Thanks,all of you for your comments and reassurance over the Affair of the Atheist God-mother! I was specially intrigued by Steve's tale of parental subterfuge recounted here. To be so intent on baptism in a particular church that you'll lie on that scale to achieve it is quite beyond me.
To return to the god-mother question, I think I knew all along that I could no other, but it was hugely helpful to read your takes on the situation. I don't on the whole have a problem with baptising,- well, anything that moves, really...I love the way the Common Worship service recognises that parental intentions (even if initially honourable) may fall prey to circumstance, so that the response to some of the baptismal questions is "With the help of God, we will"...and the service includes the reminder
"Today we are trusting God for her growth in faith..."
Perhaps I'm hiding behind the words, but it seems to me that this affirms the sacramental nature of baptism, that effects what it represents, and it certainly makes me far less anxious when I have reason to believe (as when baptising the second child of a families we just haven't seen since the first baptism) that the parental view of what is going on may not quite accord with my own.
Since I've been here, we've revamped the parish policy, so that parents are now invited to attend one preparation evening (video, wine and nibbles and some pretty robust discussion from time to time) and (in theory at least, though I have to confess to serious organisational issues with this) are then visited at home by one of the Baptism visiting team (we go in for catchy titles round here). As there's a high demand for this ministry, we don't insist that baptisms take place during the Sunday Eucharist, which is in any case not the kind of worship calculated to make the un-churched feel at home. However, being very conscious of the community dimension to baptism, we encourage families to return to OpenHouse (the once a month Sunday afternoon family slot) to receive the baptism candle and certificate and their welcome into the family of the church at St M's.
Generally, this seems to work pretty well. Though some people do vanish without trace having collected their loot, the majority are engaged by this service and attend as regularly as anyone with small children ever does anything...It feels OK,- a compromise between the sort of absolute inclusion that can lead to the abuse of hospitality and the assualt-course approach that some parishes favour. That said, I'm with Dr Moose in rejoicing hugely when parents are honest about where they are in their faith. Next month I'm due to baptise 3 children whose father delighted me soon after my arrival by announcing that he had far too much respect for the church to make a string of promises he couldn't keep, so was intent on a thanksgiving. Life took over, and that service never actually happened, but in the intervening time some hard thinking has been taking place and he is now not only happy to make this faith committment on behalf of his children, but is seriously considering it for himself. Altogether rather wonderful!