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I'm an atheist. Is that a problem? - Comments

nickthelight's Avatar Comment 1 by nickthelight

I have a Godfather, doubtless I met him at my Christening. I have never seen him since, not much support on my 'journey of faith'. Happily I am an atheist, so I don't care.

As for Kate, I had to pray at school, as all C of E kids do. I was a non believer form the age of about 13 - I just considered muttering inconsequential nonsense as harmless and carried on.

Kate’s friend his bestowing upon her trust, nothing more.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:01:23 UTC | #860922

Dixiedog's Avatar Comment 2 by Dixiedog

The whole idea of Godparents is meaningless. It probably always has been, but like most things in religion it is given a significance that, on a reflection, it never deserved. Of course, you can't really say this to someone who thinks that they are honouring you massively by asking you to be the Godparent to their newborn. 'What, do hate my child?' will be the inevitable response. Although I suppose one could always claim to have embraced Satanism. ;-D

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:10:02 UTC | #860923

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 3 by Cartomancer

I've never understood this whole godparents lark. Until I was in my early twenties I thought a godmother was a special kind of tutelary fairy who distributes vitrified footwear and a godfather was a rank in the mafia.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:32:58 UTC | #860927

mmurray's Avatar Comment 4 by mmurray

There is a place for choosing someone who will raise the children if the parents are killed. A very unlikely event these days but worth mentioning in a will if there are no obvious family you would want to do this job. Maybe that is a modern replacement for godparents ?

On a more comical note I am reminded of this quote from "About a Boy" when Will (Hugh Grant)'s friends try to get him to be a godfather for their daughter.

Will: I couldn't possibly think of a worse godfather for Imogene. You know me. I'll drop her at her christening. I'll forget her birthdays until her 18th, when I'll take her out and get her drunk and possibly, let's face it, you know, try and shag her. I mean, seriously, it's a very, very bad choice.
Couple: We know, I just thought you had hidden depths.
Will: No. No. You've always had that wrong. I really am this shallow.

Michael

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:33:12 UTC | #860928

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 5 by the great teapot

meaningless sentimental nonsense. it seems important for about 10 seconds, like a wedding ceremony and a bestman's speech.

ultimately what exactly does a god parent or guardian ever do,9 times out of 10, the square root of nothing and if they did what person wants some "uncle or aunt" handing out moral or spiritual guidance. that's got to be about as cringe making as it gets. a young prson may have role models but they won't be ones imposed from above, they will choose them themselves.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:48:48 UTC | #860929

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 6 by AtheistEgbert

What Britain needs are better parents, not silly replacement godparents.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:55:03 UTC | #860932

YetAnotherSteve's Avatar Comment 7 by YetAnotherSteve

This article asks "is there any point in these ungodly times in having godparents". This statement falls into the trap that a godparent's role did not exist before we invented god. The role of a guardian for children in case the parents were unable to look after them has its roots in a lot of primate (mammal, even?) species. Religion has simply highjacked the name to take the credit for this useful evolutionary trait.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 10:57:18 UTC | #860934

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 8 by DamnDirtyApe

Surely you can be signed as the legal guardian seperate from the christening?

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 11:41:07 UTC | #860941

Corylus's Avatar Comment 9 by Corylus

Comment 6 by AtheistEgbert :

What Britain needs are better parents, not silly replacement godparents.

Egbert, sweetheart, lay off the Daily Mail :)

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 11:47:59 UTC | #860944

Flapjack's Avatar Comment 10 by Flapjack

My only point of reference for becoming a Godfather is Marlon Brando. So would the role include making offers which can't be refused and putting horse's heads in the bed of any primary school teacher who doesn't allow my godson a juicy role in the school play? It's all a bit "Old testament" for my liking.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 11:56:20 UTC | #860945

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 11 by aquilacane

I haven't one, not sure who it would be anyway. Our daughter goes to my sister in the event of lights out.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 12:16:53 UTC | #860948

Michael Fisher's Avatar Comment 12 by Michael Fisher

The traditional responsibility was to see to the child's religious education & to be the first port of call if the parents die. Today it is about the godchild's general development.

I'm the anti-theist/sceptic 'godparent' to eight people ranging from 5yo to 36yo. The parents/families were unconcerned regarding my views on religion. 'Godparent' is rather a flexible term in my particular experience; I was not required to affirm anything in church in those cases where a church was involved although on two occasions this caused problems with god's rep ~ resolved

I have done a pretty good job so far I'm told & it is a role I relish ~ most of the time. It keeps one 'tuned in' to younger ideas & it is a reality check ~ if I morph into a boring old duffer a rebuke snaps at my heels. I've learned to avoid too much time spent solely in the company of my age group ~ it's a recipe for a rapid decline into dotage & a jaded outlook. I don't want dinner party discussions about pensions, retirement & bad knees when the alternative is... well just about anything !

Drawbacks: Babies/toddlers are pretty boring Being caught between warring/divorcing parents where I have to offer solace & support to my godchild

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 12:21:39 UTC | #860949

mmurray's Avatar Comment 13 by mmurray

Comment 8 by DamnDirtyApe :

Surely you can be signed as the legal guardian seperate from the christening?

Yes of course. The two are completely unrelated legally. I don't imagine being a godparent has any legal status at all.

Michael

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 12:36:47 UTC | #860950

Tony d's Avatar Comment 14 by Tony d

This might be a quibble with semantics.If being called a godparent bothers you, i bet you go mad when a form asks for your christian name.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 12:48:21 UTC | #860953

Pyrokineticrage's Avatar Comment 15 by Pyrokineticrage

I had godparents until I was twelve years old and was asked to leave the church for asking questions pertaining to God being able to see the future and if he could wouldn't that mean that even he cannot effect it, The youth minister told my mother and godparents that I was infected beyond repair with "Atheism"(quite possibly my first encounter with the term or at least the first time I understood what it meant) and most likely damned to burn in hell, I never saw either of them again and Never had to go to church again, The church was obviously a very "old god" kind of church So I don't know if there will be the same issues in your situation.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 13:03:05 UTC | #860960

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 16 by Stevehill

My kids have not been Christened, and won't be unless and until they so decide for themselves.

I've been asked to be a godparent. I declined, I hope gracefully, saying as an atheist I would be both hypocritical and, in my view, offensive to sincere Christians in taking on such a role. No problems: the friendship survived.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 13:04:36 UTC | #860961

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 17 by Peter Grant

Who better than an atheist? I wouldn't trust a Christian with my kids.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 14:33:06 UTC | #860979

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 18 by RJMoore

Anyone got any advice for someone who is godfather to two children(I was quite enthusiastic about it at the time) but no longer believes? I dont want to have arguments with either set of parents when the topic of religion comes up, as it surely will at first communion/confirmation/Christmas, but I dont think I could actually bring myself to give weight to the nonsense of miracles, resurrection etc. Im sure my relationship with either family wouldnt really suffer, but Id rather not be known as the miserable cynic sitting in the corner, who cant see the joy in the nativity stories etc.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 14:36:40 UTC | #860980

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 19 by the great teapot

Sunrise, My advice would be say nothing. Unless they really do expect you to conduct a sermon for their children every week.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 15:11:05 UTC | #860984

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 20 by DamnDirtyApe

Well, its good that there are plenty of folks like Kate Hilpern who have a clue with what Richard was going on about. :)

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 15:33:53 UTC | #860989

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 21 by justinesaracen

Over here in Belgium, they are simply called Marraine and Parraine and their function seems to be just another set of adults to give the child gifts for her/his birthday or graduation. I have atheistic friends who are Marraine and Parraine for each other's children and whatever religious element used to be there is not evaporated.

With modern mobility and the distance of grandparents and other relatives, it's nice for a kid to know they have an additional support system someplace, flimsy as it may be. If I were asked by Christians to fill that role, I would say I'd love to be an additional person to spoil their child, as long as it was clear that I was an atheist and God would never enter the picture.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 15:45:59 UTC | #860990

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 22 by Zeuglodon

Comment 18 by sunrise

Anyone got any advice for someone who is godfather to two children(I was quite enthusiastic about it at the time) but no longer believes? I dont want to have arguments with either set of parents when the topic of religion comes up, as it surely will at first communion/confirmation/Christmas, but I dont think I could actually bring myself to give weight to the nonsense of miracles, resurrection etc. Im sure my relationship with either family wouldnt really suffer, but Id rather not be known as the miserable cynic sitting in the corner, who cant see the joy in the nativity stories etc.

You seem to be a considerate person if you don't wish to cause friction in the family, yet you clearly don't want to be dishonest or caught in an unpleasant trap. If you suspect they will see you as a 'miserable cynic', then perhaps it is worth encouraging them to see the real you if this crops up during a conversation.

It depends on how tolerant the parents are of different religious opinions, but I'm guessing they are fairly open-minded and tolerant about it, and I guess there wouldn't be much harm in being open about the supernatural skepticism outright, but so long as you qualify it by insisting that you don't hold it against them, or that you respect their right to practise religion, I guess there should not be trouble with it. You can still identify yourself as a cultural Christian, if you don't mind attending church service or enjoy a traditional Christmas, or perhaps indicate it as doubts if it isn't complete skepticism (most religious people are understanding of 'crises of faith', for example), but even if you don't, I don't see why you cannot continue as 'godfather'. The role seems to be changing these days to accommodate secular views as well, so 'godfather' as a word need no longer demand religious connotations.

Incidentally, if you once believed but no longer do so, perhaps you can ask yourself why you changed your mind. If you discuss it with them, I suppose they would be sympathetic and appreciative. Perhaps they too have had similar doubts, but even if they don't it would at least show them that you had reasons and didn't just decide it out of the blue. And if you are going to introduce the topic to them, don't do so as part of a casual conversation. If you approach them during a quiet time and explicitly ask to talk about the religious matter, I think they'd appreciate your openness and your decision to treat the matter maturely. Again, make it clear to them that you wish to be cooperative and to respect them and your relationship with them, since relationships are primarily what this is about.

I do not know the detailed circumstances of your case, so my post should be taken as only a potentially incomplete or flawed guideline offered by a relatively ignorant stranger, but I hope it helps.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 15:54:09 UTC | #860991

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 23 by God fearing Atheist

I always understood a godparent was someone who had agreed with the parents to bring the child up as their own if the parents died, or were incapacitated. I.e. a pre-adoption agreement. It would seem a smart move on the part of the parents to make sure that there was a good relationship between the child and godparents. If the worst happened, at least the child wouldn't end up living with strangers while grieving for their parents.

While premature death is at an historic low, car accidents still happen, so I would have thought there is still a place for such (legally binding?) arrangements in a secular society. Only the name is dubious. I had no heard of the religious role until I read the article. Obviously, I've lead a sheltered life as an atheist.

BTW I also thought the role of a best man at a wedding was to marry the bride if the groom died before the wedding. Only important if you are a Duke arranging your daughter's marriage for financial or political gain. You need an insurance policy.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 15:58:10 UTC | #860992

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 24 by RJMoore

My advice would be say nothing. Unless they really do expect you to conduct a sermon for their children every week.

Not quite, but I have been asked a few general questions about god and heaven by the older of my two godchildren. I managed to change the subject subtly, but he is making his FC this year, so Im sure he'll have numerous questions about it (although Im sure the money will be his principal concern); I dont know how I can dodge a question about it without telling him that I think its a sham.

Zeugloden

It depends on how tolerant the parents are of different religious opinions, but I'm guessing they are fairly open-minded and tolerant about it, and I guess there wouldn't be much harm in being open about the supernatural skepticism outright, but so long as you qualify it by insisting that you don't hold it against them, or that you respect their right to practise religion.

Indeed. I dont think either set of parents really cares whether I believe, but I dont want to be seen as undermining whatever religious instruction the kids have been given. However, I also dont want to help the continuation of superstition, so its difficult to balance the two motives and not give a 'black or white' answer. Regarding the existence of god, I dont know if there is much grey area for me to exploit!

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 18:13:26 UTC | #861008

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 25 by Zeuglodon

Indeed. I dont think either set of parents really cares whether I believe, but I dont want to be seen as undermining whatever religious instruction the kids have been given. However, I also dont want to help the continuation of superstition, so its difficult to balance the two motives and not give a 'black or white' answer. Regarding the existence of god, I dont know if there is much grey area for me to exploit!

You don't have to undermine anything or to give the children one answer or the opposite answer. It's probably safest to teach the children to ask their own questions and to encourage them to be curious about it, and to come to their own conclusions when they're older. If they ask you, you can be honest and say what you think, but at least explain why and encourage them not to accept it just because you said so.

I'm sorry if I come off as a "do this, do that" kind of person, but you ask for advice and I thought I'd give what I could. I hope it is what you wanted?

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 18:52:18 UTC | #861017

merlinaeus's Avatar Comment 26 by merlinaeus

"I'm sorry, I can't with integrity make the religious promises that baptism requires" .

Or something along those lines. Shows integrity.

If the vicar has already talked with the parents, they should understand that. If they don't, then it might prompt the parents to think about those promises, and whether they themselves can make them.

Lots of alternatives to baptism: many churches will do thanksgiving services which don't demand such strongly theist promises. Even in the context of a baptism service, 'sponsors' (who can't with integrity make the promises that godparents have to make) can be appointed, and can make promises devised for the occasion (as long as they don't flatly contradict the overall intention of baptism)

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 19:14:51 UTC | #861025

skiles1's Avatar Comment 27 by skiles1

Well, Kate Hilpern is evidently very polite.

My first inclination is to say that being a godparent is a form of accommodationism. However, admittedly, in a more ideal world (in a society where atheists have equal rights) I could just view becoming a godparent as a form of being respected as an equal. I think under the circumstances, I would answer that I'd rather be named a guardian for whatever child in question, instead of being named a godparent.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 19:53:09 UTC | #861033

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 28 by Neodarwinian

In for a penny, in for a pound. To oppose religious claptrap is a never ending job that impinges on our lives in the most " interesting " ways. Quite a puzzle for a good person who is the friend of christains to solve. I think this young lady did rather well here. If some christer asked me to be a godparent I would have been a bit " strident " in my response.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 20:15:48 UTC | #861036

Michael Fisher's Avatar Comment 29 by Michael Fisher

If some christer asked me to be a godparent I would have been a bit " strident " in my response

means what exactly ? I doubt that you would be asked if it's your practice to be so glib to their face

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 20:26:18 UTC | #861041

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 30 by Robert Howard

Doubtless, some will say I have no integrity. As its name suggests, a spokesperson from the Church of England points out, at the heart of the role is a commitment to support someone in the journey of faith.

If the role of godparent according to the Church of England is to support someone in the journey of faith, then I don't see any conflict with an atheist's taking on this responsibility. If the Church specified that it was the job of the godparent to ensure that the godchild became a Christian, then there would be a problem. But they very deliberately don't. I think this is because, like all religions, they try to promulgate the idea that faith is somehow a choice, and their representatives are guides on this journey towards God, rather than His enforcers.

This presents to any nonbeliever who has been asked to be a godparent and wants to take it seriously but is wrestling with notions of integrity and hypocrisy a loophole which they would be foolish not to exploit: namely that this 'journey' can terminate at any number of destinations, and not necessarily at the Pearly Gates.

I think that any atheist or agnostic who finds himself in this postition should look the vicar or minister straight in the eyes and say, with no hint of compromise or accommodation or dishonesty, "I do not believe in God. And I accept the role of godparent. And I will do everything in my power to support this child on its spiritual and religious journey."

Just for the craic (although this shouldn't be compulsory), they might also like to do airquotes when they pronounce the first syllable of godparent.

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 21:00:35 UTC | #861048