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Shaker

Atheist godparents

What should atheists do when asked, as they sometimes are, to become godparents of a child? A range of views from members of the National Secular Society are presented here.

I find myself most strongly in agreement with comments such as these:

Quote:
Some years ago, my husband (a Humanist) and I were asked by friends to be godparents to their baby daughter. I looked at the wording of the ceremony and declined as I felt unable to stand in public and make statements to which I was totally opposed. In answer to, 'Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against god?' godparents must answer, 'I reject them'. To the question, 'Do you turn to Christ as saviour?' I was being asked to say, 'I come to Christ'. My husband was not so hide-bound. His view was that it was only words, he didn't believe them; they meant nothing to him, so he was prepared to utter them. I was not. My friends asked me again and again I refused. They tried a third time to persuade me, saying that they wished me to be a part of their daughter's life in a 'formal' way. In the end I agreed to come to the church and, when asked to come to the front and make my pledges, I would remain silent. Everyone agreed to this. So, when my husband, and my friend's sister, made their pledges, I stood in silence. I wondered whether the priest might have queried my non-participation in the ceremony, but thankfully he didn't.

That is how I coped with the problem. Not ideal to say the least, but I could not say statements that were so utterly alien to my views.


and

Quote:
An awfully long time ago, as a convinced atheist, I was surprised to be asked by my resolutely atheist brother and sister-in-law to be a godparent to their second daughter and assuming it was a kind of honorary do-nothing position on a social occasion, I agreed.

I was furious to find myself marched to a village church and then requested to stand up and make all kind of promises about religious upbringing etc. As my equally atheist wife said, "You did that without moving your lips." The man in the frock was not happy either.

Basically, it's a stupid, primitive ritual, as is a christening and my advice is to have nothing to do with it.

If we all go along just to keep the peace, the church will continue to exert influence. It is only by refusing to have any truck with the whole nonsense that we can create a properly, sane, secular society.


Given that the C of E baptism ceremony includes this part with reference to godparents:

Quote:
... the Celebrant asks the following questions of the candidates who can speak for themselves, and of the parents and godparents who speak on behalf of the infants and younger children

Question     Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
               of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer        I renounce them.

Question     Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
               which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer        I renounce them.

Question     Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
               from the love of God?
Answer        I renounce them.

Question     Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your
               Savior?
Answer        I do.

Question     Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer        I do.

Question     Do you promise to follow and obey him as your
               Lord?
Answer       I do.


as well as the Baptismal Covenant, I fail to see how any self-respecting atheist who considers themselves to be honest and to possess any integrity whatsoever can take part in such a rite. I've never yet been asked, but were I to be faced with this situation, I would see no option but to decline politely, explaining my reasons if necessary. Saying something, even if it's nonsense, that I simply do not believe, sits ill with me.
Leonard James

Same here. But what believer in his right mind would ask an atheist to be godparent?
trentvoyager

Leonard James wrote:
Same here. But what believer in his right mind would ask an atheist to be godparent?


You do realise you are questioning the sanity of my partners sister  

you may have a point  
Shaker

Leonard James wrote:
Same here. But what believer in his right mind would ask an atheist to be godparent?

To be fair it could be somebody unfamilar with the order of service and the promises that a godparent is expected to make and duties expected to undertake with regard to raising the godchild as a Christian. How many people are actually aware of the order of service? Very, very few, I'm sure. No doubt many people - and after all, most of those undertaking the ceremony will be doing it out of habit and social custom rather than religious conviction - will just think that it involves a third party making a promise to look after the chavvy if they die. Which up to a point it does - but there's far, far more to it than that.
Leonard James

Shaker wrote:
Leonard James wrote:
Same here. But what believer in his right mind would ask an atheist to be godparent?

To be fair it could be somebody unfamilar with the order of service and the promises that a godparent is expected to make and duties expected to undertake with regard to raising the godchild as a Christian. How many people are actually aware of the order of service? Very, very few, I'm sure. No doubt many people - and after all, most of those undertaking the ceremony will be doing it out of habit and social custom rather than religious conviction - will just think that it involves a third party making a promise to look after the chavvy if they die. Which up to a point it does - but there's far, far more to it than that.

Yes, I suppose a really committed Christian wouldn't dream of considering an atheist godparent.
trentvoyager

I was an atheist godparent. There - I've come out)

My partners sister asked me because she thought it was a good way of persuading her mother that gay people were just, you know, ordinary - we had problems with her accepting our relationship for a few years.

It was a kind thought and at the time I felt it would have been churlish to refuse - I mumbled incoherently at the appropriate moments.
cymrudynnion

I have had an experience opposite to those quoted.
Youn are all aware that I am a practicing anglican. Some years ago when my nephews were babes in arms my inlaws said the children would be goping to the local church "to be dipped". The phrase "to be dipped" was infuriating to me to say the least. My wife asked would we be God parents if asked. I knew my brother in law was an athiest and therefore would niot mean or keep any of the Promises he would be asked to make. My response to my wife was i would decline if asked. About 12 years later my sister in law had found a progressive church in her home town of Cheltenham taht was to her liking. She and her sons attended regularly and they did decide to be Baptised and Confirmed. This time when asked to be a supporter of my nephews for their Confirmation my response was YES.
IvyOwl

trentvoyager wrote:
I was an atheist godparent. There - I've come out)

My partners sister asked me because she thought it was a good way of persuading her mother that gay people were just, you know, ordinary - we had problems with her accepting our relationship for a few years.

It was a kind thought and at the time I felt it would have been churlish to refuse - I mumbled incoherently at the appropriate moments.


Trent! Shock horror! I'd been suspecting for some time that you had a guilty secret or two!!!

But seriously I can see why you went along with it. I know that one, when someone is intending to do you a kindness which is actually not what you want but you go along with it so as not to hurt their feelings. It's not easy 'treating others as you wish to be treated is it'?

My cousins are much younger than me and I was asked to be a god parent to one of them. However I can't remember which of the 2 brothers it was for as they were 'done' together. Anyway at the time I was a Born Again and was most uncomfortable at taking part in a Cof E service in that way that Christians never quite see eye to eye with people who have interpreted things differently, but well you know, family.

All I ever did to fulfil my role was buy them a book of 'Bible Stories for Children' as soon after that I saw the light in a 'road back from Damascus' type of experience. A moment of clarity when all niggling doubts coalesced as I realised that I'd been mistaken about the 'holy spirit' it was just my subconscious.

So if ever I was asked to do it now I'd decline, as over the intervening 40 years my disbelief has been well and truly consolidated.

IO
Powwow

You're right Leo, I would never dream of such a thing.
Leonard James

pow wow wrote:
You're right Leo, I would never dream of such a thing.


Unless it were a nightmare, of course!
Lexilogio

I deliberately didn't ask people who were close to be godparents because they are atheist. It didn't seem appropriate. Which makes it hard to choose a Godfather. Not many blokes go to church...
Ketty

In my expression of church we don't Christen or baptise children under the age of consent.  We do not think it has any Biblical basis, and instead we have dedication ceremonies.  

That said, I think a significant number of parents who take their children to be Christened are not practising Christians themselves, and for them, it's just one of those social niceties that one does on the journey from birth to death, and a reason to have a party.  If they don't have a particularly strong faith, then the finer nuances and the significance of the words said, will not have a deep meaning and that's proven by their choice of Godparent(s).  I've even been on MBs where people have moaned about being asked to be a Godparent because they felt it was a way of expecting a more generous gift from them.

I have a lot of respect for those who think deeply about and are brave enough to say 'No thank you'.  Equally, I can understand it having become just another happy and friendly way of celebrating birth, and if none of the parties truly understands the promises, then it is what it is, and I have no problem with it.
Jim

Dedication - or blessing - services are becoming more common than infant baptism in this part of the CofS - for which I'm thankful, as I rejected my own infant baptism in favour of a believers baptism.
Too often in the past, the 'christening' (Ain't no such thing ) was only an excuse for a party, rather than a very special, sacred thing. At least now, many children have the choice to be baptised when they find faith - and, as a result, we are seeing significantly more adult baptisms.
We've never gone in for formal godparents, though. When a baptism occurs, the congregation as a whole is asked to stand and re-affirm their obligation to bring the new believer up in Christ's teaching.
Lexilogio

I should add, my DD was christened aged 10, and my youngest aged 9. Both chose to be christened themselves.
Ketty

Lexilogio wrote:
I should add, my DD was christened aged 10, and my youngest aged 9. Both chose to be christened themselves.


Lexi, can I ask (cos I'm not terribly au fait with it all), at that age, why Christened rather than Confirmed?
Lexilogio

Ketty wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:
I should add, my DD was christened aged 10, and my youngest aged 9. Both chose to be christened themselves.


Lexi, can I ask (cos I'm not terribly au fait with it all), at that age, why Christened rather than Confirmed?


My DD has now been confirmed as well. It is their choice - and we have to wait for confirmation classes to come round. My youngest didn't feel he was ready for confirmation classes this year.
Ketty

Lexilogio wrote:

My DD has now been confirmed as well. It is their choice - and we have to wait for confirmation classes to come round. My youngest didn't feel he was ready for confirmation classes this year.


I remember you telling us of her Confirmation.  It's good that your youngest is thinking about it sufficiently that he didn't just go along with it.

Is a Christening a legal pre-requisite to Confirmation?
Lexilogio

Ketty wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:

My DD has now been confirmed as well. It is their choice - and we have to wait for confirmation classes to come round. My youngest didn't feel he was ready for confirmation classes this year.


I remember you telling us of her Confirmation.  It's good that your youngest is thinking about it sufficiently that he didn't just go along with it.

Is a Christening a legal pre-requisite to Confirmation?


Yes. Although some adults get christened, or baptised at the same time. With children its discouraged, as its better for them to take each decision at a time.
Ketty

Lexilogio wrote:


Yes. Although some adults get christened, or baptised at the same time. With children its discouraged, as its better for them to take each decision at a time.


Thanks Lexi.  

I've learnt something new.
bnabernard

Question
If a parent has been baptised and become physicaly and mentaly clean, why does a child of that parent need to be baptised, flesh of flesh and all that?

bernard (hug)
cyberman

bnabernard wrote:
Question
If a parent has been baptised and become physicaly and mentaly clean, why does a child of that parent need to be baptised, flesh of flesh and all that?

bernard (hug)


Baptism is how you join the church. Why shouldn't children be admitted?
Leonard James

cyberman wrote:
bnabernard wrote:
Question
If a parent has been baptised and become physicaly and mentaly clean, why does a child of that parent need to be baptised, flesh of flesh and all that?

bernard (hug)


Baptism is how you join the church. Why shouldn't children be admitted?


If you are referring to baptism of babies, no reason at all, since they are not aware of what is happening.

If you are referring to children regularly joining in church services, I think a very good reason for not allowing it is that they may well be deceived into thinking that all the supernatural stuff is fact rather than belief ... and I don't think that is a good way to educate a child.
Shaker

Leonard James wrote:
cyberman wrote:
bnabernard wrote:
Question
If a parent has been baptised and become physicaly and mentaly clean, why does a child of that parent need to be baptised, flesh of flesh and all that?

bernard (hug)


Baptism is how you join the church. Why shouldn't children be admitted?


If you are referring to baptism of babies, no reason at all, since they are not aware of what is happening.

That seems to me to be the perfect reason why children shouldn't be baptised.
Leonard James

Shaker wrote:
Leonard James wrote:
cyberman wrote:
bnabernard wrote:
Question
If a parent has been baptised and become physicaly and mentaly clean, why does a child of that parent need to be baptised, flesh of flesh and all that?

bernard (hug)


Baptism is how you join the church. Why shouldn't children be admitted?


If you are referring to baptism of babies, no reason at all, since they are not aware of what is happening.

That seems to me to be the perfect reason why children shouldn't be baptised.

Why, Stebe? As it doesn't make the slightest difference to them and they are not aware of what it means, but it pleases the parents, why not?

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