Monday, 30 March 2009

A symbol too far?

Just a quick thought today, prompted by the news that over 100,000 people in Britain are seeking to reverse their childhood baptism/christening [via AFP]. I sympathise with them, though I myself was never put through such a farcical abusive ceremony (thanks mum!) - but I can't help but think that by doing this they are imbuing the ceremonies with far more meaning than they deserve.

If I'm right in thinking that these people want to be de-baptised because they have discovered the enormous unlikeliness of the Christian teachings and would prefer to live their lives as rational beings, then why do they care so much that some old chap mumbled some mumbo-jumbo over them and splashed their foreheads with water when they were kids? Surely their seeking of this piece of paper is demonstrative of their belief that the whole ceremony is completely meaningless. The piece of paper is also meaningless, so why seek it out and pay cash money for it? Why do you care?

I fully support the National Secular Society, and if you're going to donate money to an organisation and haven't decided which yet, you could do worse than consider them in your shortlist. But I don't approve of them selling something which is entirely meaningless. I thought they were against that sort of business.

In an entirely unrelated topic, I will soon be opening up a service for anyone who wants to be declared "Nice". If you, as a child, were told by a parent or other authoritative adult (perhaps in a costume) that you were on Santa's "Naughty List", send me the small sum of £3 and I'll happily print you off a piece of paper reversing your status as "Naughty" and declaring you "Nice" - for all the world to see.


shanstheman said...

I agree that they're attaching a lot of importance to something which, as a de-converted theist, I see how silly it was. It's that kind of thing which adds to the false belief that atheists are merely rebellious theists who are mad at God.

I'd never bother with it myself.

Asclepius said...

I was christened. Frankly it means nothing to me. But it occurs to me that a lot of people are following Christianity or whatever local religion might apply to them based on their geographic location because of some individual attempt at Pascals Wager. If we act like there is/are God(s) then we are safe even if one doesnt exist. But if we accept the probability that our religion has got it wrong and act accordingly then we are buggered if they are right.

Nietzsche probably said it best when he said something along the lines of - "The best way to begin each day well is to think upon awakening whether we could not give at least one person pleasure on this day. If this practice could be accepted as a substitute for the religious habit of prayer, our fellow men would benefit by this change."

Darkwinter said...


Pascal's Wager is a very cynical (and horrifically flawed) reason for believing in any deities. I think most people who believe do so for different reasons - usually because their parents do. Either way it doesn't really have any bearing on why people might want to reverse their meaningless christening ceremony.

Asclepius said...

Christening a child is a fairly oppressive thing to do. Some people might just be doing it to spite their parents? Others because there arent many other ways to express atheism as flamboyantly as you express being a christian or a catholic. And maybe some who sort of believe in a God have been pushed too far and when theres no one else to be angry at the big imaginary guy is a prime target. May sound silly but I've seen that a lot especially working on oncology.

Just some idea's but I'm guessing the de-christening is more symbolic on a personal/individual level than an attempt to make a statement.

And as far as the pascals wager thing goes maybe theres a point where the risk to gain difference isnt really that promising.

Vincent said...

I could imagine someone trying to reverse their baptism if they feel that being indoctrinated into Christianity was associated with some form of abuse they might have suffered in childhood. On a rational, rather than an emotional level, it makes no sense as you and commenters have pointed out.

Still, I think it would make even less sense to make a "crusade" of opposing other people's religion.

Asclepius said...

Most religions seem to inspire their followers to oppose any other religion. Even if they dont openly advocate it the basic idea that people either believe the same as you or they must be punished seems to have led to a fairly uneasy cohabitation of this planet for millenia. With the obvious occasional violet outbursts. A surprising number of people today would be willing to assault someone for different beliefs its not too hard to imagine them removing a baptism to oppose them. Although I would put them in the same catagory as racists, homophobes, sexists...etc