Friday, October 19, 2012

De Baptism

De Baptism Image
I've long been of the opinion that the ritual of infant baptism as practiced by many mainstream Christian denominations is essentially pointless from a spiritual and magical perspective. My reasoning? If we assume that the Christian concept of salvation is based on spiritual realization, we must also take into account the basic truth that nobody else can do spiritual work for us. The problem with infant baptism is quite simply that while participating in a religious ritual led by another person can help speed one's spiritual progress, an infant really has no idea what is going on. Some babies just cry through the whole thing and find the water used unpleasant, which seems to me as about as far from a genuine spiritual awakening as I can imagine.

While baptism does serve a social function, it seems to me that people could get their socialization in clubs or organizations that are not religious in nature. This strikes me as a better state of affairs on the grounds that it would ensure that human politics and spiritual realization do not become conflated with each other. I'll add that this is not limited to churches, and the same point could be made about many magical orders and societies. There's a reason that when Aleister Crowley first put together his plan for A.'.A.'. he forbade socialization among its members. He had seen firsthand what political struggle had done to the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and had played a significant part in it himself acting as Mathers' representative in London during the "revolt of the Adepts."

Several new websites are now offering "de-baptism" certificates for those who wish to formally leave their Christian Churches. While requesting a certificate from a website is at least as pointless as an infant baptism ritual from a spiritual perspective, its political significance cannot be overlooked.

The idea of getting "de-baptized"-- or having your name officially deleted from the baptismal registry-- is relatively new, but one which the Catholic Church is beginning to take seriously, and with grave concern.

The movement may have begun just a decade ago when Terry Sanderson, head of the National Secular Society in Britain, posted an unofficial "de-baptism certificate" on the society's website, mostly as a joke. To date it has been downloaded at least 100,000 times.

"It was a joke to begin with, but now it has taken on a new significance because there are so many people who are anxious to leave the church that they are actually taking it seriously now, and they want some way to make their break with the church formal," Sanderson told VOA. "Often the church won't acknowledge their desire to leave."

Many disenfranchised ex-parishioners have begun to take it a step further, seeking official, legal acknowledgement for de-baptism. For instance, 71-year-old Frenchman Rene Lebouvier recently filed a lawsuit against the church after his initial request to have his name crossed off the church's baptismal registry was denied. Last October, a lower court in Normandy ruled in his favor, making him the first man to be officially de-baptized, though a local bishop has filed an appeal.

The very existence of de-baptism demonstrates the extent to which people have become angry with the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of ongoing scandals and the continued embrace of political positions very much at odds with those of the modern world. It remains to be seen if the current surge in de-baptisms represents a trend, or if it is simply the latest Internet craze that will fade as quickly as it emerged.

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