The First Minnesota Atheists Debaptism Event
By Eric Jayne
On Sunday, May 23, in the quiet suburban community of Eagan, the very first Minnesota Atheists Debaptism event was performed. We had a pretty good turnout of about 25 ex-Christians—mostly former Catholics and Lutherans, but also two former Jehovah’s Witnesses, one former Southern Baptist, and one former Mormon. The Hair Dryer of Reason (which I’ll explain shortly) was definitely put to the test!
In case you’re wondering what a debaptism is, let me briefly explain. A debaptism is a tongue-in-cheek ceremony where those who had once been baptized, while under the influence of religious indoctrination, symbolically renounce their past baptism and previous beliefs by going under a hair dryer (i.e. The Hair Dryer of Reason) as opposed to being dunked in baptismal water. A picture of Richard Dawkins adorned the hair dryer used in our debaptism ceremony to give it a bit more freethinking panache. In addition to the ceremony, each participant received an original Minnesota Atheists Certificate of Debaptism signed by me and an additional witness in attendance to make it extra official. The fact that everyone in attendance showed so much enthusiasm in their participation made the event all the more fun.
Some might ask why atheists would go through the hassle of performing a silly ceremony that is redolent of religious rituals. The very idea of ceremoniously revoking a past baptism lends credibility to the original Christian rite of baptism, doesn’t it? My answer to these questions is quite simple. Participants acknowledge the silliness and celebrate freely because the mock ceremony is a very informal (“pseudo-formal” might be more accurate) event presented as light-hearted entertainment. This is a celebration of our respective transformations from god-fearing obedient followers to secular freethinking individuals.
While it is true that a ceremony to affirm one’s atheism is unnecessary, it’s also true that human beings are social creatures who simply enjoy being silly from time to time and having fun at celebratory social gatherings—we’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses after all! With a positive attitude, an enthusiastic crowd, and a working hair dryer, debaptisms can be a fun and cathartic experience. To be sure, freethinkers who did not experience a religious upbringing or baptism are encouraged to participate in debaptisms as well so they can affirm their devotion to secular freethought and rejection of religious teachings.
With the first debaptism behind us, and with all the great feedback received from participants, I’m sure there will be more debaptism ceremonies in the near future. Keep checking the Minnesota Atheists Meetup site, and please keep in mind that not only can you get debaptized multiple times, it’s highly encouraged.