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My quest to get de-baptised

Reposted from:
http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/wellbeing/story/0,,2269465,00.html#article_continue

My plan for de-baptism started to formulate when travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway. While reading Richard Dawkins' atheist polemic The God Delusion, I had a friendly argument with a Russian babushka about our differing beliefs in an Almighty (not an easy task, given the state of my Russian).

When I got home, my parents told me how difficult it was to get me baptised in the first place. The rector even came round for tea, presumably to see if I was the sort of baby acceptable to the Church of England. It seemed to me that my divorce from the church would hinge on getting my name taken off the baptism register.

I am an atheist, but for me there was also a political dimension: why should my name be placed on the church's record and be used as a statistic to claim political and social influence?

I joined the National Secular Society and was pleased to hear that de-baptism had been successfully attempted in this country, albeit in Roman Catholicism. What happens is that the NSS sends you a form to sign and have witnessed. I was informed by a spokesman that de-baptism "was a bit of a joke" but this made me more determined to do it for real. I therefore wrote to the rector of St Mary Newington, south London, where my baptism took place 22 years ago, outlining my intentions.

After three weeks without a reply, I decided to give him a call. He didn't sound too pleased, informing me that I was on his "to-do list". A few days later a letter arrived informing me that the procedure was impossible as "the register of baptisms is a public legal record which may not be altered or deletions made".

Further messages and emails went unanswered so I decided to go over his head and put in a call to the Church of England. My proposal was met with much laughter before I was asked if I was "gay or straight", presumably as this variable would explain why I was planning to "divorce" religion. After being passed between various departments, I was finally told that baptism was "once and for all time and could not be redone or undone".

Could the refusal to remove my name from church records be against the Data Protection Act? What about the European court of human rights? Clearly, splitting from a whole religion was never going to be easy, but I'm still considering my options.

TAGGED: ATHEISM, RELIGION


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