Saturday, March 28, 2009

UK: Debaptism has Political Ramifications

Friday, 27th March 2009
By: Toby Cohen

Fifteen hundred people paid to be ‘debaptised’ in the UK last week alone, as a new trend threatens to undermine the place of the Church of England.

The National Secular Society (NSS) has provided a ‘certificate of debaptism’ on its website for five years which has been downloaded by more than 100,000 people. They have recently introduced a new parchment copy for £3 which has proved incredibly popular, but the Church is refusing to recognize a need for the procedure.The recipient of the certificate declares they “reject all [the Church’s] Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of alleged Original Sin, and the evil power of supposed demons.”It continues: “I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.”

The NSS have asked the Church if they will follow the Catholic example and provide an official procedure for undoing baptism.

A letter from the Church’s legal adviser Stephen Slack to NSS president Terry Sanderson said: “The Church of England has no reason from its point of view for maintaining a formal record of those who have renounced their baptism: it is content simply to accept that those who have explicitly repudiated their baptism and take no part in the life of the Church should not be regarded as members of it in the more general sense.”

The Church insists that it only collects data on attendance, the number of those who have been baptised in the Church of England in the year in question; and the number of people whose names are entered on the electoral rolls maintained by its parishes. However a recent investigation by the Times revealed that the number of Anglicans baptised in England was used by the Wakeham Commission in reform of the House of Lords. The 26 Lords Spiritual could now have their position undermined as the number of people being debaptised grows.

Mr Sanderson has been “astonished” by the popularity of the certificate. He said: “It could have political repercussions- if a sufficient number of people became involved. I can’t see that happening though. It mainly shows that the resurgence of religion that we’re seeing at the moment is unsettling a lot of people.”

The certificate has in fact angered groups on the other side of the debate. Mr Sanderson said: “There’s been a lot of criticism even from atheists about it, saying ‘what are you bothering with this for, if you don’t believe it, what difference does it make doing away with it’.”

The certificate was designed by former NSS president Barbara Smoker, who once considered becoming a nun. Mr Sanderson sees how the popularity of the certificate demonstrates the need for the sacramental. “It’s always in the background, everybody has still got that residual echo of religion in their heads even if they rejected it intellectually.”

Source: Religious Intelligence News

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