Should a non believer be baptized?

Crazy question, right?  I was just listening to a podcast, where a 20 year old woman was facing the question because her mother wanted her to be baptized when they went to visit a relative who was a minister.

When this person mentioned she didn’t know if she should since she really didn’t think she believed in God, her mother was upset.

On the one hand, if you don’t believe then why not go through the ritual that will make your mother  happy.  Where is the bad?  Its not like you believe the ritual itself will have an impact on you and where is the purpose in making a big deal over something will just hurt someone you love.  Especially when doing it will offer comfort to someone you love.

Where is the point or importance in standing up for a NON belief.  Making a statement like that for no purpose, that you know will hurt someone, is not kindness or helpful.

On the other hand, there is a respect issue.  This is the one I struggle with.

When I was a child I went to mass with my best friend who was catholic.  My mother carefully told me not to take the sacrament because it would disrespectful as I was not catholic and it would be considered rude.   This sense of respecting another person’s belief was then inoculated into me.

When I was a teenager I spent the night a jewish friend’s house.  They were kosher and at breakfast I put salami on my bagel with cream cheese.  It caused something of an uproar.  It was deeply embarrassing and while I did it in ignorance, it was perceived as disrespect and insolence.  It was hurtful to them.

So, now I am very aware of how my lack of belief may be perceived in religious settings.  For example, when my friend’s husband died, I went to the funeral mass.  It felt somewhat hypocritical and even a bit disrespectful to sit through a ritual that has a great deal of meaning for many people there and I see no point to it.  Ultimately I went to because my support was more important to her than any perceived disrespect by people who didn’t mean as much to me.

The girl who is contemplating being baptized hypocritically may very well offend the minister who would consider the ritual of great importance and its importance would stem entirely on the belief of the person being baptized.

Its a hard question, whether it is better to not hurt your mother or to not be disrespectful.

If I have to make an either/or choice, I think I will alway choose the people I love and offering them kindness over any possible disrespect.

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15 thoughts on “Should a non believer be baptized?

  1. You make an excellent point here between the difference of respect and support for those you love. Not taking the sacrament during communion is a sign of respect for those participating in the service. Coming from a Christian background (although not Catholic), I find it very acceptable for people to let the plate pass them during communion. I’ve even had friends who were part of the church let the plate pass over them since they felt they were not in a right relationship with God at that time. Going to a funeral, even if you don’t believe in the ritual, is a sign of support for the grief that your friend is going through. It’s such a thoughtful thing to do.

    I think your friend should not be baptized. Like I said, being a Christian myself, it was my choice to get baptized and I took that choice very seriously. I went to classes first, and even had to share my testimony with the church body (membership was tied in with baptism so that was a little extra). Being baptized symbolizes to the world that you are a follower of Christ, and that you are serious about your walk with God. I think her mother would understand her choice not to go ahead with it, if she isn’t a Christian. It would be far more disrespectful to be baptized “just because” than to not be baptized.

    sorry for the long post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t apologize for the long comment. I love this kind of feedback.

      I know what you mean about the baptism being important to the christian, which is why this particular thing is so messy in my mind.

      Ideally the mom would not want a nonbeliever baptised. But family being family and her own fear of her daughter’s eternal damnation being there, I imagine its confusing for her too.

      I think if the daughter doesn’t tell the minister, she’s probably not going to offend anyone, but its still walking a very weird line.

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      1. I totally understand the “family being family” thing. Since moving here, my mom brings up my safety and faith quite regularly bordering on frustrating most of the time. Parent’s want the best for their children, and it’s hard to see their child not on the path they had previously set out for them.

        I agree it’s walking a very weird line. I’m not sure what I would do in her situation. But I hope that she makes the best choice for herself 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This would be a tough one. Both points seem valid. But I would think it was better for the kid not to get baptized. When I stopped believing in religion,my family was sort of heartbroken. And though they are mainly religious on paper and rarely go to Church, I felt their pain and I thought it was easier to just keep up the ruse to make them happy. I even went to Church with my mum a few times,something my other religious siblings didn’t do. Later I realized I was doing more harm because with every mass attendance,my mom was being hopeful that I was getting back from my ‘lost ways’.

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  3. The basis of religion that is presented to its practitioners is that if a certain ritual is followed, then they will be rewarded. The mother insisting on the baptism is deciding that the only way for her daughter to be rewarded is to perform the ritual. However, this does not give her the right to force the ritual upon her daughter. Though we may acquiesce to try to please our parents, we are well past the time in even recent history where we did something just to keep the peace. The feelings and personal space of the daughter should trump everything. What might be first perceived as “harmless” is actually harmful to the daughter and is causing her distress, and quite frankly, it’s completely unnecessary and unrealistic.

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    1. I guess I think the daughter’s distress is unlikely. How is she diseffected by going through a ritual that she knows will lhave no impact on her life?

      As opposed to the fears of a her mother who genuinely believes that her daughter may be damned for not doing the baptism?

      There may, of course, be larger conflicts and issues in the relationship and this is just one part of it, but if we only look at this one with what we know, the beliver is facing a far more distressful situation if the daughter refuses to be baptised than the daughter is for being baptised.

      To the daughter its just water and words and traditions, to the mother its an eternity of heaven or hell for her daughter. And an eternity with or without her daughter.

      If the mother is not offended, and the daughter can avoid offending by not telling anyone that she thinks the whole ritual is silly, I see little harm.

      Telling everyone she thinks the tradition is silly and doing it would be deeply disrespectful though.

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      1. That thought process addresses religious righteousness directly. When people hear that I don’t believe, churchgoers will often tell me that I need to stat praying and go to church, or I will be damned. I firmly believe that is a made-up notion, and I 1,000% don’t believe it’s my job to make someone feel better about their chosen fables. I believe in living an authentic life. I do believe it’s harmful to try to lie or try to guilt me into doing something that I feel is disrespectful to me. Saying the daughter should do this to make the mom happy is also elevating religion above atheism or agnosticism. I mean, congratulations if you have decided to buy into one of the 4,200 religions being practiced around the world today, but that doesn’t make you better than anyone.

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    1. That would certainly be the ideal, but life is so messy when it comes to family, isn’t it? I believe the mother was quoted in the podcast as saying ‘you don’t know what your talking about’ when the person tried to broach the idea that they didn’t believe and it wouldn’t be a good idea. Mom was clearly distressed. And the understandably. When you consider what she believes, finding her daughter doesn’t believe is very distressful.

      Too many non-believers don’t take the believer’s fear of of possible damnation of a loved one seriously. They don’t understand that the believer is upset about something that is deeply real to them because to a nonbeliever it isn’t real.

      The entire thing is messy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah. But there is a whole group of Atheists who make that their mission in life. They think religion is the reason for all that is wrong with just about everything.

        I think Atheism has become their religion – its kind of weird. They are the reason I call myself a non-believer rather than an atheist.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That is a hard place to be, and why “religion” can be daunting. Having respect is important, but as you said, being aware, and stating your decline to participate in a kind and thoughtful way is important. A non believer should never be forced to participate in any ritual for any religion. People of faith can be respectful too. Good post.

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  5. I have been to many kinds of services from weddings to baptisms to funerals for various faiths. I have taken comfort in not participating in a ritual if it were not my faith, as the main reason I am there is for the couple, baby or deceased. Or, maybe the reason for the service is meaningful to a good friend. Now, I do stand-up, sit-down, sing and pray when prompted, but I tend to not participate in ceremonial rites that are not part of my religion (communion, kneeling on the kneeling bar, e.g.)

    To me, baptism takes it an extra step as it is a demonstration of faith. Now, we all do things for our mothers that we would not choose on our own, but this may be a bridge too far and dishonest to yourself and others. But, as with anything, our opinion matters little, as it is how that person feels about it and feels about its impact on others.

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    1. I know – its a sticky issue the baptism thing. I mean from the nonbeliever point of view its NOT a problem, its not effecting them, but to a serious believer participating as a nonbeliever might seem rude and very wrong.

      I suppose the white lie of not mentioning her nonbelief would probably solve that problem. But I know I’m very aware of the possibility of disrespect.

      Liked by 1 person

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