Both my parents are what I would term “Holy Joes”. It’s not a derogatory term, I just use it to mean that they’re religious, their religion is important to them and that they take it, and the observation of it, seriously. As a result, I was baptised a Catholic at three weeks old and my parents fulfilled their obligations (to the Church) to raise me as a Catholic.
Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for the Catholic Church, my parents also placed a strong emphasis on education, and as a result, as soon as I was old enough to think for myself I started questioning the existence of God, quickly coming to the conclusion that it was a total fabrication. This resulted in many discussions with my Dad, who, although he didn’t agree with my conclusions, wanted to ensure that I had given careful consideration to my point of view and that it wasn’t a knee-jerk teenage thing.
I’ve been an atheist for over 20 years now and one thing that has bothered me more and more in recent years is that the Catholic Church still counted me as a member. The existence of the Catholic Church pretty much proves there is no God, as surely a benevolent and loving God would baulk at being represented by such a fucked-up organisation?
I had wondered how to go about getting excommunicated until I realised that being excommunicated only meant you were a member in bad standing, not that you’d left. Then, last week, while reading about Atheism Ireland’s response to Ireland’s new blasphemy law, I noticed a link to Count Me Out, an Irish web site set up to make the process of leaving the Church as easy as possible. As it turns out, there’s been a provision in Canon Law since 1983, called an actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica which allows you to formally leave. You sign a declaration, provide some identifying information (date of birth, parents’ names, place of baptism etc.) and send it off to your local diocese, the Church cogs roll and you’re out the door. You’re still in the Church records as having been baptised, but the record is amended to note your defection. According to the Church, baptism imparts an indelible seal, so technically I’m still a Christian, but since that’s just more religious mumbo-jumbo it doesn’t really bother me. The important thing is that I’ll no longer be a member, so they’re free to believe whatever nonsense they like.
Anyway, you’re required to send the request to the diocese in which you live, not the one in which you were baptised, so my situation is slightly complicated by the fact that I now live on the other side of the planet and I’ve never had any dealings with the Catholic Church here. Anyway, I posted my request yesterday, so I’ll wait and see what happens.