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.