I'm fighting not to cry here.
My sister called, basically to ask how the day was and if I liked her birthday present (which I really did). Then she asked me if I would be my niece's godmother. (My niece will be born around the beginning of November). She knows I'm an atheist. I don't make a fuss about it but neither do I hide it. When she asked me to become my nephew's godmother two years ago I declined saying that I was an atheist and that it went against my convictions. And I didn't hold my nephew during baptism or made any vows to educate him in Christianity. My sister seems to have forgotten that and still considers me his godmother, meaning I would step in if anything should ever happen to her and her husband. In my eyes that's something completely different. If something were to happen I don't need a religious ceremony to take care of my family. They - she, her husband and the kid(s) - are my family! And also, that's not what that ceremony is about. The god-parenting part is about promising to raise the child in the ways of Christianity and nothing else.
When my sister asked me again today, I declined again. We exchanged some words. She really considers me my nephew's godmother and can't understand why I'm "suddenly" acting differently. I pointed out that I'm doing exactly the same as before. She feels that in refusing to be a godmother I'm rejecting her and her family. That's when she snapped that fine, she would ask someone else and she wouldn't beg. I said she misunderstood. I love her and the kid(s) and I would still take care of them if something happened. We stopped then, before it devolved into a screaming match and promised to talk again later this week.
I'm really upset about it. Even more than I can really understand. I think it's because my sister is a very important person in my life. Maybe even more important than I realize at times. Now she's upset with me, so I am upset, too. But a big part is probably also this: for her my being a godmother is a proof of my love for her and her children. It's as if the only reason I would refuse to do my part is that I don't love them or want to take responsibility. And in that she marginalizes my own convictions. She ignores the fact that being an atheist is as much part of my identity as being Christian is part of hers. And that hurts. It hurts deeper than I would have expected.
There's a bit more still. I did attend my nephew's baptism. And there was this nice, no-nonsense, down-to-earth minister who explained how wonderful it was to introduce new members to the church (okay) and how important it is to actively lead the children in their faith (also okay from a church point of view). Then she went on to describe how she explained the matter to children during religious education in elementary school: how the beauty of the world is proof for the existence of god and how the kids should beware of wily atheists who maliciously try to destroy their innocence and faith by using logical arguments. She compared the Christian children to little baby bunnies (literally) full of innocent curiosity and the atheists to creepy foxes (complete with the body language and tone of voice when she acted out their part). I felt as dirty as a pedophile during that sermon. And the fact that she's otherwise the kind of person who I can respect made it only worse. She was invited to the luncheon afterwards and I was sorely tempted to point out to her how offensive that sermon was. Take another word instead of "atheist" in there and it's pretty obvious how demagogic that was. Try Jew, for example. And I'm not saying/hinting or anything that she's antisemitic, it's just that everyone is sensitive in this area whereas everyone in my family seemed to think describing atheists in such terms was alright. They didn't seem to realize or care that as an atheist I was included in that imagery.
So, a very emotional matter for me. It makes me feel isolated from my family (from my sister and my mom), like my convictions are less worthy than theirs.
I really needed to write this all down to clear my head. I feel a bit better. But now I have to think about how I can talk this over with my sister because I know she doesn't want to hurt me. Same as I don't want to hurt her. And I don't want to just ignore it and have it stand between us, unspoken and festering.