Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Baptism and mass versus non-belief and pomp

While perusing my inbox yesterday morning I was astounded to read an email from a chap I know. He had a baby a few weeks ago, well not him, his girlfriend. You know what I mean.
Now I know this chap a goodly number of years, since I was a youth in fact. And one of the main and abiding things I remember most about him is that he is and out and out atheist. Not an agnostic, or fence sitter like myself, but a firm, 'No God' camp follower.
So naturally it was a bit eyebrow raising to read of his upcoming baby drowning or baptisim.
I emailed him immediately. 'Exactly what faith are you drowning your child into?'
'Why? I thought you didn't believe in any god. Have you had a conversion? A road to Demascus type blinding? Have you been recently saved? Raptured? Lourdesed?'
Turns out none of these things had happened, but what did happen was even more powerful. He had been Irish mothered. No sooner had his sproglette cleared the birth canal and hollered her first lusty bawl, his mammy- a vicious old harpy with a tongue so forked I could use it to plug in foreign plugs into Irish sockets, also friend of my mother- and his girlfriend's mammy- don't know anything about her-started banging the baptism drum.
'You've capitulated.' I typed.
'There were two of them.' he typed back.
But the whole set up strikes me as utterly ridiculous. Neither he nor his girlfriend are even remotely religious. They do not attend mass, don't pray, don't believe in any diety. Live cheerfully 'in sin' and break every RC rule in the book. So why, I pondered over cheese, would they mark their newborn's card ike that? Why label her RC? Why label her at all?
If they don't practice and more importantly, don't believe, why soak their newborn's head in a draughty church?
If nobody actually believes in the rite itself what is the point of it? Is it simply tradition these days? To impress the friends and neighbours? Where it the piety?
Why does not this type of dousing die out if each successive generation doesn't believe?
I asked the one person I know who seems to care even less about god stuff than I do.
'Paramour, will you want our future imaginary children baptised?'
He was chopping carrots at the time. 'I don't think so?'
'You don't sound very sure.'
'Okay, no then.'
'Why not?"
'Well, I don't believe in God and we don't go to mass so what would be the point?'
'So no then.'
'Right, no.'
'But what about our wedding? That's in a church.'
'That's different.'
'WHere else are you supposed to get married?"
'In a regi-'
'Ha, can you imagine if I'd suggested that?'
'So it's just for the ceremony?'
'Yep, the pomp and ceremony.'
'All right then.'
Armed thusly with all manner of hypocrisy, I turned my thoughts once again to my friend and his much battered sensibilities. I understood it. We are a secular country and no doubt but we want what we want and what we want is pomp and ceremony, regardless of what club that leaves us in. We are hypocrites and traditionalists. We neither believe or are arsed disbelieving.
God- if he exist at all- is like a doddery old uncle, dragged out for those occasions we're having a bit of a do, banished to the great old folks home in the sky when we 're done with him.
Perhaps he needs new PR. I know a couple of Irish Mammies that would be a good hire.



Blogger The Bad Ambassador said...

Its all about the schools FMC. Apparently, it is impossible to register your child in certain schools if you can not provide a baptism cert.

Given our multicultural society, I'm sure it is only a matter of time before somebody sues a school on the basis of discrimination.

I'm sure I was reading about a school yesterday which already has 150 children on the waiting list despite the minor fact that its not even built yet!

10:16 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

150! Jesus.

10:17 a.m.  
Anonymous sheepworrier said...

Its true, I'll most likely baptise any future little sheepworriers, but would consider myself agnostic.
I'd imagine its more of an excuse for a celebration/piss-up rather than any religious meaning for most parents these days.

10:19 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I don't believe I will. Think of my mother's reactions to that! HAH( I also realise not doing something just to piss somebody else off is a lame reason to do anything, but as a non believer I have a short leg to stand on)

10:25 a.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

What about when all the other little people are making their communion your little nippers will be left out? Besides there is moncho ching to be made at baptisms and Communions, emmhmm some people even rent a room. Tis a win win situation, somebody else has the task of teaching him morals, he get a day out and you and your husband get to bake your asses in some hot location with the proceeds.

10:39 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I'd rather teach my own child his or her morals thanks, and not leave it to the church, whose morals I don't agree with.
I doubt my children will be traumatised by not having a communion either. Especially if they don't attend a catholic school.

10:42 a.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

What if like you they decide they want a church wedding?

10:48 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I pretty sure they could have one in a Unitarian church. All the pomp and ceremony they like, I'm only sorry I didn't think of it sooner myself.

10:50 a.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

Emm I guess they could. Anywho good luck with the wedding I'm sure it will be fabutastic!

10:54 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Also I'd be very against folk doing stuff just because their mothers bullied them into it. But that could be just me.

11:27 a.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

I think the schools issue might be the decider. Here in the UK, the church schools are known for their excellence. If you can have your child baptised in a variety of different faiths, get certificates for all of them, and also in whatever ceremonies the other religions have, then you can cover all the options when it comes to queuing for schools. And you can have parties for every single initiation rite! Har, har!

12:00 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

You could probably make a whole lot of money over here printing up baptism certs, Shebah..

12:09 p.m.  
Blogger Manuel said...

We don't take Christening Parties at the restaurant any more......they always turn in to beating matches and the many many kids that come to such occasions run riot whilst mum and da if he's there get pished out of there minds on alcopops and vodka. And who names their kid Shakira any ways?

12:35 p.m.  
Blogger sliabh said...

Didn't someone say the Church is just there to "Hatch, match, and dispatch" these days.

Me and my significant other did the registry office thing and feel strongly that there will be no baptism (if that ever happens). The mammy thing will be a struggle. It's the schools that really worry us.

Our spineless government has decided that just because you take the state's money you are not required to take the state's children. Religious discrimination is approved at this level.

12:39 p.m.  
Blogger Caro said...

I think I'd probably baptize my kids for my parents' sake - not because they'd bully me into it but because they genuinely believe in God and would worry for the rest of their lives if they thought their grandchildren were going to hell, and their children along with them.

What I couldn't do is the baptism promises. I couldn't actually say I believe in God and renounce Satan and all that shite. But I think it's the godparents who have to do that bit anyway.

12:43 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Manuel, that's the way it is here too. Bit party big piss up, bugger all holiness.
The schools might indeed be a worry Sliabh, depending on where you live of course.
Caro, I understand that. Butif you don't beleive in god it must make you question the relevance of the ceremony itself. No?
Speaking of religion we had a crowd around here the other day with a parish census. Wanting to know who we were, dates of birth, all sorts. They left it here-signed by them- and told us they'll either come back to pick it up or we can drop it to the church. What a presumption!

1:01 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

When my son was born he was baptised, his mother wanted it and so did both families.

I went to the priest in UCG, where I was a student and asked him if he would do the thing. He sat back in his swivel chair, turned away from me and while not looking at me at all, asked:

"Are you and the child's mother married?"

I said "No".

He asked me what I was doing in college and I told him.

Then he said...wait for it..."Tell me something. If we cannot seem to explain it to you so-called clever ones, how can we explain it to the rest of them?"

I think in that one sentence, he insulted every single person in Ireland and at that exact moment, my relationship with any church ended.

1:08 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Jebus, Docky2 that's very harsh. Very bloody harsh and insulting.

I suspect my imaginary future children will be cheerful atheists. I'm not going to fill their heads with anything I don't believe myself, when their pets die we will bury them and mourn their passing, but there will be no doggy/cat heaven. If they ask me about god I will explain what he is supposed to be and why people believe in him and why I and their father don't. I will try to keep them open minded, but let them work things out for themselves for the most part. If they want to go to mass I will bring them and let them get a feel for it. If they don't I won't force them to go.

1:15 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

"when their pets die we will bury them and mourn their passing, but there will be no doggy/cat heaven. If they ask me about god I will explain what he is supposed to be and why people believe in him and why I and their father don't."

Ah that is terrible, it is not so much a god as a means of preserving their innocence and letting their imagination run riot and how do you know they will be happy having been reared a catholic yourself? Are you going to experiment with your own children? Jesus that is interesting I hope it goes well. When my doggy died my little niece was broken hearted we told her he went up to holy god and was in his element eating all the chocolate and biscuits he likes, she found this most amusing. Next you’ll be given Santa Claus and the Tooth fairy the bullet, it will be a barrel of laughs in your house.

1:30 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

What you call preserving their innocence I call flat out lying. If not lying to my children ruins their lives I'll take it on the chin, but until then I won't worry too much about it.

1:35 p.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

When we had talked about kids years ago I said we'd raise them to be Jewish instead but I don't think that would have worked well.
There are many social events and rituals that we take part in while we don't believe. Christmas is probably the best example. We don't believe in god and are not christian. One year we said to our families "enough with the presents. We're done." You would have thought I shit on the rug. Everyone made us feel like jerks so we went back to buying presents for everyone.

1:36 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

Will they be allowed have santy?

1:37 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I like Christmas too Medbh, but I never give it a single godly thought. I like the atmosphere and the gifts and the dinner, especially the dinner. But I don't go to mass then either.

1:38 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Santy? Sure, I'm not going to wake them up and go 'Look it's really me and your dad! Look Look!' But the first time they ask me 'is there really a Santy?' I'm going to say no.

1:39 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

I think you are winding me up. I remember one Christmas when I was about 4ish my Grandparents (Who mostly reared me) got up at some ungodly hour no doubt, opened the window a little and put some red wool there well I was absolutely convinced Santy’s coat got torn there. Riddled with gayness and nostalgia I know but at the time it was tremendously excited. If I ever spawn a few sprogs there be the night before Christmas tales, Santa’s Guinness glass will be empty and reindeers left behind in Nonny’s garden, nothing like the shrieks of excitement from the little dingers.

1:51 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

I'm all for Santy. You couldn't be agin Santy.

2:05 p.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

Every year my mother asks me incredulously why we don't have a tree and lights and the rest.
I think Dawkins gives xmas a similar secular connotation which makes sense. Mr. M has a beef with xmas and lots of bad memories attached. His family celebrated Chanukkah but after his parents broke up and his dad married a christian they had xmas shoved down their throat and the Jewish tradition was eclipsed. So I don't go there.

2:08 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

Christmas with the Kranks is standing out in my mind at the moment. I have a twenty foot inflatable Santy I bought in NY a couple of weeks back as soon as I get a transformer he be in my garden until the 6th of January, old Crimbo day. Fook the lies and Yeee Haaa to smiley little faces, wild imaginations and captivated hearts. 34 days people just 34!!!

2:26 p.m.  
Anonymous sheepworrier said...

Ach, I dunno FMC - how can you look at their little angelic faces after some kid in school said Santa wasn't real, and then bring more tears to their hopeful eyes? Would you not rather let them grow out of it like everyone else has? I certainly don't resent my parents for lying to me.

I think alot of parents have an ideal of how they're going to raise their kids, but it just doesn't happen in practise. A little bit of magic doesn't hurt.

2:29 p.m.  
Blogger Caro said...

I do consider baptism totally irrelevant, but the Italian would want it (he's not exactly a practising Catholic but does believe in God) and so would both families. The child can make up his or her own mind what to believe in when he or she is old enough. Maybe being militantly atheistic is as bad as being militantly religious - one tries to make people conform to their beliefs, the other to their non-beliefs. Religion has done an lot of damage and continues to do so, but many people find the idea of a God very comforting. I certainly wouldn't want to take that away from anyone, even though I firmly believe there is no higher power or God of any description.

(Except Santa, naturally).

2:49 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

My eldest sister's kids don't believe in a santy and they still get hyperactive and overwrought about christmas, especially the boy. They still wake her at the crack of dawn to get up and open presents. They can't sleep with excitement on Christmas eve, because they know the next day is going to bring presents, no matter the form of delivery. They were never upset about 'Santy' not being real because they never believed in him in the first place ( they don't believe in a tooth fairy or animal heaven or indeed heaven either).
I suppose you do whatever your comfortable with. I'm going to follow her lead on this one because it seems a good one.

2:49 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Caro, if it works for you and yours I fully support it.
I'm not militant, I understand people who find it a comfort. It just does nothing for me.
Medbh, that sad about Mister M, what webs we weave.

2:53 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

What about their imagination. I have never heard of that in my life, I think it is a country thing. This is the second day in a row you have shocked me miss cat. Roll on Santy!!

2:56 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Their imaginations remains unfettered.

2:58 p.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

FMC - can't resist sending you this - for all those true believers out there"
'A young monk (brother Joseph) arrives at the monastery. Excited about his new call, he is soon assigned a painstaking but important task--helping a group of monks copy volumes of canon law.

However, brother Joseph soon notices that the monks are copying from copies of canon law, they are not consulting the original manuscript.

So, brother Joseph sheepishly summons up the courage to go to the head abbot to question this method. If someone made even the smallest error in an earlier copy, it would never be caught and corrected by those making copies of a copy! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The abbot replied to Joseph's query, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son."

So the abbot hurried off down into the dark archives underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts of canon law were held in a locked vault that hadn't been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the abbot . . . So, brother Joseph gets quite worried about the old man and goes down to look for him.

In the dim light, Joseph sees the abbot banging his head against the wall and wailing in a broken and cracking voice, "We missed the R! We missed the R! We missed the R!” The abbot's forehead was bloody and bruised and he was crying uncontrollably.

Brother Joseph rushes to his side and asks him, "What's wrong, father?"

Barely able to utter the words, the old abbot replied, "The word was . . . "CELEBRATE!!!”'

3:20 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Oh snarf to the max, excellent.

3:24 p.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Five months in and my mother is finally starting to accept that we're not getting our little chap christened. She didn't let up for ages but finally realises neither of us wants to do it.

I know she's religious, but part of me thinks it's more about the big day out than his spiritual well-being...

4:03 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Sinéad, you are the most fearless of us all, you have bested the Irish mammy. I salute you.

4:05 p.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

She may have let up a bit FMC, but the new tack is "so and so's grandson is getting christened this week" followed up with a misty-eyed faraway look in her eyes.


4:09 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

If she pitches a fit or starts to complain about heart palpitations you know she's taken it to the next level.

4:25 p.m.  
Blogger gimme a minute said...

Just watch out she doesn't die at you.

4:40 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Holy crap, doubtless my own biological incubator is making a shrine to her this very moment.

5:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Peadar said...

'Santy? Sure, I'm not going to wake them up and go 'Look it's really me and your dad! Look Look!' But the first time they ask me 'is there really a Santy?' I'm going to say no.'

Cop on, no you won't. You don't have kids yet, do ya?
I think your taking this 'not lying to kids' thing a bit far.

Jesus even I find the finality of death hard to deal with. If the concept of heaven can make it easier for a child to deal with, then I'm all for it. And I don't mean in a religious way

5:49 p.m.  
Anonymous Peadar said...

'They were never upset about 'Santy' not being real because they never believed in him in the first place'

Ah come on for fuck sake.
When they were 3 or 4 years old they didn't believe in Santy?

Did you believe in santy when you were a kid? Do you feeled its damaged you?

5:53 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

"Cop on, no you won't. You don't have kids yet, do ya?
I think your taking this 'not lying to kids' thing a bit far"
Maybe so, but that's how I feel about it. Who knows, maybe when I see their shining eyes and gappy smiles I'll feel differently. I'm not adverse to playing that one by ear. Frankly I 'm amused how people are quite happy to leave Jesus out of Christmas, but suggest the fat commercial Coca- Cola construct takes a run and jump and everyone is horrified.


On the other point I stand firm. I think the heaven and hell thing is a load of stale bullwank.
Let kids come to terms with death, let them grieve. Lying about whether their bloody cat sitting up in heaven doesn't lesson the loss any. I never felt any better about it. In fact I thought God was a rotten bastard for taking any of my animals. I was much happier when I stopped thinking the universe was out to get me and that animals just died.

6:02 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I have a question for you. If I DIDN't believe in 'Santy' as a kid, would it have damaged me either?
And yes, NONE of my sister's kids EVER believe in Santy. And ohmigod, they're not damaged either.

6:04 p.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

Miss Cat if you don't mind me asking, how old are you?

6:06 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...


6:07 p.m.  
Anonymous Peadar said...

Sorry FMC, but I find that hard to believe. Explain to us what happened there? When the kids were, say 3 years of age, and all other 3 year olds were believing, these super intelligent kids worked out that it wasn't true.

6:35 p.m.  
Anonymous L'enferc'estlesautres said...

What pray has FMC's age got to do with the price of spuds?! To be honest I think exposing children to the mind bogglingly crass commercial extravaganza that is the Yuletide season, with Mr Claus at it's epicentre, is wholly detrimental to the formation of their imaginations. It's one cliche, that has the joy wrung out of it, after another!

6:42 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Oh no, you misunderstand me, nobody worked anything out. My sister actively dispelled the myth with the first one and then it filtered down to each one as they were born and got old enough to even consider there was such a 'person' as 'Santy'. Same with death, heaven and ghosts. No trauma, no springing it on them, no tears, no anything. So because they've never believed it they don't understand that they're supposed to be missing out on anything.
They care deeply about presents though. And they are pretty smart, although as far as I can see the boy is stone raving mad.

6:43 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

l'enferc'estlesautres, good evening.
Do tell, what does you non de plume stand for? I am abysmal at french but it tickles me so.

6:46 p.m.  
Anonymous l'enferc'estlesautres said...

Hell is other people!

Jean-Paul Sartre

6:53 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...


7:07 p.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

I never believed in Santa either and my parents never tried to tell us he was real. They made it clear that the gifts were from them. Not all people want to fuck with their kids.
I don't have kids but if I did, I wouldn't lie to them and would instead help them to learn about the world truthfully. Sugar-coating death with fantasies about heaven are also unfair and only harm children.

7:13 p.m.  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

"with a tongue so forked I could use it to plug in foreign plugs into Irish sockets"

Ha! Superb.

We do Santa, simply because I loved it as a child and grandpa - who is usually Santa - wants his whiskey, shortbread and carrots of a Christmas Eve. He makes a great show of leaving toothmarks in the carrot.

We talk about the Christmas story but preface it all with "This is what some people believe. Other people believe very different things. Jesus was a man who taught us some wonderful things and some people, especially here, believe he was the son of God. But all over the world people have their own beliefs etc. etc." Something along these lines.

That way they don't get our ideas about things at an age when they are likely just to accept it 'cos we say it (one of us is agnostic, the other atheist). They just get the general picture. So far they seem fine with that. They ask a lot of questions which we answer and you can see they're thinking about it all, which is fine - they're sifting it all around to make their own sense of it. They're going to have to do that for the rest of their life about all sorts of things so we don't try and mess with it. It's a good exercise.

When they're older and more in a position to evaluate, we'll be more vocal about our own beliefs but for now we're just trying to impress upon them the general good will of the season and how it all came about. We bake muffins for the food shelter and everyone pitches in with the decorations and stuff so that, above all, it's a family enterprise they'll remember. "the family that plays together stays together" an' that.

I don't know if we're doing the right thing - it seems to us, at this moment we are - but everybody should do what they think is the right thing with their kids about Jesus and Santa and all that stuff. It's the best we can do. Kids are kids - they won't be scarred by a lack of Santa or all that. The fact that you put any thought at all into what you'll tell them, already means you're being a good parent. There are a hell of a lot worse things for a kid than believing or not believing in Santa. Everyone here seems decent and thoughtful even if we differ. We're not the parents we need to worry about. I'm happy to brook each parent doing whatever they want about Christmas, and leaving them to it.

7:37 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I don't mind people disagreeing here at all as long as everyone is civil. I rather like the thrust and parry of it all. And you're quite right, everyone is very different but thoughtful with it.
I love that you want your children to focus on the good will of the season, baking food for the shelters is a really wonderful thing to do. Well played madam, well played.

7:45 p.m.  
Blogger Twenty Major said...

We bake muffins for the food shelter

Please let them be poison muffins.

9:17 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Twenty major! Stop that!

9:22 a.m.  
Blogger P1P said...

Churches are great buildings and if I decided to get married for purely financial reasons I'd like to do it in a church.

My friend even lives in a converted chapel. Bollocks to religion but they have great pads

1:49 p.m.  
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