according to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee associate sociology professor Carrie Yang Costello, early godparents had two main functions: to be designated substitute parents when a child's natural parents died and to be responsible for the child's religious upbringing, thus "preventing the godchild from being eternally damned."
But today, she says, the role is more honorary.
Consistent with the prevailing view of how little is at stake, compared to the former view.
"People feared dying with a sin on their souls. Back then godparents took the responsibility of someone's eternal soul in a much more literal way."