Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Debaptism & Debunking Meaningless Religious Expression

A British man who was baptized as an infant and has become an atheist in adulthood has asked the Church of England to remove his name from the rolls of those baptized. The church has refused, noting that the baptism records are a matter of history and that the man has become an atheist doesn’t change the historical fact that he had been baptized.

Sensing an opportunity to poke fun at religion and gain a bit of publicity for their organization The National Secular Society has begun a campaign to offer the rite of debaptism. For a few pounds one can purchase an unofficial certificate of debaptism. Thus far thousands have done so.

Though the infant baptism may have been significant to the atheist’s parents, it was not to him and became a source of irritation to him that he was still counted among the members of the church.

The Society has had fun and the media has had a few headlines but I wonder if there will be more to this in the future. Specifically I wonder if in this less religious day (see my post here) others will take similar steps of making anti-religion statements?

If so I think I’m in favor of it. In my denomination we have nearly 17 million members in the US. Around half that number can’t even be located. That means that it has been so long since they’ve attended the church where their membership is held no one has a current address on them. Doesn’t sound like their membership, baptism or anything else associated with the church is very meaningful.

I disagree with atheists regarding their “belief” about God but I stand with them in debunking meaningless religious expression. I find baptism one of the most meaningful expressions in the Christian faith. Likewise I’m deeply touched in worship when receiving the Lord’s Supper. Officiating weddings and funerals for committed Christians who believe the promises of God regarding marriage, life and death is a privilege and honor to me.

But then there are those times where family members or concerned others pressure their loved ones into doing something religious because they find it meaningful or because of the appearance of spirituality. The emptiness and absence of authenticity sadden me for the participant and it cheapens the experience.

Similarly I don’t think God is in favor of religious game playing. I rather think He prefers honest public statements of faithlessness and debaptism than the hypocrisy of meaningless ritual.

If you’re interested in what the certificate says--

I ________ having been subjected to the Rite of Christian Baptism in infancy (before reaching an age of consent), hereby publicly revoke any implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all its Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of alleged ORIGINAL SIN, and the evil power of supposed demons. I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.”

No comments: