What’s the point of a godparent who doesn’t believe in God? This weekend I was on Channel 4′s 4Thought programme giving my opinion on just that.
As an atheist I haven’t had any of my children christened, it’s just not something that I personally believe in. I respect other peoples beliefs and faiths, in the same way that I would like to think they respected mine – it’s a matter of personal choice, I don’t feel that there’s a right or a wrong. But as someone who doesn’t believe in a god I would feel hypocritical to stand in a house of god christening my child or commiting to god as a god parent.
Part of me can’t help but wonder if christenings are been kept ‘alive’ more from a misguided sense of tradition than from spiritual beliefs. Is it more because it’s ‘the done thing’ or dare I say it… the party, the celebration? I’m sure that for some people it’s an important part of their spiritual upbringing and so I don’t mean so appear flippant and generalize but are these families increasingly in the minority? I suspect that many people fall in to the ‘I sort of believe in god but don’t actually attend church other than Christmas time, weddings and funerals’ genre. Is religion turning into something that people dip in and out of when it suits as opposed to moral and spiritual guidance for life?
Through the 4thought experience I heard of alternatives to God Parents. Guardians and Guide Parents But what are their roles in a child’s life and why do people chose them? To find out I asked two mothers, one who chose a Guardian and one who chose Guide Parents, and here’s what they had to say.
“My four all have the same Guardian. He is my best friend and we have been together since we were 14. My OH has known him for 25 years and we were both in total agreement that he was THE ONE. We didn’t have a naming ceremony or any other shenanigans we just said ‘Would you be Guardian?’ and he said ‘Of course’. He is very religious and we are not but his guardianship hasn’t involved a religious aspect at all. He looks out for them and, since he FINALLY married a few years ago, his wife does too. He treats them as he has always treated me, with respect, love and a generosity of spirit which they return. It’s like having an extra pair of eyes…a couple of weeks ago he brought to my attention a Telegraph article about going to Uni in Germany for my eldest and he was spot on – it’s right up my boy’s street. His Guardianship has deepened our friendship and has provided my children with another man in their life who respects them for who they are as people.”
“I do not believe in God and always feel hypocritical when I’m in Church – especially for a christening when you are asked to bring this child up as God loving or similar. I have no problem with other people’s faith in God but it is a very personal thing and something those that do believe often take very seriously. I understand why people have faith but I have my own faith and it doesn’t include god. I don’t want to make a mockery of their faith.
I don’t feel comfortable in a christening environment, especially if I don’t believe the parents are religious either. To me it just feels wrong and like lying. I couldn’t pretend I was religious to get my child into a better school for the same reason. I understand why people to do it but for me personally, I don’t feel comfortable with the lie. For similar reasons, when we got married we had a civil service (in a beautiful Cyprus setting but that’s another story).
However, I did want to ‘welcome’ Callum into the world, and introduce him properly to my family and friends. I heard about Naming Ceremonies and Humanist services at the London Wedding Exhibition and the more I read about it the more right it seemed for us. Stuart and I thought carefully about who we wanted as Guide Parents. We wanted people who would have a positive influence on his life as he grew up. We therefore chose people who we thought would be long time friends and would be involved in his life as he grows up. Each Guide Parent has a special role. One is to advise on career & money issues; one emotional support and the other couple (married) are there for general life support (basically everything and anything) – as they were our closest friends (we lived opposite at the time) we wanted them to be like a close aunt and uncle to Callum.
From what I understand God Parents in a christening used to be people you would entrust your children to should anything happen to you, the parents. I could have that wrong but that is what I was told. We believe that’s what your family are for – which is why we chose friends not family.
There was a Humanists transcript for the day – I wrote the bits relating to the Guide Adults and their responsibilities and I wrote the poem for Callum. Even the rest of the service was written personally for us based on an informal chat/meeting we had with the Humanist Celebrant (in person not over the phone) – she really wanted to get to know us and to get some insight into our lives and what type of boy Callum was.
Now we are starting to make plans to do the same for Millie later this year. We have already chosen her Guide Parents who have accepted their involvement in her life and are already showing enthusiasm for their role. Now we just need to find the perfect setting and venue for a welcome befitting her.”
Thank you to Debbie from My Pregnancy – Mummy Diary for sharing.
It’s great to hear of the alternatives out there, have you used an alternative to God Parents? How do you feel about the role of God Parents? All views welcome and respected.