Yesterday, I mentioned an article about atheist communities that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.
The reporter, G. Jeffrey MacDonald, has also written a side piece about atheist “de-baptism ceremonies.” (I’m mentioned in it.)
A lot is made of the notion that the atheist de-baptisms “mock” Christians — that’s not really what they’re about. For some participants, it’s a way to put some closure on that chapter of your life, by leaving the church the same way you entered it.
For [Jennifer] Gray, the lighthearted spirit of last summer’s Atheist Coming Out Party and De-Baptism Bash in suburban Westerville, Ohio, served a higher purpose than merely spoofing a Christian rite.
“It was very therapeutic,” Gray said in an interview. “It was a chance to laugh at the silly things I used to believe as a child. It helped me admit that it was OK to think the way I think and to not have any religious beliefs.”
MacDonald notes that the ceremonies are an American practice, while actually getting de-baptized, and getting your name off church rosters, is a European phenomenon.
Of course, the article has to include comments from Christians who take these things seriously:
De-baptism efforts have been growing internationally in recent years. More than 100,000 Britons downloaded de-baptism certificates from the National Secular Society (NSS) between 2005 and 2009, according to NSS campaigner Stephen Evans. Upwards of 1,000 Italians requested de-baptism certificates prior to Italy’s “De-Baptism Day” last October, according to Italy’s Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
For mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, baptism is commonly understood as a sign or means of grace and a covenant that God maintains even when humans turn away, said Laurence Stookey, professor emeritus of preaching and worship at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. He said “de-baptizers” misunderstand baptism when they caricature it as an attempt at magic.
Baptism “is a kind of adoption where you become a child of God, of the church and of the family,” Stookey said. “You can renounce your physical parents, (the church and God), but they cannot renounce you because you are their child. Anybody who makes fun of baptism probably hasn’t gone into it in enough depth to know that.”
The atheists understand that concept perfectly well.
That’s precisely why we leave the church and “mock” these silly beliefs. Becoming a “child of God” sounds nice rhetorically, but getting dunked in a baptismal pool has no more effect on you than belly-flopping into your neighbor’s swimming pool. Any change is occurring only in your mind.
Does anyone else find it absurd that some of these Christians will oppose pharmacists giving Plan B to underage girls because “they’re not old enough to understand what they’re doing”… and then baptize babies before they can even form memories.
Baptisms are symbolic for Christians, even if they think there’s more going on. De-baptisms are symbolic for atheists, too, except we know there’s no “magic” happening with that blow dryer.