Atheist Godmother

When my nephew C was born nearly 5 years ago, my sister told me I would be his godmother.

Me: You know I’m an atheist, right? 

Sis: We don’t care. It’s just a symbolic thing.

Me: So, no church ceremony?

Sis: No, we’re having him baptized in a church. But it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not. 

Me: Really? Are you sure you don’t want someone who believes in all that stuff? I’d be okay with that. 

Sis: Nope.

Me: You realize that I’ll have to lie to the pastor during the baptism, right? You’re okay with that?

Sis: All you have to do is say “yes” and “I will” to a few questions.

Me: But I’ll still be lying… to a pastor… in a church.

Sis: So, will you do it?

Me: As long as I don’t have to wear a dress.

Nothing came of it at the time. My sister and brother-in-law are not religious people. Believers, yes, but not church-goers or the type to put their kids through religion classes. So, I guess it wasn’t much of a priority. I thought I had dodged a bullet all these years, but on the eve of my nephew’s fifth birthday, my sister announced that she plans to have C baptized soon. And I’m still on deck for godmother duty. Once again, I gave her an out to pick someone who wouldn’t have to tell big bad lies in a place of worship, but she wouldn’t hear it.

I’m a terrible liar, so I hope the pastor doesn’t ask me anything other than yes/no questions, or want to hear my credentials. I do have some: I was baptized Catholic and I participated in a few other sacraments (part of the tradition in my family), but I’m pretty sure those were nullified almost immediately since I didn’t actually believe in any of it. I have not stepped foot in a church – save for a handful of funerals – in 16 years. And then there’s the whole atheist thing. I’m pretty sure he would overlook church absences, but certainly he would frown upon the fact that I don’t believe one iota in god or all things related.

So, we’ll see how it goes. My sister wants me to be the godmother, and she knows the score, so I’m willing to go along with it. I don’t know exactly when this is supposed to happen. Maybe I’ll get lucky again and they’ll procrastinate again.


7 thoughts on “Atheist Godmother

  1. We aren’t religious either but would like Godparents for our children. I want them to have an adult they can go to when they don’t feel comfortable going to us. Someone who won’t judge them but I trust to give them good advice. If they are okay with it I’d also like them to be the guardians of our children should something happen to us. Their responsibilities (for lack of a better word) wouldn’t have anything to do with religion. Perhaps your sister wants something like that?

    • That could be accurate, at least in part. I haven’t asked my sister to elaborate on what godparent means to her. In our family, it’s tradition to pick an aunt and uncle (or in the case of my older nephew, 2 aunts) as godparents. As for legal guardianship, I’m not sure my parents ever figured that out, and I’m not sure what my sister and BIL have planned if anything happens to them. My sister knows – at least I hope she knows – that both of her kids can come to me any time, with any problem. And I think she knows I would give great advice (I’m the Honest Aunt, the one who won’t blow smoke up a kid’s ass or try to convince him that bunnies bring him chocolate in a basket; don’t worry, I’m not going around telling kids that Santa isn’t real, but if they ask, they get the truth).

  2. Consider yourself lucky. I know several people whose siblings didn’t just NOT want them to be godmothers – and this in the face of IF, which is such a nice way of rubbing salt in an open wound – but made some horrible comments as if anything short of extreme family dysfunction could justify choosing someone other than a sibling as the primary godmother/godfather.

    • I don’t know. Yes, it’s a tradition in my family to choose aunts and uncles as godparents, but even though I don’t believe, I do respect the decision to choose someone who shares the parents’ religious beliefs. After all, I AM the aunt, forever, no matter what.

      • I can understand your trepidation, but I guess the reason I feel differently is because, even though I myself am also not religious and I totally get that “godmother” is tied to religion to some extent, to ME, personally, it’s more about formally recognizing the back-up mom so to say. I actually see a lot of religious traditions from my own, secular point of view so sometimes I almost forget that they are, still, religious to others 🙂

  3. I was recently asked to be a godmother but I’m not christened so I can’t be. Dodged that bullet! Hubs is now talking about christening our baby purely because all the good schools near us are faith schools. I don’t think I can do it!

    • Both my husband and I went to Catholic primary schools. I honestly don’t know if it was a better education than public at the time, but now it probably is. M keeps saying that we should send our kids to a Catholic school, for the better education, but I don’t think I could do it, either. I want my kids to learn about different religions, but I don’t want them to be compelled to believe in any of it.

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