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Atheist Experience
Feedback: Atheist Experience #771: Godparents

The whole show was very enjoyable.

Particularly from exactly 50min stage to 54min stage (ironically exactly) I found to be extremely good and possibly one of the best 4mins I've heard from Matt in a long time. I mean, welcome back Matt, we missed you.

By the way, I obviously can't link this 50min stage, as you can do with YouTube videos, as right click just gives settings etc.

Anyway, I wanted to also state that what Matt said about the 'Catholic Church' could really be said of any of the large churches. So although the callers topic was in regards to this particular church, I would hope that Matt was speaking on behalf of ALL of them.

Certainly the show (as always) was excellent. But this particular few minutes speech, was exceptional and should go down as one of the greatest moments on Atheist Experience.

-> Maybe you could create a greatest moments video or something? If you do, please put this one in it.

It was worth pausing and re-watching and listening to this part over and over again. Actually it made perfect reasonable sense to me. I hope the caller is now wiser for it (if he stopped and listened that is!)

Here's the link to that particular #771 'godparents' show (if I'm not allowed to do this here in comments, could the Mods just edit out this part, thanks)

I've loved every single episode except the one named "argument from ignorance". I absolutely hated that one. I love Tracie and Matt don't get me wrong but on that episode they imo set the bar ridiculously high for anything. At one point Tracie said that even if God performed a whole host of miracles like turning the moon into a second earth that still wouldn't even be proof. Im an atheist but damn I think I might believe if some guy floated down from the clouds and transformed a freaking planet.

I was going to write a thread about Godparents, but I guess I'll just bump this one up. I'm someone that is dealing with this situation right now, and I grew up in a Catholic home. I went through every year of CCD except the last where I chose not to get confirmed.

I have to say that I was not very satisfied with the response to godparenting by Jen and Matt here. Jen was mainly reading through a list of things as they were the final word, and in my experiences that's not how Catholicism, or most denominations of Christianity for that matter, operate. (From here on out I'll be referring to Catholicism because that's what I'm dealing with right now.)

There are rules in Catholicism, but most of those rules can be overruled by a priest or higher authority. Exceptions can be made for many things. For instance, in my case, I am an atheist and I was allowed to be the best man. The rule in this church stated that either the Maid of Honor or Best Man had to be confirmed Catholic. Neither of us were, the church was told, and the church accepted us.

The point I'm trying to get at here is that I don't think it is productive to read off a list of requirements and then say you're not qualified to be a godparent as an atheist. That's too simplistic. And I know that's not exactly what Jen said, but that's really what her line of logic implied.

Anyways, to get to my situation a bit more, my brother and in-law, who I stood up for, now just had his baby and he asked me to be a Godparent. I told them that I would accept the honor (and I reject the notion that it isn't an honor, which I'll probably get into later in this post), as long as they were okay with me being an atheist and it was passed with the church and considered okay. Everything seems to be in order as they told me that things were fine, and the ceremony should be coming soon. :D

I think there's a cultural aspect that is completely lost by Jen here. (I'm not really mentioning Matt as much because he didn't really have as much to say on the subject.) Jen said something to the effect of "being a godparent is an honor, maybe, I guess". It definitely is. The parents are asking if they can anoint you into a position to have responsibilities of their child. They are depending on you to fulfill those responsibilities. That is definitely an honor.

So I think we have to get past this idea of qualification by requirements in order to a more productive question about whether we can fulfill our societal/cultural roles as godparents. It's really not for the godparent to decide whether they are qualified by Catholic requirements IMO, as that is up to the church, which would mean that hiding your beliefs is the wrong way to go about things.

On the question of actually being able to carry out the responsibilities, I think the advice here was pretty good by Jen, which was don't be scared to ask questions of what the responsibilities are. My responsibilities in my situation are to sponsor the child (by the way, "godparent" is the layman's term as the term used in the Canon is "sponsor") at the baptism and to be active in the child's life if possible. In my family, usually a little more money is spent on someone if they are your godchild for their birthday.

On the part about guiding the child spiritually, my family carries none of that expectation, and so I'm not really expected to fulfill that role. I did want to mention, however, that being an atheist does not disqualify a person from fulfilling that role. A child can be guided through information, and allowing them to find their own way. Most atheists would agree that giving information to people and allowing them to make their own decision is a good way to go about things. If I was expected to guide the child spiritually, I would give them a Children's Bible and I would help explain it to them. I would also give information about other religions, and even non-religion.

I'm going to try to wrap this up as I know it's getting long. I believe atheists can fulfill the obligation and honor of being a godparent in most cases, as long as the church is willing to allow the atheist to fulfill the role. I think it is important to talk to the parents so it is clear that you are not trying to mislead them about what your beliefs are and what your responsibilities are. Oh, and there is nothing legally binding about godparenting where I live (in the US), but sometimes the godparent is expected to step in if the parents die. Of course, in order for that to happen, being a godparent is not enough so that has to be coupled with legal documents, but there is no reason that can't be done.

Oh crap, and another thing I will mention and will get into more if people are interested and this gets responses is that rejecting this role is actually a pretty big deal. It's like rejecting being the best man at a wedding. It will likely create hard feelings. A sponsor is someone who is responsible or vouches for another person, and rejecting that sponsorship can often be seen as a lack of acceptance of the child.

But yeah, I'll be done for now. lol I'd love to hear responses/opinions from others, as this was, and still is a bit, a tough subject for me.

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