Ever since I met someone whose father was unbaptized, and thus discovered it was a thing, I’ve been toying with the idea. The difficulties of the process and the pros and cons of the decision will vary greatly between the different religions. In my case, it would be getting unbaptized from the Catholic Church*, and so I started doing a little research into how this is done, and why there is an ever growing number of Italians who are doing it.
Of course it is not necessary to be unbaptized to be an atheist. If you don’t believe that baptism is anything other than a few silly words, a splash of water and a party, no piece of paper will undo one of many meaningless experiences in your life. Rather, the reasons for taking the extra step towards unbaptizing yourself are more about a present distancing from the Catholic Church.
*For many religions, unbaptism is not necessary, because your membership to the organization is not based on your baptism, but rather is based on your attendance.
For some, the principle of no longer aligning themselves with a discriminatory institution to which they have to fealty is reason enough. However, in countries like Italy it can go beyond a simple matter of principle.
When the Catholic Church boasts that 96% of Italians are Catholic, they are referring to the percentage of people who were baptized, not to the percentage of people who attend church, or even believe. Using this number, they claim to represent the vast majority of the country and thus, despite the fact that Italy is technically a secular nation, they wield plenty of influence over legislation by using this excuse. Why should we care if this particular area of the country only has a Catholic primary school, the public one being too inconvenient to reach? 100% of the inhabitants of that area are Catholic! Sure they won’t mind. Why should we ask people whether or not they actually want the priest to show up at the door to bless the house for Christmas? Everyone in this neighborhood is Catholic! This reasoning is born of a conditioning of what is becoming the Cultural Catholic: people who do not believe in God, or Catholicism, but will still claim to be Catholic if asked simply because they were baptized. In extreme cases, a local bishop or priest can call you out for not living in a Catholic enough way and, if that causes you grief and economic pressure you will not be able to sue, because you are baptized and thus you are a Catholic, never mind that it is something that was done to you as a baby and thus something you had no say or control over. In Germany, being a Catholic allows the Church to compel you to pay an extra “Church Tax” directly to them (though simply de registering as a Catholic at a tax office is usually enough to get out of having to pay this tax).
Essentially, by getting unbaptized, you are striking yourself from their records. You can no longer officially be considered a Catholic by the Church or by your State.
The downside to being unbaptized is that you are excluded from all Catholic practices, including becoming a Godparent. Of course, this is only a downside if your family is still fully immersed in Catholicism, and thus you are excluding yourself even more from them by publicly excluding yourself from their Church. In my situation there is no downside, other than being yet another bureaucratic thing I would have to do during the limited time that I have back home. The only problem is I was baptized in the States, shortly before moving to Italy, and so for me it gets a little more complicated.
For those of you who might be interested, here are a few links
Getting unbaptized in Italy (and Spain, which has a similar procedure).
When it comes to the States? I can’t seem to find any concrete information as to the forms and the procedure. Feel free to link information for unbaptism in the comments, whether for the Catholic Church or other religions!