Some time ago, I ranted on Facebook about how offensive I found the Mormon practice of “baptizing the dead.” I feel very strongly that this practice violates some kind of cosmic rule of live and let live. When I ranted, a number of my own family members who became Mormon after my grandfather’s passing, spoke up and said that I was wrong about that ritual and that I shouldn’t speak out about things like this because it makes me some kind of hypocrite. To be clear, it’s my understanding that this kind of baptism merely presents the dearly departed with a chance to accept the Mormon belief structure and gain the Mormon afterlife. Also, the hypocrisy referenced by my disgruntled relatives is apparently in regard to my critical attitude about someone else’s views or practice which my family members – knowing next to nothing about Hinduism – think goes against Hinduism. In this case, they would perhaps not be wrong within certain contexts, but in this context specifically they are still not necessarily right, either.
This weekend I’m spending more time at the computer than is usual because it’s my turn in my department’s on-call rotation. As I was logging on recently, I saw some kind of news headline mentioning that two popes were gaining sainthood “to bridge a divide” or something. It struck me… These two dudes were resting in peace, burning in hellflame, or maybe tossing crowns at Jesus’ feet or something (do only Protestant souls do this or Catholics, too?) and now their own afterlives are about to change entirely when they are sainted and begin interceding on behalf of Catholic believers who want something.
All this afterlife meddling. WTF?
Whatever happened to simply offering food and a little homage to our deceased relatives and letting past lives be past lives? I’ll admit, it’s a little tough for me to understand how devout people can be cool with trying to change the afterlives of their loved ones without their permission. But who am I?
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Interesting! I never thought about how postumously “becoming a saint” would change one’s celestial job description. 🙂 But hey! don’t we intercede on behalf of the recently dead to potentially change the path of their afterlife too by doing certain pujas, reciting certain mantras, etc.?
I suppose in some lights it could be said that Hindus do the same with the pujas and mantras you mentioned – but I’m still convinced what we do is something else. My understanding of those pujas and mantras (perhaps a flawed understanding) is that we kind of are helping to “push” the deceased onward toward whatever is in store for them. I don’t think I’ve ever encontered a puja or a mantra meant to actually effectively change what was going to happen to something else entirely.
A little disclaimer… I do not claim to follow a set religion, nor do I believe I ever will. I am still finding my own path, ungoverned by popular beliefs or scare tactics.
That being said, even though I know they would be doing what they considered “right”, I would be just as outraged at someone forcing their religious beliefs upon me when I had no say in the matter as I would be today where I can stick up for myself!
I was raised in the First Baptist Church in Montpelier, IN. I attended services on and off for at least 12 years, however over the last couple years (1998-2000) I started questioning what I was being taught instead of just believing what I was told. I became more active in the church. I joined the choir, learned how to run the a/v equipment, collected offering, and helped give communion (I passed many plates).
In the spring of 2000, after asking many questions of myself, I came to the conclusion that I was gay or “bisexual at best”. Upon confiding in the Youth Leaders for guidance, I was called into the pastor’s office. Deacons were present and I was told that I could no longer participate in anything except Sunday morning services. (Later I was to find out that there were concerns that I was going to molest some of the other children, even though I was/had always been since distant from most people in my life.)
That was when I made the decision I would never be told what to believe, and blindly follow someone else’s religious beliefs EVER again! That is why I would be outraged if anyone decided to try to make religious decisions for me ever…
I can definitely relate, Michael! An eerily similar thing happened to myself.
A Mormon friend of mine says:
“Mormons do not actually believe that they are baptizing dead people or that anyone is converted by the experience. Rather, mormon doctrine teaches that everyone, at death, has the opportunity to accept the gospel–or not, as the case may be. The idea is that everything is revealed and all your questions are answered to your individual, personal satisfaction then you say yea or nay. Because mormons are so passionate about free will and choice, baptisms for the dead (all ordinances for the dead) are a way of symbolically offering someone a choice–a choice they’d have anyway, regardless.”
That’s pretty much what my understanding has become, too. Still doesn’t make much sense to me.