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Godparents and Atheist and Agnostics

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Do Atheists and Agnostics have Godparents/children? It seems to me that the role of Godparenting is more than a religious responsibility, even though that's a huge part of it. Does is go against a belief, or lack of, I guess, for an atheist to be a Godmother?
post #2 of 20
No idea!
post #3 of 20
DD doesn't have godparents. I mean, we don't have any special ceremonies that would name/identify anyone as her godparents, so we didn't pick any. Plus I don't need anyone to help me raise her in my religion/guide her spiritually/whatever else godparents might be expected to do. I agree that the role of godparent is more than just spiritual/religious though. DD does have a "special aunt and uncle", who are the people who would raise her if we died, will probably babysit when she's older, etc. But we don't call them her godparents.

Does it go against belief for an atheist to be a godparent? Well, I guess it depends on what they'd be expected to do, and whether they're comfortable with that "title". I've never been asked to be a godparent. My DH is our nephew's godfather. He felt that he could do what was expected (he was raised Catholic and confirmed, and understands the religion, and is okay with explaining things to him from a Catholic perspective), and he is comfortable with that title. It would depend on the individual person. For example I would probably decline if there was any religion involved, because I wasn't raised with any religion and wouldn't feel "qualified" in that way. If it was just a godparent as in a special adult in that child's life (called a godparent just because it's the familiar term), I would probably accept.

Hope that helps.
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks, La Rune. I was just thinking about it for no real reason...I have a lot of random thoughts and questions sometimes.
post #5 of 20
It depends... in Dh's family godparents are more cultural than religious (no matter what his Abuela would like to think ) so yes, even if someone were agnostic or atheist, they would choose godparents for each child.
post #6 of 20
My agnostic husband has a goddaughter, but he was Catholic at the time he became her godfather. In his family you would never choose someone who is atheist to be a godparent I don't think, but it's not like he had to resign from the role or sees any conflict in it.

I attend a Unitarian Universalist church. We do child dedications. Godparents do not have to be part of this ceremony, but they can be. My daughter does not have any godparents, but I have seen several child dedications that included godparents. The people fulfilling this role for a UU could certainly be atheists or agnostics. At my church the role is described as another adult who loves the child and whom the child can come to with questions, and who will support the child's spiritual journey and support the parents in raising her.
post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Collinsky View Post
It depends... in Dh's family godparents are more cultural than religious (no matter what his Abuela would like to think ) so yes, even if someone were agnostic or atheist, they would choose godparents for each child.
Same here.

My husband is a strong atheist, but he is the godparent of his nephew who was born last year. I think it's ridiculous.

I'm also an atheist. My kids don't have godparents. I was baptised in the Catholic church when I was a month old, and I have never met my godparents. We moved out of state when I was a year old and my mother lost contact with them.
post #8 of 20
Most Christian churches want godparents to be baptised people who believe, and some want them to be the same denomination. Their role is to speak for the child at baptism and also to offer religious guidance. So to an atheist or agnostic it wouldn't make a lot of sense - I suppose they could have un-god parents?

Some people though think of them as the ones who will care for the kids if there parents die, but that is really a separate thing.
post #9 of 20
I thought godparents were responsible for the religious upbringing of a child in the event the parents died?

Our kids don't have godparents. We don't have any issue with the concept but it hasn't really come up.
post #10 of 20
Based on what my husband has explained to me, for Catholics, the godparents make a statement of faith that is part of being baptised since the infant cannot. The child later affirms this statement of faith for him/herself when "old enough" - this is Confirmation. So the most important role for the godparent is that of proxy. This is why I don't think an atheist or agnostic would do this. This is also why my husband said I could get my child baptised without believing myself, because I don't have to make the statement of belief - the godparent does that. (We did not end up getting our dd baptised though as it turned out).

Traditionally/culturally the godparents have also fulfilled other roles, such as agreeing to care for the child in the event of the parents' death and/or participating in the child's religious upbringing, but these are not essential. My husband has had virtually no contact with his goddaughter for years.
post #11 of 20
It really depends. We're both agnostic, but we will be asking 2 friends to stand as "godparents" or "in loco parentis" for our children. This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with responsibility for our children should something happen to us. I highly doubt we will have any sort of ceremony, but guardianship will be written into our wills. This is mainly because we both have families which we do not want raising our children. We have provided for our children monetarily should something happen to us, and by assigning guardians, are doing the best we can by them.

In the religion in which I was baptised, there is no differentiation between baptism, christening and confirmation. I was christened at a few months old, and had godparents bound to me at that time. Only one of whom I still have any contact with. If something were to have happened to both of my parents, my godparents would not have gotten guardianship of me, since they were mainly for religious purposes.

I guess my point is that it really depends upon the intent of the parents in asking. What are their expectations. If they expect that a godparent helps to raise the child "in religion", then yes, it is inappropriate. However, if it's just to give the child an "aunt" or "uncle", then no, it's not. IMO.
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by siobhang View Post
I thought godparents were responsible for the religious upbringing of a child in the event the parents died?

Our kids don't have godparents. We don't have any issue with the concept but it hasn't really come up.
It depends on the expectations of all involved, I guess. And probably the specific religious beliefs of the family. A devout Roman Catholic family would no doubt feel very differently than the family I married into, which (while largely very devout RC, including a nun) is more mixed in beliefs, although almost entirely Catholic/Episcopalian or what I would term "nonpracticing Christian."

We don't consider our kids' godparents to be responsible for any part of their religious upbringing, and their responsibilities don't change in the event that we die. Our children's godparents include an atheist, a Christian whose belief is heavily influenced by Native American spirituality, a Jew who attends Mass, an Episcopalian, a Catholic, a non-religious former Catholic, an agnostic, and a nominal Episcopalian. They may take an interest in the moral, ethical, or philosophical upbringing of our children - giving them another person besides their parents that they can turn to with tough questions or dilemmas. We trust that each of them would hold the child's spiritual development to be a personal and individual thing that needs space, respect, and encouragement regardless of what forms and phases it goes through. Theoretically. In reality, they will most likely never be put in a position to be tested on that. Except perhaps my eldest Dd's godparents, who are our respective best friends and a regular part of their lives by proximity. And that works for me..

Mostly it's someone whose job it is to make the child feel special, and whom the child does the same for. : Not exactly necessary but something I have no objections to. As I said, it's more a cultural thing in Dh's family - everyone has godparents because everyone has godparents. They send a gift at Christmastime and birthdays, stand up with the child for any special events like first communion (which our children won't be doing) and quinceneras (which our girls probably will do - again, more cultural than religious)... some are in name only, really, others choose to be more involved.

Reading what Cristeen wrote: yeah, it's like a "Gold Star" Uncle or Aunt. Just an extra special designation for a similar role.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by siobhang View Post
I thought godparents were responsible for the religious upbringing of a child in the event the parents died?

Our kids don't have godparents. We don't have any issue with the concept but it hasn't really come up.
I was thinking along the lines of "gold star" aunt or uncle, too. At least, that's the way I believe it. From what I understand, a Godparent is responsible for the religious upbringing of a child, but, on a more practical level, they help with rearing...sort of, and took care of a child if something happened to his mom and dad.
post #14 of 20
Hmmm....I'd say yes, but they'd be called....wait for it....






godlessparents


And, FTR, DH and I have had this very discussion! If anything happens to us we want them to be raised by people who have similar beliefs to ours (atheist leaning agnostics). It would break our hearts for the kids to grow up with the same oppressiveness we worked so hard to get away from.
post #15 of 20
I'm a "fairy godmother" to my non-christian best friend's son. I am also not Christian.

In talking to her about it, her vision was to choose friends of the family who they hope will play a special and perhaps pivotal role in their child's life, to give him the gift of more adults in his life who willing want to take on a supplementary parenting role in supporting him as he grows and supporting the family in nuturing him.

I was so incredibly moved and honoured to have been asked.
We were recognized at his blessing ceremony which was done outdoors in a park surrounded by friends and family. It was incredibly beautiful. :

Just thought I would share.

Karen
post #16 of 20
Fairy Godmother - THAT is brilliant!
post #17 of 20

Thanks for this thread. I'm exploring how I want to approach a friend about being a godmotherish figure in my child's life. I want her to have a special place in my child's life like she has in mine, and I want to do everything I can to make sure she has influence on my child. She is a godmother to one other babe and the role she plays is incredible. She's Christian, I'm not, and I don't know how to approach it. If she thought it was important for her role to baptise my babe, I would be fine with that, but DH isn't immediately comfortable with the idea. I don't believe it does any harm. I do believe a ceremony kind of binding the child and godparent somewhat formally would be a good and desirable thing. So...still trying to think of how to make this happen.

post #18 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantaja View Post

Do Atheists and Agnostics have Godparents/children? It seems to me that the role of Godparenting is more than a religious responsibility, even though that's a huge part of it. Does is go against a belief, or lack of, I guess, for an atheist to be a Godmother?

As a agnostic/pagan myself...the last thing I want is for someone to be my kid's spiritual adviser. Instead, I have an iron clad will that names good guardians should hubby and I manage to have a car accident on one of our rare dates.

If a religious couple asked me to be their child's godparent, I would decline. If I was asked to be guardian, I'd remind them I wouldn't be taking their kid to church. I wouldn't prevent them getting a ride or something but I'm not going.
post #19 of 20

When my dds godmothers (who were 14 and 16 i think) came over to plan the baptism we were a little late.  My neighbor girl, who is always all up in our business (and we like it that way) plops down next to them on my porch and says "SooOOooo.  You guys are the fairy Godmothers?"  LOL  They got such a kick out of that.  

 

i would think, if it were more of a cultural designation it would not be a problem for an athiest/agnostic/someone of another faith to be a child's godparent.  It is a position of honor in the child's life.  Godparent used to have a more defined meaning now it has moved to a more generic term.  It has moved out of the very specific role of spiritual parent and baptismal sponsor to more of a honorary role.  

 

In our church however it is still very full of meaning.  we way not even choose someone outside of the church.

post #20 of 20

I agree that godparent has taken on a cultural meaning absent the church's definition of it. But there isn't a corresponding cultural ceremony that would "mark" the relationship between baby and godparent. That's the part that kinda bugs me. I'd like to do more than just say "Hey, will you be my baby's godparent?" without having some kind of event than marks the formation of the relationship, you know? Ritual and ceremony are useful in our lives, and I feel kinda sad without it.

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