Frank Field Is a labour politician who has been appointed as an advisor on poverty to the new coalition government. One of the suggestions that he has come up with is the creation of secular naming ceremonies for newborns in response to the decline in Christenings and Baptisms.
This is a surprising suggestion coming as it does from a practicing Anglican, but in my view a welcome one.
His view is that ceremonies of this nature, being a secular rite of passage would help to highlight the responsibility of the parents, wider family and the local community towards the collective upbringing of our children and I think there is some merit in this.
Like the other significant milestones such as marriage and death, birth, or more accurately the welcoming of a newborn has for too long been in the province of religion. As a state we have recognised civil marriages for many years and they now take place outside of the sterile environment of the registry office. Crematoriums at any rate can host humanist funerals (although escaping Christian symbolism is still difficult). Non-religious naming ceremonies however when they happen are ad-hoc arrangements by parents who already feel motivated to introduce their child formally in this way.
Providing a structured secular ceremony accessible via registrars could well motivate other parents to do this
Many parents who are not religious, but who may not think deeply about these things will currently opt for a Christian ceremony anyway or more likely ignore the ritual altogether. It would not necessarily occur to them that organisations such as the British Humanist Association already have a great deal of experience in Naming Ceremonies hosted in hotels or other venues that can help cement a new child’s arrival into family and community.
Humanists and religious groups together could come up with a secular framework for all naming ceremonies that would become part of our society’s common ritual. Then, as with weddings, the participants would embellish the ceremony to conform to their own beliefs.
"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"