catholics rail against the Mormons performing proxy baptisms for the Catholics dead relations saying its offensive to baptise good dead Catholics as Mormons! They know fine well that baptism of babies is an abuse of the babies.
 
Christianity is very powerful as a political force. The hypocrisy of the members who do not take it seriously but who give it money and who support it publicly is its political impetus. Though its meant to be a religion, it is more politics than religion. A Catholic is made by a sprinkle of water. That is the religious equivalent of nationality. Eg if you are born in Italy you are Italian. Human personhood begins some time after conception so if your Italian parents were in Spain when the foetus became you then you are Spanish. Nationality like water baptism is just a label based on political divides. The Christian leaders engage in the same lies and manipulations as politicians do. The leaders treat other religions like other political parties. The supporter of secularism or atheistic rights is only betraying his or her cause by being listed as say a Catholic. Or by participating in a ceremony that puts the label on a baby.
 
Remember the ceremony of baptism reflects Christianity's missionary spirit so its meant to teach the faith to all who attend. If Christianity is true, we have an obligation to believe in it whether we know it or not. Missionary work is necessarily based on that assumption. When the religion claims the right to give you its views, you have the right to state yours as an unbeliever. You have the right to refuse to be exposed to Christianity.
 
Reasons to Attend refuted
 
The day is not about you the atheist but about the baby. Attend for her or his sake.
 
Reply: If an atheist cannot participate in a baptism he might be told, “Hey that baptism is about Annabelle and not about you. You are not getting baptised. She is.” That contradicts love neighbour as yourself. Also, if it is really about the person it should not be engaged in. It implies there is nothing seriously bad about the rite.
 
Just because something is done to the baby that does not mean its the baby's day. Baptism is not about pleasing the baby but about making the baby please God. Christianity teaches that loving God is the one commandment that has to be obeyed if the others cannot be. So God alone really matters. The baby is regarded as a sinner in need of the power of baptism to take sin away. Baptism is not about welcoming the baby into the world. It is not even about welcoming the baby into the Church, a community of faith. Baptism is only for "fixing" the baby. Then the baby is welcomed. But baptism itself is not about welcoming. Rather the opposite. Baptism implies the baby can only be celebrated if God takes its sin away. A person who grew up to realise why daddy or some close relative didn't go near their baptism would in fact admire them for staying away.
 
We must remember that is the family's day. It is not about the baby.
 
You will offend the parents if you do not attend.
 
There will be many parents who will understand. Those who are offended are only offended because you didn't talk it over with them properly. Its the not talking that is the problem. It is not the declining to attend.
 
We all need to swallow our principles once in a while. Its about the parent's beliefs, not yours. Your beliefs do not matter in this case.
Reply: That is really an attack on freedom of conscience. You only swallow your principles if adhering to them would break an even bigger or more important principle. It is up to you to decide whose principle comes first, yours or those whose noses will be put out of joint. Holding principles is dangerous unless you have carefully thought out reasons for them.
 
Your beliefs always matter. Even when you have to sacrifice some principles for a bigger one that does not mean the other principles are no longer important. They are as important as ever.
 
The argument shows that the religious person voicing it is really a believer in forcing others to conform to his religion at least under certain circumstances.
 
The argument would not be used if it were a Hindu or a Born-Again Christian who did not feel they could attend. It is directed at non-religious people and secularists as if their beliefs and wisdom were irrelevant. The impression given is that religious beliefs of any kind deserve the most rights.
 
If you feel you would be a hypocrite for attending, reminder that it is better to be a hypocrite than unkind and upset people. You are only being a hypocrite for a little while but the hurt you cause by not going will last.
 
No reasonable person would ask you to be a hypocrite at all. You might not be liked for having authenticity but you will be respected and trusted. These will lead to you being liked again. If you are still disliked it is only because the dislikers don't want to like you anyway. Some people will dislike you for your hypocrisy. Others will hide it and not admit it but they do not like you.
 
It's strange for you as a staunch atheist to feel so strongly about a ceremony that holds no meaning for you and which you regard as nonsense. You will only be seen as weird.
 
If evil is nonsense then any nonsense paves the way for it and is bad. An honest person has the right to feel strongly about a ceremony that seems superstitious.
 
If the staunch atheist's feeling of repugnance is very strong it should be respected. Are believers saying he should be pressured to go to the ceremony?
 
It is not strange or odd to hate a rite that you see as superstition. Superstition offends against our right to truth and without truth we cannot live. The rite is a gateway to a worse superstition.
 
The being seen as weird warning is really an attempt to blackmail.
 
The christening is not doing you any harm or anybody else. It is worse if its a bris or ritual circumcision for that is the mutilation of a little boy. Its only a baptism!
 
Error and superstition always harm. It might not seem that obviously harmful but it has harmful results. For example, though the Catholic Church forbade astrology and superstition, these evils exploded for the simple reason that the Church itself was superstitious and gave bad example.
 
I would see baptism as a social ceremony not a religious one. It is accepting a child into the community. Go for if you don't you are saying your beliefs are more important than society and its bonds and cohesion.
 
Nonsense. People do not go around thinking, "That child is not baptised and is therefore only a second class member of the community." The argument is quite racist. It implies that cultures that don't baptise are a threat to society.
 
And if society observes the rites of a religion it does not believe in that is only a fashion and fashions change and only change because people go against the current fashion to create new ones.
 
Attending is not harming your atheism or promoting religion.
 
What sounds more supportive of atheism? Attending or not attending? Clearly the latter.
 
If you don't attend, isn't that just principle for the sake of principle? That would be stupid.
 
It is irrational adherence to principle that is principle for the sake of principle. Principles are not black and white. Choose your principles on the basis that you will have the least darkness and the more light.
 
Are principles less important than feelings? No. The world cannot function if we let feelings decide everything.
 
If you were having an atheist or humanist wedding would you like it if your family stayed away on account of their religious beliefs?
 
If they say they are happy for you they are being hypocrites. If they are right and you are wrong to exclude God they have no right to say that. They cannot give you a present for that is acknowledging and celebrating the occasion.
 
If they say they hope they do not hurt you but that it is something they cannot be a part of then accept that.
 
Atheist Godparents
 
It is undeniable that an atheist cannot be a godparent. Some say religion is only a cultural thing and so it is okay to pretend to be a Christian and promise to raise a child in the Christian faith though you don't intend to.
 
Religion is not merely a set of customs. It makes truth-claims and has a philosophy that is to be taken seriously.
 
No culture advocates making lying promises or hypocrisy or masquerading as a religionist.
 
CONCLUSION
 
To attend an act of religious worship is not necessarily to participate but it is saying the worship is good enough to be tolerated.  Given that religion misuses children and misuses even Jesus who has loads of stuff put into his mouth when he cannot speak out attending is not an option.  It is tolerant to let the ceremony happen but it is your choice to stay away and that choice should be respected.  Attending is more than tolerance.  The atheist should not go to the baptism. She should say she cannot be a part of it and express a desire to offend or hurt no one.
 
If there was no religion there would be less to be offended over. Nothing is better than religion for causing difficulties with principles. It should be a principle to be non-religious.