Why I won’t baptize my child

The Catholic doctrine of “Original Sin” is a particularly cruel belief.  A baby is damned from birth because, at the alleged beginning of human history, Adam and Eve screwed up.  God shuts out of his presence a child who has, quite literally, never done anything, good or bad, because of the sin of other person.  Talk about visiting the sins of the father upon his descendants (a doctrine that, ironically, Christians universally reject).  This vision of god is so heartless, so contrary to the notion of a loving deity, that Catholics had to soften it by inventing Limbo, where the souls of children who die stained only by Original Sin are supposedly sent, not suffering the torments of hellfire, but neither enjoying the presence of god.  That’s the best they could do.

 

The way for innocents to avoid Limbo, of course, is to be baptized.  Thus, the Catholic practice of dressing infants in oversized doilies and dribbling a bit of water over their fuzzy little heads.  Family and friends snap photos of the moistened tot, while the parents swear an oath to indoctrin – er – raise the child in the faith.  Then, just for good measure, the entire congregation rejects satan and all his works (which oddly does not include hideous christening gowns) and swears that they will support the parents in properly propagandizing Junior.

 

Which brings me to my mother-in-law.  When Mrs. MG and I announced that we’re expecting a Little Midwesterner, MIL quickly jumped to, “Oh, have you told your church?  You’ll have to start thinking about godparents!”  To be fair, Mrs. MG and I are former Catholics and have not yet broken it to MIL that we’re now atheists.

 

But that news must break, because I will not see our child baptized and “forgiven” for a fictional transgression committed by people who never existed, and I surely will not swear to hobble our child’s mind with the myths and superstitions of a religious upbringing.  Original Sin is only as true as the story of Adam and Eve, which is entirely false.  Science has revealed enough about the evolution of humans for us to know that there was no historical moment when a single progenitor pair of modern humans gave birth to the species.  Indeed, some of the precursor species of modern humans likely remained around even after Homo sapiens was established as a unique species.  In light of this knowledge, it is foolishness of the worse kind to believe that that our infant will bear a metaphysical black mark from the moment of birth arising from the “fall of man.”

 

That, and the fact that god does not exist and that his almighty wrath is, accordingly, the least of my worries for my kid.

 

I anticipate this will be the first real confrontation we’ll face over our atheism.  It has the potential to be ugly.  I expect some tears, and fear being ostracized by certain family members.  But sticking up for truth is more important than going along with ignorance just to get along.  That’s the first lesson I hope to teach our child.

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6 Responses to Why I won’t baptize my child

  1. earthking says:

    This is an interesting post. You seem to know a lot about the Catholic faith, yet seem to miss the important details. First and foremost, I would agree with you that evolution is a possibility. Yet, it seems like you are equating scientific knowledge with metaphysical knowledge. I would go so far as to say you even bring science to the realm of religion. In fact, how do you even know that what the scientific community is telling you is true? After all, you haven’t seen the precursor to Homo Sapiens? You just blindly believe that what is written in scientific articles is true.

    Please blog to me- I enjoy discussions.

  2. earthking — Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I have to respectfully disagree with your position, however, on two fronts.

    First, I’m perfectly willing to concede a certain amount of doctrinal ignorance. But when I dug into the Catechism on Original Sin, nothing I saw convinced me that my reading of the doctrine is incorrect. Although the Catechism speaks of Genesis using “allegorical language,” numerous other statements make it clear that the doctrine depends on a belief in Adam and Eve’s existence and their commission of the first sin as historical facts. But science has disclosed that these “facts” are not true; there is no evidence that human beings arose from a single breeding pair (if you’ll forgive the crude phrase). My point, therefore, stands — if the factual basis of the belief in Original Sin is false, there can be no Original Sin. If there was no Original Sin, then we have a lot of unnecessarily damp babies.

    Second, I cannot disagree strongly enough with your implication that acceptance of scientific evidence is in any way “blind.” I don’t claim to be a scientist (I’m a lawyer), but I am educated as to scientific methods. Knowing about those methods means that when I read something asserting a scientific fact, I know a few things: (1) the fact being asserted is supported by evidence that has actually been observed; (2) in order for a fact to be widely accepted, it must be observed by numerous scientists; and (3) scientific papers are peer-reviewed and critiqued, and bad science will be revealed and dismissed if it cannot meet the first two criteria. With this knowledge, I can be fairly certain that, even though I have not done the experiments or reviewed the evidence myself, the facts being asserted as true. This is a qualified trust and depends on the source — if a different conclusion is published and evidence begins to support it, I’m perfectly willing to be convinced to change my mind. But the fundamental underpinning of my “belief” (which is really a misnomer) is evidence, not blind acceptance.

    The argument that belief in science is just another dogma is frequently asserted by religious individuals, and it is an intellectually dishonest argument (assuming the speaker knows anything about how science works). Religion requires its adherents to take things “on faith” (as the Catechism asserts with respect to certain aspects of Original Sin). Where religion makes empirical, factual assertions about the state of the world or historical facts, it is right to ask, “where are the facts supporting that assertion?” Science is a way of finding such facts, and if it discloses facts that don’t support the assertions of religion, it is hardly blindness to accept its conclusions over unsupported religious claims.

  3. Mr. SoNo and I enthusiastically support your decision to forego baptism. I myself was not baptized and am eternally (no pun intended) grateful to my parents for giving me the freedom to develop my own understanding of the origins of the world and my own ethical system. Of course, they hoped that I would come to agree, based on rational scientific evidence, that religion is a dangerous canard. Indeed, an intelligent child – provided with a solid scientific education and presented with a range of arguments (rational, pragmatic, and faith-based) – will inevitably reach this conclusion.

    Mr. SoNo and I are confident that you will reach a satisfactory entente with your family, but if you should require Godless Parents for your child, we would be honored to be considered for the post.

  4. SoNo Atheist says:

    God led my hand astray and made me commit a typographical sin!

    We remain, as ever…

    ATHEISTS

    (not athiests)

  5. Thanks, SoNo Atheist. We would be delighted to have you and Mr. SoNo be the Godless Parents of McFetus!

  6. I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I am quite certain I’ll learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

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