28 February 2010

How to quit a church

A curious point I ran across on the internet today: Did you know that if you were ever baptized as a member of the Catholic Church, the Church still counts you as a member -- even if you no longer attend services or believe in God? Even if you've joined another religion or become an atheist?

The Catholic Church claims to have about a billion members, but if they are counting everyone who was ever formally recorded as a member regardless of what that person now practices or believes (or doesn't), that figure might well be considerably inflated.

Believe it or not, the Church actually has a standard procedure for resigning, which anyone who is on record as a Catholic must use in order to be removed from that billion-strong roster of members. You have to write a letter in a certain format and get it witnessed. A description of the procedure is here; an actual resignation letter from an ex-Catholic and a response (from a Cardinal!) are here.

If you've ever belonged to a religion and ditched it, you may want to look into whether or not they have a similar procedure, in case you're still being used as part of an inflated claim of membership size. A commenter on the post linked above says that the Mormon Church, for example, has a similar resignation process. If you're an ex-Muslim, however, it might be wiser to keep quiet about it, since the mandatory response in such a case is a death warrant.


Blogger One Fly said...

As much as I've bad mouthed them over the years I must have been kicked off by now.

28 February, 2010 09:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Quite possible, but I wouldn't put it past them to try to have it both ways.

28 February, 2010 10:35  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

Wow, I'm still a Catholic, never knew that. Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been (approximately) 50 years since my last Confession . . . have you got a couple of months Father.

Don't the Mormons claim dead people as members too? I know they Baptize people who have dead for many years.

28 February, 2010 11:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Yes, that's why the Mormon Church is known for collecting genealogical information. It facilitates people post-humously "converting" their ancestors. At least they probably don't claim the decesased as part of their current membership figures, though.

28 February, 2010 11:58  
Blogger TomCat said...

That's a good point, Infidel.

I'm rushing through to let you know that I have moved Politics Plus to http://www.politicsplus.org/blog

I have you in the blogroll there. Would you update me in yours?

28 February, 2010 12:37  
Blogger mendip said...

I suspect this is quite common in many organizations. I seem to remember a "scandal" about ten years ago about the NRA having no real method to get deceased members off of their Life Members list, thus inflating their core membership numbers. Interestingly, I believe the Communist Party USA had the same accusations levelled against it at about the same time.

28 February, 2010 12:41  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

TomCat: Done. Thanks for the note.

Mendip: That's a disquieting thought. I'm glad I don't join things.

28 February, 2010 12:53  
Blogger TRUTH 101 said...

What's the big deal if you're on the roster or not Infidel. God decides who's saved and who isn't. Not the Pope or Billy Graham or Rush Limbaugh.

28 February, 2010 17:55  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I can understand that it's a big deal to some people. Those who had to struggle against brainwashed fear and guilt to break free of religion, and perhaps paid a price for it in the form of strained relations with family, might well object to being claimed as members by their former church, even if it has no legal effect.

28 February, 2010 18:19  
Blogger TRUTH 101 said...

I don't argue that there are people that are bullied by the use of a religious bludgeon. It's not Jesus beating them. It's other humans. I have no problem with God. It's the assholes that claim to know His will that I abhor.

28 February, 2010 18:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Obviously it's not Jesus beating them, since Jesus is a fictional character. However, the point of the posting is that many people who have left a church quite reasonably do not want to continue being counted as members of it, and yet at least one church apparently does so unless the escapee takes specific steps. As Mendip's comment above points out, the same problem may well exist with some non-religious organizations too.

28 February, 2010 19:57  
Blogger godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

I imagine the number of people who think of themselves ex-catholics is rather large, all things considered. I live with a recovered catholic, and while I'm sure he'd be dismayed to hear he was still on the list, I don't think he'd want to bother with the whole formal process, mainly because he wouldn't want to validate any of their nonsense.

Their numbers are going to be full of lies anyway, and who knows if they'd actually decrement the caqtholi-counter by one no matter how well you complied with their stupid rules?

I mean, if you escaped from a POW camp, you wouldn't go back to make sure they took your name off the roster, right? I think the best thing to do is stay as far away from the evil as possible.

If people feel the need to take ceremonial steps to sever all ties with the church, they could always throw a blasphemy party and play Pin the Tail on the Crucifix. Or do something to a communion wafer and post it on YouTube, they hate that.

28 February, 2010 20:21  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Godlizard: Ah, yes, good old PZ Myers, the Diva of Desecration! I read his blog, if you'll pardon the expression, religiously.

Unfortunately a few of these people are fanatical enough to threaten violence against anyone disrespecting their holy crackers. That would certainly get your name off the roster, but the hassle might be more than it was worth.

And indeed, I wouldn't really expect the Catholic Church's claims of membership size to be any more honest than Chinese economic statistics -- but it's the principle of the thing.

28 February, 2010 20:56  
Blogger godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

True, the holy cracker thing could be dangerous. However, by adhering to their stupid rules, even when leaving, it does seem to be recognizing their right to make you do as they say, doesn't it? It's like breaking up with your loser boyfriend, and he tells you unless you write him a letter according to his instructions, then go get it notarized, he's going to still say he's your boyfriend -- who cares what he says? He's not worth the hassle - you just delete him from your phone and block him on Facebook. I went too far with that analogy, didn't I :) ?

28 February, 2010 22:03  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, religion does have points in common with an abusive/controlling relationship:-) I suppose it's a matter of what's important to the individual church escapee.

01 March, 2010 04:53  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Interesting posting ..... basically then .... we cant count on the roster of the diosese anywhere's of having any accuracy on membership I reckon(?) Because how many that were baptised or even went to church and their school system's when young, may have simply faded away from church and their activities or converted in many cases to some other fancy of religion. Many may convert to a Protestant type in other word's.

Thank You Sir ...........

01 March, 2010 06:07  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: That appears to be the case. It's one more way in which the perceived religiosity of America is exaggerated beyond the reality.

01 March, 2010 07:25  

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