Unto us a child is born

The Midwestern Household is abuzz with excitement this week (or would be if we weren’t so sleep deprived) as we welcome our first child, who for blog purposes shall be known as Little Bigfoot.  This fella joined our happy family last Saturday.

In thinking about all the things I want to do with him in the coming years (including sleeping more than two hours at a time), I’m faced with the conundrum every atheist parent must address: What in the world am I going to tell this kid about religion and god?  The question is complicated, as it is for many, by the high level of religiosity among some of our family members (esp. Mrs. MG’s clan of diehard Catholics).  Here’s the best I can come up with over breakfast:

  1. I absolutely will not baptize this child.
  2. I will educate him about religion.  To critically evaluate religion, one must know something about religious beliefs.  If one is to be an empathetic human being, one should also understand some of the motivations behind certain doctrines and belief in general.  Moreover, no one can fully appreciate our society or art and literature without some knowledge of religion.  Little Bigfoot will have the benefit of an introduction to major religious ideas and why people hold them, always with the caution that Mommy and Daddy don’t believe these stories are true.
  3. I will insist that our religious relatives not try to indoctrinate him.  If I find out anyone has tried to secretly baptize him or encourage him to believe, there will be hell to pay, so to speak.
  4. Same goes for daycare workers, teachers or other school officials.  Seriously, I will f you up, legally speaking. 
  5. I will answer his questions about religion (and everything, for that matter) as thoroughly, honestly and age-appropriately as I can.  If we are to encourage him to value truth, we should always speak the truth to him.
  6. I will encourage a love of and wonder at the natural world in his imagination.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things, but those are the points that jump to mind at this early hour.  This will all become far more relevant with time, of course, so right now I think I’ll grab another cup of coffee and snuggle with my boy for a while.

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5 responses to “Unto us a child is born

  1. Congratulations!
    I read your lines about family members being diehard Catholics and maybe endeavouring to secretly baptize your offspring and I thought: ‘I better tell him this’.
    According to Catholic canon law baptising a child that has no real chance of being brought up as a Christian is sacrilege.
    Now there’s a fair chance that your diehard Catholic family-members don’t know this, so if you’re seriously worried, check with your local bishop, I think he’ll be more than happy to enlighten them (or -more likely- introduce them to his canon-law specialist, every diocese has one).

  2. Congratulations. I saw a whole lot of the use of the personal pronoun “I” there. One assumes that Mrs. MG is on board with all that. If not, I’ll tell you from the vantage point of 42 years married, life can be made to seem a lot longer than it really is. :)

  3. Congratulations. Beautiful kid, sound philosophy.

  4. Thanks for the theological insight, shirhashirim. I had some vague recollection that lay Catholics could baptize in “emergency” circumstances, and was slightly concerned that one of our family members might try to take advantage of that. Not that sprinkling the kid with water and saying a prayer would hurt him, but still, it’s our choice on such things.

    RBH — duly noted, my friend. Mrs. MG is fully on board with this program!

    asl001 — Many thanks!

  5. Not only lay catholics, anyone can baptise in emergency situations -muslims, atheists, you name it- anyone. An ‘emergency’ would only be a situation where the baptee may die before anyone who usually does the baptism is present (i.e. a deacon or priest). With your offspring, that would not apply.
    In practice the problem of ‘emergencies’ rarely ever happens because orthodox theology also knows ‘baptism by blood’, in case someone converts to Christianity but is martyred for it before he gets the chance to be baptised (very real problem in the first three centuries AD) and ‘baptism by desire’, in case someone dies, wanting to be baptised but not having found anyone who could do it for him (because the only person you can’t baptise is yourself).
    Roughly all adults are covered this way. If I’m not mistaken the rule that anyone can baptise in an emergency was instituted when it became common to baptise children (who wouldn’t easily be baptised by blood or desire) and when Catholics still believed that children who died while not baptised would end up much worse than those who were (and that belief was only recently changed, I believe about a year ago!).

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