Saturday 24 September 2016

Despite a lack of faith, I can still find a place for religion in my life

Barbara McCarthy

Published 27/07/2015 | 02:30

'As Christians, many of us partake in milestone ceremonies despite a very obvious lack of faith'
'As Christians, many of us partake in milestone ceremonies despite a very obvious lack of faith'

An acquaintance recently expressed his disgust when I informed him that I would be baptising my child, despite the fact I haven't darkened the door of a church in years.

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"Why would you buy into all that religion c***? It's the root of all evil in the world," he said.

Well, for starters, I think many people need some kind of moral guidelines and the world would be a worse place without them.

But if you must know my business, I told him, I'm doing it so we can have a fun day out with friends and family.

I'll admit that I'm more focused on food, drinks and music than I am on the Christian sacraments and the admission of my child into the Christian Church.

Yes, it's flaky, fair-weather and extremely hypocritical of me, but I'm not the only one.

As Christians, many of us partake in milestone ceremonies despite a very obvious lack of faith.

I represent most of my friends when I say that I respect people's beliefs as long as they are not trying to ram them down my throat.

I spoke to my sister, who is also christening her child alongside mine, and she informed me that she was doing it as a sort of welcoming party.

"We can't plant a tree, because we live in an apartment, so having a christening ceremony is a chance to introduce the baby and also give the godparents official recognition.

"I'll get my children confirmed, if that's what they want, but it's not important," she added.

Many of my friends have chosen not to baptise their children, while some have felt under duress to have them baptised so they can to go to a school nearby.

There has been much discussion about school entry and the importance of baptismal certificates.

Last week, a Dublin father gathered more than 3,000 signatures on a petition to amend section Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000. This section grants schools discretion over which children they admit.

Most schools operate a tiered approach to their admissions policy.

The first tier is for local baptised children; the second is for baptised children from elsewhere who can't access a (typically) Catholic school in their own catchment area, and tier three is for "other" children.

As more than 90pc of schools in Ireland are Catholic-maintained, many parents feel they are being forced by schools - not churches - to baptise their children.

For barrister Paddy Monahan, who initiated the petition, the law as it stands is unconstitutional, discriminates on the basis of religion and causes segregation in national schools.

I went to a popular Protestant school because I was Protestant myself. In my case, it worked the other way round, as I benefited from being in the minority.

I might want to send my child to this school or another non-uniform, mixed school, but there are very few of them.

There are even less multi-denominational schools, where there is no religious class at all. In Ireland, these represent only one in 50 secondary schools and only 2pc of primary schools.

More and more people want to go to these schools, so waiting lists are long, which is leaving many people in a pickle.

Now that we live in a much less Catholic Ireland, I think such a system is dated and baptism should be a choice.

For me, despite my lack of commitment, I do still enjoy being part of a religion. When you enter into a relationship of any description with a church, unlike any other long-term relationships, you get treated equally.

You may not have been to church since baptism, but you can happily walk in and get married there.

Unlike a disgruntled boss, they take you back no matter what.

After a lengthy hiatus, I found it nice to meet a community of people who will pop along to the christening even though they don't know you and say hello and wish the baby well.

Our Protestant pastor and members of the church who will be there on the day have been more than helpful and I found out about mother and toddler groups, which I can go to in the future.

A few weeks ago, I was at a mother and baby group at my local Catholic church and again everyone was extremely kind and welcoming.

It was great to have a cup of tea in the communal area and chat to people.

I was surprised to see all the activities that take place that don't have anything to do with religion and more with community.Despite the fact that by christening my child, I am inflicting a religion on her without her choice or consent, I wouldn't have it any other way.

As it turns out, for a non-believer, religion has a place for me and I have a place for it.

You can see the petition here

Irish Independent

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