In the US, The Freedom from Religion foundation offers a “Debaptism Certificate“. The picture is too small to see, so to help you out, the text reads …
I, having been subjected to a Christian baptism before reaching an age of consent, or having submitted to baptism before embracing freethought and reason, hereby officially renounce that primitive rite and the Church that imposed it. I categorically reject the creeds, dogmas, and superstitions of my former religion, particularly the pernicious doctrines of ‘Original Sin’ and damnation.
“I further denounce as an affront and defamation to humanity the false and demeaning belief that any baby is born with ‘Original Sin’ and must be cleansed of it by baptism. From this day forward, I wish to be excluded from any claims of religious affiliation or membership based on baptismal records.
Why would you take this step? Well, perhaps one good reason is to remove yourself from the statistics that are used by the churches to demand more privileges, and perhaps also to break the formal connection with institutions that are counterproductive to peace, harmony and common sense. Another thought is to simply “come out” within your community, or to initiate a public debate. Evangelical noises are getting louder and louder, so its a way to push back and take a stand.
Others also support this, for example, the UK’s national Secular Society documents attempts by some of their members to formally do this, you can read about their experiences here. They also offer a de-baptism certificate and have had 100,000 copies downloaded.
Even the BBC gets in on the action, they had an article about all this back in 2009 here.
So how do you actually de-baptise? Well, if baptism involved immersion in water, then you obviously need to sort that out, and the way to do that is with a hairdryer. The event involves a robed “priest” using a hairdryer marked “reason” in a bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all, oh and you also get a “de-sacrament” (crackers with peanut butter). Is this just a bit of spoofing and satire? When asked, one participant said …
“It was very therapeutic, it was a chance to laugh at the silly things I used to believe as a child. It helped me admit that it was OK to think the way I think and to not have any religious beliefs.”
How do the churches react when presented with a debaptism certificate? (Remember now, these are not in any way legal documents). Well, the Church of England refuses to take any action on presentation of the certificate, while the Roman Catholic Church treats it as any other act of renunciation of the Catholic faith and, if it considers it seriously meant, makes the appropriate annotation in the baptismal register. If a Southern Baptist renounces his or her baptism, then that person is usually presumed to have never received an authentic baptism in the first place. (That’s the old, “You were never a ‘real’ believer”, argument you get when you explain that you were once upon a time born again)
Finally, I must also ask this – for a non-believer, obviously baptism is nothing but a meaningless superstitious ritual, so what meaning does reversing this have, why bother attempting to reverse it? Well, I guess that’s back to where I started, and is perhaps about non-believers making a public statement that says “We’re here. We’re secular. Deal with it”.
Poll – What do you think?