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Deconversion from Christianity
Submitted by admin on 1 October, 2010 - 16:40
I was converted from Christianity to atheism between the ages of 16 and 18. By age 15, I was beginning to question intelligent design. As a young science student, learning the fundamentals of critical thinking, the fact that I could not intellectually defend my belief in God as the ‘unmoved mover/uncaused causer’ was beginning to bother me. I needed an answer to the question: If God created the world, who created God? I found it difficult to suppress the cognitive dissonance between my logical and reasoning mind and the leap of faith in the belief in a supreme being-God that is: Omnipotence – with the absolute power to do anything He desires; Omnipresence - present in all places at all times; Omniscience - all-knowing ability to know absolute everything. A belief in a set of propositions based solely on faith and contrary to the sum of the evidence for the belief.
Being a good Catholic girl, I reduced this dissonance by syncretising creationist and evolutionary theory to explain how the world came into existence: that God created atoms; and once created, these atoms initiated the evolutionary process! How very clever. I somehow felt that nature was too complex and variable for one person or Supreme Being to design all alone.
In my last two years in secondary school, like a good statistician that I was, I hedged my bets and practised what Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion called the Pascal Wager: ‘Better believe in God because if you are right you stand to go to heaven, and if you are wrong it won’t make any difference anyway. Whereas, if you don’t believe in God and you end up being wrong, you are condemned to eternal damnation in hell.’
During this period, I struggled with questions such as: Why do I believe that God exists? What is the nature of God? How does God interact with humans? Does he actively intervene or is he powerless to intervene? Why did an omnipotent God create an imperfect world or allow catastrophes to happen? I rationalised that God has no control over the evolutionary process he initiated, and that was why Man has free will. Significantly, though Mass attendance in school was mandatory, my religiosity during this period was moderated. I continued to find the rituals of the Catholic Mass, Stations of the Cross, and the Rosary, etc. very comforting.
In the intervening years between living in the secure doctrinaire environment of a Catholic boarding school and my Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC), my religiosity was tepid.
Over the course of my university education, I became completely faithless and unable to believe in God in the absence of verification. I became a science fiction aficionado, and an ardent follower of the television series Star Trek.
At the end of four years of studying for a science degree (Biology Major and Chemistry Minor), I was 100 percent convinced that God did not exist, and the world was not created by a single Supreme Being. Rather, I was preoccupied with questions, such as: Are we indeed alone in the universe? Are there more intelligent beings out there in the universe? What is the future of human evolution?
By the time I left university, I had become confidently and unequivocally a religious and able to rationally disentangle morality from religion. I viewed ‘God’ as a universal concept of perfection and goodness, not a spiritual being; just a concept, an ideal standard which I did not humanise and to which I did not ascribe absolute supernatural characteristics. As Emile Durkheim observed, I had concluded my personal journey of enlightenment: from faith in magical powers to explain the world to a gradual shift to the superior explanatory model of science.
By the time I was 35 years old I began to view religion as a barrier to maturity: moral immaturity that keeps you trapped in an arrested state of character development, where morality is based on the fear of God’s retribution, bereft of goodness for the sake of goodness; intellectual immaturity that halts intellectual growth as deviation from faith- based beliefs have frightening consequences; inhibited personal growth that embraces a party line of morals, beliefs, and opinions, rather than learning to think for yourself.
These days, I see religion as a crutch and a security blanket for the weak, the needy, the spiritually craven and the intellectually wanting. It is a sign of human weakness and lack of mental aptitude to manage the difficulties of life on one’s own without trust in a Supreme Power beyond man. A solace for the soul and an "opiate of the masses” that sees believers choosing to live by pre-digested philosophy, morality, and instructions for daily life, rather than think for themselves.
I have a strong aversion to fellowshipping with believers who appeal to emotion rather than critical thinking. I am unable to ignore their illogic and bewildering close-minded ignorance and circular reasoning. I refuse to derive my worldview and self-worth from a priest/pastor/spiritualist that expects me to accept without question everything it teaches, even when it contradicts science, history, logic, and even itself. My special vitriol is reserved for Pentecostals who venture to ‘save me’ (recruit me).
Sadly, I live in a country where people have outsourced responsibility to the devil and principalities and solutions to God. We want the fruits of scientific labour, but shun the mental discipline of scientific rationality. As the modern world pushes new frontiers in science and technology, my people conveniently escape into the world of magic and superstition. Though a necessary dissonance reduction mechanism for coping with powerlessness in a complex world in which we are increasingly becoming irrelevant, the wider ramification is damning and alarming. We have ceased to take responsibility for our lives and destiny, and resort to the magical powers of faith and prayer to effect change in our personal circumstances, national governance and leadership, economic development. In this 21st century, democracy in Nigeria has been redefined as: ‘Power belongs to God’ as opposed to ‘Power to the People’.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Mrs Enotie Ezekiel, a Nigerian Humanist, is a 54 year old businesswoman, married with four children. She lives in Lagos.