What Should Atheists Parents Do When Their Child Wants to Get Baptized?

In a piece for the Guardian, James Harrington writes about he and his wife — both atheists — send their daughter to a local (French) Catholic school known for its high-quality education. They don’t mind the once-a-week catechism classes because, to them, the benefits of the school far outweigh the time their girl spends getting indoctrinated, but now there’s a slight problem: the daughter wants to get baptized.

Here’s what I appreciate. They may be a bit taken aback by that, but they’re not going to stop her. In fact, they’re proud that she made such an important decision like that for herself:

What courage had it taken for her to tell us what she wanted? It was clear that our brave, sweet daughter had thought about her faith long and hard.

Looking back, we realised we had regularly discussed our differing beliefs. Our daughter brought us Genesis. We gave her the Michael Bay-friendly Big Bang. She brought us the Nativity and peace and goodwill at Christmas. We gave her family, friends and good food. She brought us the crucifixion. We gave her the Easter Bunny. She brought us heaven, god and an afterlife. We gave her 21st-century life and a brief future as worm fodder.

After all that — and in spite of our gentle antipathy to god and creation — she still had the courage of her convictions to say to both of us, to our faces and again in front of the priest, that our world view isn’t enough for her. She believes. She wants to be baptised and she wants to be Catholic.

How often do we see religious parents say anything like that when it comes to their children becoming atheists?

I’m drawing a blank.

So hats off to the Harringtons for letting their daughter explore religion for herself.

Kind of.

One issue with the story is that their daughter’s only eight years old. Is this really a decision she’s putting a lot of thought into or is she just trying to imitate her friends?

On the up side, there’s probably a good chance she’ll believe something different next week.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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