By Susan Brinkmann ,OCS
In a ceremony designed to mock Christian baptism, atheist organizations in at least four states have begun to stage de-baptism and de-sacrament ceremonies to “liberate” members from their former beliefs.
According to a report by USA Today, the mock rite involves a robed “priest” who uses a hairdryer labeled “Reason” to blow away the waters of baptism. Participants then feed on a “de-sacrament” consisting of peanut butter crackers. They receive a certificate confirming that they have “freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition.”
One participant, Jennifer Gray of Columbus, Ohio, called the exercise “therapeutic.”
“It was a chance to laugh at the silly things I used to believe as a child,” she said. “It helped me admit that it was OK to think the way I think and to not have any religious beliefs.”
It is estimated that about 250 of these de-baptisms have taken place within the last year at atheist conventions in Ohio, Texas, Florida and Georgia. De-baptism rites have also been growing internationally in recent years with more than 100,000 Britons downloading de-baptism certificates from the National Secular Society in the last four years. Nearly 1,000 Italians requested de-baptism certificates prior to a “De-Baptism Day” which was celebrated last October.
After receiving their certificates, some of the “de-baptized” have actually petitioned their former churches to have their name removed from the congregation’s baptismal rolls. Many argue that because they were baptized as infants, they never consented to the sacrament.
However, the “de-baptism” gimmick is not enough to convince many churches to declare a person de-baptized.
USA Today reports that atheist Gary Mueller recently mailed his de-baptism certificate to St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Concord, California, with the request that he be dropped from the baptismal records. The Church refused.
“While we do not remove a name/person from a Baptism register, we can note alongside your name that you ‘have left the Roman Catholic Church,’ ” the Rev. Richard Mangini replied in an e-mail. “I hope that God surprises you one day and lets you know that He is quite well.”
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