I honestly jump back and forth between atheism and agnosticism a lot … this post isn’t really about that, but I note this simply because it’s interesting to consider that my wife chose to identify me as agnostic in the interactions with her church leading up to this particular event – I guess because “it was easier.”
What I will say though is that I’ve noticed that I tend to go atheist more when there are specific issues with religion that I’m angst-y about and agnostic when I’m feeling less defensive about the whole thing.
So we got Christopher baptized today.
This was a big deal for my wife, who’s catholic, and kind of a big deal in the other way for myself. We’ve had countless talks, many long before we were even ready to have kids, about how religion would play a role in our children’s upbringing, and we always agreed that it had to be a mix where both of us felt comfortable about these subjects that we feel strongly about. And I knew that it was going to be a challenge for me in particular because on one hand, it’s not really fair to tell the kid, “Sure, you can get up early and go to church with Mom on Sunday, or you can stay home and sleep in with Dad!” … it’s hard to teach the absence of something without picking holes at the thing that you don’t yourself believe in.
There’s this ignorant comment that I see every so often on Facebook where a believer speaks against atheism by saying, “You don’t even believe in God, so why do you care if we pray in schools or put a cross out on the lawn? A cross is basically just a big plus sign to you people that believe in nothing.”
And aside from the mathematically impaired misunderstanding that a cross and a plus are in fact two different shapes, the underlying message always bugs me, too, because when I identify as an atheist, I’m not saying that I believe in nothing, I’m saying that I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in a higher power. I don’t believe in all of these things that you worship and take sacraments for and people cite as the reasons for making decisions big and small in their lives.
And even more specifically, when I find myself leaning more towards atheism than agnosticism, again, it’s typically because of some horribly offensive element of Christianity that I couldn’t possibly imagine an all-knowing, all-loving god ever having any part of and I’m specifically trying to distance myself from those kinds of things that I often see in organized religion. So no, I don’t believe in nothing … I don’t believe in God, and I believe that what you believe in is wrong.
And I totally get how that can be offensive to someone who believes in god…
…but if we’re being frank, most religions don’t exactly seem to have a whole lot of respect for me when they’re trying to integrate themselves into a society in places that are specifically designed with a separation of church and state, trying to create new laws that align with their values without regard for anyone who believes different, not to mention writing me off as going to burn in hell for all eternity while all of the good, little Christians will be celebrating up in heaven.
That’s not very nice!
So to get things back on topic, I’ve been long anticipating that today was going to be a challenging day, but it was something that I was willing to suffer through for Sara because I know that it’s important to her, and eventually once he starts to get older, that’s when he’ll get to start making his own decisions. But for the time being, baptism at an early age is apparently important … my Mom says that *I* was baptized, so I guess it doesn’t work on everybody! I knew going in that it was going to be pretty uncomfortable … I knew that every time Sara had to give me an update on what the plans were and I heard the frustrations about how ridiculously picky even within their own ranks the catholic church is even when it came to picking his godparents because depending on what kind of catholic you’ve been throughout your life determines what kind of godparent you’re allowed to be.
It’s stupid, petty stuff like that that just makes my blood boil thinking about religion … it reminds me of when we were trying to get married and one of the priests we talked to actually emailed Sara afterwards and said that “because of her fiance’s lack of faith, he wouldn’t feel right turning his back on God to accommodate those beliefs at her wedding.” Real loving bunch…
Thankfully, the ceremony ended up being just about as painless as it could’ve been. Although there was some repeat after me and Q&A-type interactions, we’d already agreed that she would answer the questions and I’d just remain silent … and most of them were actually done as a big group of all 12 babies being baptized that day, so that made it less obvious. And the preacher was super nice and very down-to-earth and friendly, so that definitely helped, too, because I can’t stand the type who speaks of all of these positive stories about Jesus and then passes judgment in a veiled manner afterwards. I even heard of some of that while we were going through IVF because the catholic church doesn’t condone unnatural childbirth when she asked for a prayer during mass, though I believe it was actually this particular preacher who didn’t agree with that decision and offered to do one anyways…
The rituals themselves were just as weird as they always are and we joked afterwards about needing to take him swimming to get the oils off him that they used for whatever that part was. Luckily it wasn’t a long ceremony and there weren’t any parts singling out the parents to give them a chance to rededicate their faiths or anything … that’s always awkward on the occasions when I’ve gone with Sara because I have to sit there for 15 minutes while everyone squeezes around me to go up and get their cracker and wine or whatever.
And then we took some pictures, and then we came home and barbecued and had cake and went swimming!
I survived, and now Christopher has officially been relieved of original sin, even though that’s something I don’t believe in because the only sin that this baby has to his name so far is being absolutely adorable! Well, and costing me a small fortune to get him here. And that really nasty poop from the other week. But even that … sin is a pretty strong word for a baby, don’t you think?!
As far as I’ve been told, I’ve got a few years to relax now until my next ordeal with the catholic church on his behalf. Right now Sara occasionally takes him to church with her on Sunday mornings, but if it earns me a couple hours of free sleep without waking up to a screaming baby, I’m fine with that.
Once he starts actually understanding any of this stuff, I suppose that’ll be a different story… 🙄