Author Topic: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?  (Read 1097 times)

yourusernamehere

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Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« on: July 06, 2018, 03:35:46 PM »
Hello brilliant mustache hive!

Cutting right to it, I am deeply against Christening/baptism or other religious ceremonies meant to officially enter our baby (due this December) into the church. I am not just ambivalent about religion, I believe it's harmful to indoctrinate children into the idea that you should behave in certain ways out of fear of eternal punishment. And it would go against my beliefs and values to go into someone's church and flat out lie just to appease family. (Yes, I'm a real joy. DH is still trying to negotiate Santa Claus even!) He has asked me to be open-minded, and I did not respond well. So I'm now turning to you for help with being open-minded, and possibly useful suggestions for some alternative that we could both live with.

DH is Agnostic and has mixed feelings about a Christening. He grew up Catholic and it's generally assumed in his family that there will be a big family celebration and baptism. He is already getting pressure from his relatives to plan this thing out, and has brought up concerns that his family will have to explain to their friends how they "let us" not have the child christened. And that it may cause tension as they will not approve. (This is the part where I told him I give exactly zero shits about making explanations convenient for someone who isn't a parent of our little girl, and I'd rather just tell people flat out that we're not doing it instead of tiptoeing around like criminals. Also I unnecessarily reiterated EXACTLY ZERO SHITS because I apparently get emotional about this topic.) I asked if it would be something HE wanted, and he said he's not sure, but he thinks maybe. Not necessarily a church ceremony, but something where we can celebrate. So, because I love him and care about his feelings on the matter, I want to try to figure this out.

What say you, mustachians? Got any advice on how I can calm myself and respond in a constructive way in the moment when we're having these discussions? Or suggestions on alternatives that wouldn't entail any remotely christian/religious aspect but would still feel ceremonial?

Thank you for any help!
« Last Edit: July 06, 2018, 09:27:52 PM by yourusernamehere »

Papa bear

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2018, 04:12:35 PM »
You will let your child grow up and explore different religions and backgrounds and let them make their own choice.  Harder to argue against that.

I grew up that way and so did my wife. And so will my children.


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yourusernamehere

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2018, 04:22:41 PM »
Thanks Papa Bear. Exactly, I just want us to raise her to think for herself and make her own decisions about her spirituality. I have friends and acquaintances who have had full-on brawls over this issue, even threats of irate family members having the child baptized without the parents' permission, so I know it's a sensitive topic. I feel lucky he was very chill with me while I melted down about even considering it.

I've been reading about secular naming/guideparent ceremonies, and it sounds like that could be nice. I also do like the idea of having "official" adult mentors for our little girl, whom she can rely on for guidance. I will have to see if DH would like something like that.

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2018, 04:27:33 PM »
How about you throw a party where you invite all your friends and family to meet the new baby? Call it whatever you want. A trusted friend could ceremonially "bless" the baby with a copy of the book A Brief History of Time tucked under the arm and a sprinkle of "dark matter" (or glitter) on baby's brow. When relatives start asking questions about christening just feign complete ignorance and refuse to engage. The earlier you set boundaries with pushy relatives the better.

kei te pai

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2018, 08:00:17 PM »
How about a "cherishing ceremony"? Invite family and friends to celebrate your baby's life in accordance with your family's spirituality. Dont need to define any further what that spirituality is.
Ask either a family member or special friend (or celebrant) to give thanks for the new arrival, may be a reading that is significant for you, a song or two, and shared food.
If there are any complaints/arguments, just repeat that you wish to have your spirituality respected. No further explanation.

nnls

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2018, 08:21:36 PM »
My friends did a "naming ceremony" so they chose two people who acted as like God parent roles but weren't called God parents but ere acknowledged as people who would help with the baby and guide them and had someone say a few words about welcoming the baby into the world and how all the people there were going to help and protect them in life. And then had a big BBQ, it was a way for extended family to have a celebration for the baby.

There was no mention of religion at all   

tralfamadorian

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2018, 08:53:22 PM »
I know someone who had a ceremony at a local, tiny, non-denominational quasi chapel where the parents read an excerpt from The Prophet and dedicated the child “to a good life” or something along those lines. I believe they were in a similar situation to you- nonreligious but receiving lots of family pressure for a christening.

Emerald

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2018, 07:56:19 AM »
I recommend looking for a Unitarian Universalist church near you. 

Psychstache

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2018, 08:13:40 AM »
Just out of curiosity, what 'flavor' of wedding did y'all have? I'm guessing not a big Catholic ceremony given your original post, but did you still have a ceremony? lots of family? elope?

I ask because I wonder how that went over with family and if it still a topic of conversation or if that blew over.

For today, you and DH will need to work out a plan for how you want to move forward with celebrating your new baby (Mazel Tov, by the way!) in a way that makes both of you comfortable.

Long term, you have a bigger issue that needs to be addressing in the family dynamics. Don't think this is the last time there will be friction about parenting and lifestyle choices from DH's family. The will continue to get pressure from their community that they will then transfer to DH which will come to you. The two of you need to come up with a framework about how you are going to deal with these kinds of issues that will repeatedly come up from the fam.

I think a great place to start would be for each of you to pick up a copy of Boundaries by Henry Cloud and do a 'couples book study'. You can talk through some of the strategies and spend some quality time together on a shared activity.

Good Luck!

yourusernamehere

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2018, 08:39:24 AM »
Just out of curiosity, what 'flavor' of wedding did y'all have? I'm guessing not a big Catholic ceremony given your original post, but did you still have a ceremony? lots of family? elope?


Ha indeed- We had a lovely small ceremony at the home of the family members now asking about the christening. A family member got ordained and married us. It was beautiful and they were very honored. They show the video to everyone they know, and it's been almost 5 years. I'm glad you brought this up, I think it helps me see that they may be more open than I am giving them credit for. I also should clarify, I don't think the actual conversation about this went that far. I believe it was an offhand comment about the new area we're looking at and how the community center there would be perfect for a Christening, and then went DH and I talked about it he brought up the additional concerns just based on his experience with the extended family.

This has been lovely advice everyone. I do plan to look into the Unitarian universalist church when we move, as well as the local secular organizations. I hadn't thought of that for a naming ceremony kind of thing but it's a great idea. Thank you everyone for the suggestions!

Hargrove

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2018, 11:38:18 PM »
So, the good news is, at least you're trying to have this conversation now!

The wedding question is a good one because traditionally recognized Catholic marriage 1) must be done by a priest and 2) must be done in the church and 3) is accompanied by pre-Cana classes (assuming there wasn't a dispensation). You may already be in a very flexible place as far as the ceremonies go, so, yes, it's a good sign the family is more flexible than you're giving them credit for, if you were able to do what you described. Also, traditionally, Catholic weddings to non-Catholics include a promise (and acknowledgement thereof) that the children will be raised Catholic, through every effort of the Catholic parent. Though, if you were brought up Catholic, you may have skipped some of this.

If your husband is agnostic, and this promise wasn't part of your wedding, you have a fair reason to ask your husband why he would baptize your child. He sounds like he has no intention of bringing him/her up with the church, and the issue seems to cause you a lot of distress. All the paths from here have trade-offs.

Theological discussion may or may not be of help to you - there are plenty of fine reasons people are Catholic that aren't about fear of punishment, and no one was ever indoctrinated by being baptized as an infant and then never going to church - but more importantly, I'd like to comment on your "zero shits" statement. The only reason for anger here is to defend yourself against a feared outcome, and it sounds like you fear your primacy as a parent may be overridden by an overbearing family. You have the opportunity to set boundaries to prevent that and you have a right to do so, though it will probably go much more smoothly if you're not angry when you're doing it.

So on the "how to be calm" half, I suggest telling yourself that you're not "giving more than zero shits" just to get trampled. You don't have to be trampled at all. You may find some value, say, in networking and building family ties for yourself, your relationship with DH, and your child's relationship with the grandparents. That does not require capitulation of your beliefs, or necessarily of theirs, so you may be preparing to throw down for the Alamo a little earlier than is actually needed (if it's needed at all). This wasn't such a huge priority for either of you that you went about settling it before getting married, so that may be a strong sign that this needn't be a lose-all/win-all situation for you, or for his family. My fiancee is Catholic, and she and I talked about it, her family and I talked about it, she and her family talked about it, the priest talked about it in pre-Cana... so it's probably not as big a situation in your case as you think! Best of luck to you.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2018, 12:34:41 AM by Hargrove »
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Livethedream

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2018, 07:02:19 AM »
We are practicing Christians, non-denominational.

For both our boys we did a Baby Dedication at our church. It simply states as parents we will do our best to raise our child in a loving manner that is pleasing to God. Family and other church members are asked to stand and affirm that they will have some role in raising the kid since they are part of our community, and to have the same guidelines for raising and hold us accountable.

There is no infant babtism, “soul saving”, or indoctrination that takes place.

If you are truly trying to remove religion you could do a similar baby dedication and right a list of things that you both will strive to do as parents to raise your child in a loving matter that you see fit and to ask support from friends and family in respecting and achieving these goals.

Best of luck to you!

FIRE@50

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2018, 07:20:14 AM »
I allowed my daughter to be baptized in a church because it was important to my wife. I didn't invite anyone from my family to attend. We had a small party at a friends house afterwards.

Teachstache

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2018, 08:04:31 AM »
I grew up in the Catholic faith, attending Catholic school from K-12, going to weekly mass with my family, both sides of my extended family are practicing Catholics. I am an agnostic who is married to a militant atheist. Spouse and I have a 3.5 year old son. We married in a small, immediate family only secular ceremony 10 years ago (married by a judge). Our son isn't baptized or indoctrinated into any religion, although spouse said that if it was truly important to me, he'd accept it. It isn't important to me.

We had the conversation early on with my parents & they accepted our choice, although they aren't in favor of it. Our son is their first grandchild, and they were hoping (but not optimistic) that we'd baptize him.

They got their big family Catholic Church wedding with my sister & her husband & they also baptized their daughter in the Catholic faith, she'll attend Catholic school, etc.

I'd advise having the conversation with your in laws early & make it as straightforward as possible without trying to be critical of their faith or antagonistic toward their beliefs. Just my $.02.

merula

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2018, 09:03:44 AM »
I told my very-religious parents that if adult baptism was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for my kids. They were pissed to begin with, but managed to get over it when presented with a newborn.

Although I'm 99.9% sure my mother has stealth-baptized my children.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2018, 10:53:12 AM »
There are a lot of good ideas here!  I'm glad that you and your husband are having these conversations, and that you are both willing to compromise, because that will be crucial as your baby grows - when one parent comes from a religious background, many of the rites play a big role in the culture as well as the religion, and that can be a tricky balancing act.

I'm mostly agnostic now.  I attend church very rarely, mostly out of lifelong ingrained guilt.  My ex is either agnostic or atheist, but he allows his mother to take the children to church with her when they are visiting her.  My current husband is militantly atheist like you.

We are raising the children with education - some people believe X, others believe Y, others don't believe in a higher being, etc - and tolerance - we respect other people's devoutly held beliefs even if we disagree.  They get to decide one day what, if anything, they want to explore in more depth.   

This doesn't go over well with all o f the family.  My VERY Catholic grandmother and VERY Catholic mother-in-law prayed very fervently for us and our children when we didn't get them christened. My VERY evangelical cousins were convinced that we're heathens.

<shrug> If it was broached to us, we just said "thank you for your concern.  We appreciate how much you love <kid>." and changed the subject.

My daughter asked to be baptized when she was 11.  I made her wait a year to make sure she was serious.  When my nephew (her age) found out, he asked to be baptized too.  So my sister and I had a joint ceremony for the kids at the local Methodist church (fewer rules).  My ex asked our daughter why she wanted to be baptized and then agreed to the ceremony, although he didn't attend.  My husband attended to support my daughter, even though he thought it was all bunk.

My 9-year-old flatly refused to be baptized and is under strict instructions to not mention religion to any of his grandmothers.  He's going to give my mom a stroke if he tells her one more time he doesn't believe in God.  It's a good learning opportunity for him to realize that people can believe different things and it's okay...and that he doesn't need to try to convince them to believe what he believes and he can politely stop the conversation if someone tries to convert him.

It's a balancing act, and it's one that will last many years.  Good luck!
Boldly leading a blended family into (future) financial independence

I'm a red panda

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2018, 11:13:24 AM »
We just didn't baptise our daughter. A few people asked us when it would be, and we said we didn't know (we hadn't actively decided not to do it at that time)- and now she's 16 months and they've stopped asking. Many Christian religions baptise when kids are older anyway, so it is really only a few that expect it at birth, so you could always say "we are going to let her decide to be baptised" (which would be true, I assume you wouldn't actively stop her).

I was talking to a friend about my conflicting feelings about not baptising my daughter, mostly because my father really expected it.  She offered to throw the baby a Wiccaning instead, as she just really thinks the baby needs a welcoming blessing.  My response "I'm not really sure that is going to help my father's concern, but what a nice gesture." 

I'm a red panda

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2018, 11:18:20 AM »
I told my very-religious parents that if adult baptism was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for my kids. They were pissed to begin with, but managed to get over it when presented with a newborn.

Although I'm 99.9% sure my mother has stealth-baptized my children.

Assuming you are Catholic (not sure about other Christian religions; but Catholics seem to lean the heaviest to "must baptise now!") stealth-baptisms don't count.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2X.HTM

Quote
. For an infant to be baptized licitly:
1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;

So unless your child was under immediate threat of death someone else can't just baptize them.  (If they were under the immediate threat of death, then she could have done it.)

I can't find it in canon, but when I was researching emergency baptism for my son (in case he was born alive) the priest told me if I (a female) did it, if the baby survived it would have to be "redone". So even if she did baptize them under immediate threat of death, if they didn't die, it still might not count.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2018, 11:22:41 AM by I'm a red panda »

merula

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2018, 04:06:09 PM »
Assuming you are Catholic (not sure about other Christian religions; but Catholics seem to lean the heaviest to "must baptise now!") stealth-baptisms don't count.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2X.HTM

Quote
. For an infant to be baptized licitly:
1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;

So unless your child was under immediate threat of death someone else can't just baptize them.  (If they were under the immediate threat of death, then she could have done it.)

I can't find it in canon, but when I was researching emergency baptism for my son (in case he was born alive) the priest told me if I (a female) did it, if the baby survived it would have to be "redone". So even if she did baptize them under immediate threat of death, if they didn't die, it still might not count.

Lutheran, actually. Since the religion is basically Catholicism but with fewer rules, it's probably acceptable to perform a baptism as a layperson and a woman, but I would expect the deceit piece to be an issue in any faith. I couldn't find any specific statement from the ELCA about it though. (That's the problem with a direct connection to God, there's no one to answer your questions!)

I don't actually care if she gave them a bath that had symbolic meaning to her and not to me, I mostly find it funny that she's willing to violate two Commandments in pursuit of her faith.

frugalmom

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2018, 10:02:24 PM »
In many cultures babies are not introduced until 100 days of life has past.  It a tradition to protect the mother and child up until that date, to allow bonding, and also because of high infant mortality rates.

You could have a 100 days party and invite everyone!  If you just make it a celebration of life, no one may ask any questions.


Sibley

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2018, 07:39:11 AM »
I attended a naming ceremony for a friend's baby. As far as I could tell, it was a giant party to introduce the baby (about 4 months old) to the family/friends. Lots of fun by all, baby was pretty social so didn't mind it. In her culture, the fear of losing a newborn is much more present, and their traditions reflect it.

Re Santa - sorry to say it, but if you live in the US, you never even had a swing in that battle. If you don't do Santa with your kid(s), then you'll have ALL the other parents mad at you for spoiling it for their kids. That doesn't mean you have to do all the BS around Santa, but you're not going to be able to get away with nothing.

2Cent

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #21 on: July 13, 2018, 10:58:52 AM »
Quote
Cutting right to it, I am deeply against Christening/baptism or other religious ceremonies meant to officially enter our baby (due this December) into the church. I am not just ambivalent about religion, I believe it's harmful to indoctrinate children into the idea that you should behave in certain ways out of fear of eternal punishment.
Hmm. I think that's a pretty medival view of Christianity. Even the catholic church has come a long way away from fear and rules to the more love based teaching Jesus was preaching. 

Of course you shouldn't lie to appease the inlaws, but I always think it's a bit sad when people make things explicitly non-religious. I much more like a thanksgiving type thing where it gets all the positive things without pushing people into one corner or the other. Live and let live. Of course if your family is overstepping their boundaries this will become harder, but from your other comments I don't think that's such a problem.

koshtra

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2018, 11:32:16 AM »
In France, some 60% of people self-identify as "irreligious" and some 60% self-identify as "Catholic" ... so there has to be a considerable overlap there. You can take your rites and ceremonies as you find them -- they're often beautiful and moving -- and translate them to something that makes sense in your own mind and heart. I think that often works better than trying to make them up or trying to find someone somewhere who does something that exactly fits.

I know that runs against the grain of American earnestness, but if I were married to a kinda sorta Catholic I think I might go that route. You don't have to import the hell and brimstone into your daily lives. (& If you shop around also you can probably find a church that doesn't go in much for hell and brimstone in the first place.)

yourusernamehere

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2018, 03:00:53 PM »
I'm sure the debate will continue on, but I just wanted to pop in and say thanks again for the suggestions. I love the 100 days party idea, and some other suggestions were very helpful as well.

jpdx

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2018, 12:11:45 AM »
A person should have to "opt in" to a religion, not "opt out."

Since it's impossible for an infant to understand and consent to christening/baptism, it's not acceptable to force this upon them. Religious beliefs are a personal decision, which they will make when they are of appropriate age. It's not the parent's choice, and certainly not the extended family's choice.

Good for you for exploring other ways to celebrate your new child. Congrats!
« Last Edit: July 15, 2018, 12:19:23 AM by jpdx »

Dee18

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Re: Atheist/Agnostic Christening Alternatives?
« Reply #25 on: July 15, 2018, 09:03:03 AM »
The Unitarian church holds a child dedication ceremony.  That might provide a model for you.
https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-do/celebrations/births