Growing up in and Irish and a Mexican household combined, it mustn’t have been easy to make the decision not to baptise our kids, right? Wrong! Despite our catholic upbringings, we found it pretty easy. This post may cause offense to some, and may be a little controversial. But each to their own, right?
I grew up in a very traditionally Irish Catholic environment, from going to mass every Sunday to having a little alter in my bedroom. My mother was always very religious, my father however, not so much. I rarely remember him coming to mass with us apart from big events like baptisms, or our communions and confirmations. I never really thought about it back then. Learning about “holy god” in school, together with my mam’s devotion to god and my bedtime prayers, I never really noticed my dad’s little involvement in our denomination.
Even during my time, which I like to think wasn’t too long ago, the Church still had a huge influence over everything in Ireland. I remember the priest coming into our classrooms and announcing that we weren’t to get homework that evening or announcing days off during school nativity plays or concerts. If you were naughty, you were threatened with the priest. “If you don’t behave, I’m bringing you over to Fr Harry.” When the priest walked into your classroom, you had to stand and say his name in unison as a mark of respect.
This “man of god” was the be all and end all. Furthermore, if the threat of the priest didn’t work, the next threat was the main man, himself. God. Bringing the phrase, put the fear of god in you to a whole new level. That’s what it boiled down to, fearing god.
I always prayed before going to sleep at night, even into my college years. I felt guilty if I fell asleep forgetting to pray. I was scared that something “bad” would happen if I didn’t pray. How ridiculous is that? Isn’t god supposed to be a great lad, full of forgiveness, full of love? So why did I fear the wrath of god so much.
This question played on repeat and got louder and louder in my head as I studied philosophy in college. That may seem kind of weird but studying philosophy made me realise that I can question things in life that I wouldn’t have dared to question before. Number one: religion … God.
So, I guess it all made sense when Roberto and I were discussing having kids one day on our way to lunch. He said he wouldn’t want to baptise them. I was kind of shocked. I knew he was Athiest but I didn’t think he wanted to bring a life of doom upon his future kids. Of course they’d need to be baptised. Otherwise, god (of course) knows what would happen to them. Growing up, I remember hearing that you needed to baptise your baby before they were a certain age or, again, these “bad things” would happen. Or if something were to happen, say the baby passed away, they wouldn’t be allowed through the pearly gates because they weren’t baptised. Even typing this, feels ludicrous.
I told Roberto of my concerns and how I would need to baptise them for their safety. What he said next was a game changer…
“What about all the children that haven’t been baptised? Or the ones who have been baptised but have still had horrible shit happen to them?”
Hello there, Globe Baby readers. Berto here and might I say, how privileged you are to finally hear from the amazing husband and father you have been hearing so much about. So, how did I come to not want my kids baptised? Allow me to tell you my story.
In Chicago, public schools don’t have the best reputation. So the best way to get a good education is to go to a private school and in my part of the neighborhood (shout out Bridgeport) St. Barbara’s was that school. It was like your basic extremely religious, strict public school in Ireland. If you wanted to pass 2nd, 3rd and 8th grade you had to complete the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. And since it was private you had to follow their rules or you found a new school. Those students who ended up leaving for one reason or another were smeared openly at school by the principal, Mrs. Hurckes.
This type of environment is far from normal. In the states where there is a separation of church and state, public schools are not allowed to teach religion except in a secular context. In addition, public schools have so many more regulations to follow when it comes to discipline. There is no way Mrs. Hurckes would have gotten away with manhandling students and berating them well past crying. Nor would she have been able to literally wash my mouth out with soap until I gagged, if she were in charge of a public school. But she wasn’t. And the result of making it through St. Barbara’s was an above average education. Students and even parents were forced to obey and accept the way things were.
From St. Barbara’s I went to St. Rita’s (a non-catholic high school wasn’t even in question) and it was here that I “lost my way.” During my second year, a friend was telling me a hilarious prank someone had done to a statue of Jesus at the end of one of the halls. Uncomfortably laughing I asked “Why’d he do that? That’s so wrong.” His response: ”Why.” That simple reply was all it took. Why. He then told me that he didn’t believe Jesus walked on water. Mind blown! What?!? Could that story be false? What else could not be false? How could I never have asked such a simple question before? The previous 11 years flashed through my head. I thought about how I was taught bible stories through cartoons, sermons and essays. How the ‘sacrifice’ Jesus made was drilled into me through guided tours, in church, of The Stations of the Cross with graphic detail. How I was warned not to have ‘bad’ thoughts or even curse in my head for it was a sin and God’s wrath would punish me. I was even convinced to join the choir and become an alter boy. Then it hit me. I had been indoctrinated. That’s why.
From then on I was overly skeptical of everything I had been told regarding religion to the point where I questioned if it was something I needed at all. Once I realized I was receiving no benefits from religion but instead was a detriment upon my psyche I cut it out. I actually remember that last time I talked to God. It was the night before I was to take the ACT, an entrance exam for college in the states. I started to pray asking for help to get a good score but then stopped half way through. “You know what? Fuck you. I don’t need your help. I can do it by myself.” And I did. I got into the best school I applied to.
From then on I thought of religion as a thing some people need have a sense of purpose or belonging. I never felt that way. My purpose is to be a good person and enjoy life to the fullest. My sense of belonging comes from my friends and family around the world. No religion needed. So when Lorraine asked if I wanted to baptise my children it was a hard “No.”
Why did I want to basically force a belief system upon our future kids? Did I want them growing up fearing this authoritative figure that they would never even see in the flesh? Did I want them questioning why they had to pray, take the sacraments or why bad things happened even though they were taught that god was all good? The answer was no. Of course I didn’t want any of this. I wanted them to be able to choose for themselves. If they choose to be Catholic, Presbyterian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, whatever they would choose, or if they chose nothing, I would not judge them. I will give my input, if asked but I don’t want my beliefs (or lack of) to influence their decisions in anyway.
It was First Holy Communion season here a few months back. I was in town with my mother and sister, Leticia and Reagan. We walked into Dunnes Stores which was full of beautiful white dresses. Communion dresses of course. My sister got a little excited. I could see it in her face. She turned to me, forgetting and said, “I can’t wait to see Leticia in … oh no, she won’t be wearing one of those ever, will she?” I laughed and responded, “nope.” Later that same day, my mother asked if we’d just consider baptising the girls for the sake of their schooling. This was the first time my mother had mentioned it to me in the two years since Leticia’s birth. She explained that she was just a little worried about the girls not being able to get into school or possibly being bullied, or excluded for being “different”. If our girls were to go to school in Ireland, they would be considered “different” anyway. They don’t have white skin. They don’t particularly look Irish. But why should religion be the thing that sets them apart from the rest? It shouldn’t. Why should they need to be of a certain faith to get into school here? They shouldn’t. And if we were to baptise them for school purposes then we’d also have to have them take the other sacraments too. Our involvement would be necessary. Wouldn’t we be huge hypocrites then?
One could argue that telling them about Santa, the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy etc is essentially forcing beliefs on them too. I have to disagree. These give magic to childhood and feed their ever-growing imaginations. Giving them a religion is quite the opposite. To me that’s what it would be, giving them a religion. Yes, it would be giving them hope that they would one day end up in this eternal Paradise with all their “sins” washed away. But it would also be filling them with fear of doing wrong or making mistakes; filling them with doubt, filling them with questions that can’t be properly answered.
Personally, I don’t want our kids to grow up questioning their very existence and feeling like they have to believe that Jesus and the rest of the boys were sin free. We are all human. None of us are perfect. We all have our differences and we all make mistakes. Its time that people started to embrace those mistakes, those differences and live for what they truly believe; not what they have been forced to believe. That is what we want for our daughters and this is why we will not be baptising our daughters.