Tuesday, 8 November 2016
African Woman but Not Religious By Leo Igwe
She is from Ndola in the self-acclaimed Christian country, Zambia, but currently, Cynthia lives in one of the European countries where she works as a school teacher. Not too long ago, Cynthia came out as a non-theist. She has joined the growing number of African women who openly and publicly identify as non-religious. I spoke to Cynthia some months ago and she narrated to me her tortuous journey from religion to irreligion. It is a journey that took this brave, thoughtful and curious woman across different Christian denominations but also across continents.
Cynthia was born into a ‘religious’ family in her native country Zambia and had a religious upbringing. The mother was a Seventh Day Adventist, and as a child, Cynthia attended her mother’s church. However, she told me that the father was indifferent to religion. In fact, she claimed that she owed her intellectual awareness and insatiable curiosity to him. “My father encouraged me to read and ask questions, he urged me to question all claims and beliefs without fear”. Cynthia told me as she recounted her evolution as a non-religious and secular person.
Even as a child, Cynthia noticed the contradictions in the teachings of the different Christian denominations, and wondered why such conflict existed. Though she attended a Seventh Day Adventist church, Cynthia went to a catholic school where she was exposed to different Christian teachings. However, the conflict in the doctrines of these two churches set her on the path of doubt and critical inquiry. She became suspicious and mistrustful of religious dogmas.
According to Cynthia the Seventh Day Adventist taught her that the Roman Catholic Church was an evil church, and that the papacy was the mark of the beast. Her education at a different mission school gave Cynthia an opportunity to compare the teachings of the Catholic Church and that of the Seventh Day Adventist. And she noticed that the Adventist church was fundamentalist in its approach. ‘They preached so much about the end of the world’. She stated.
Cynthia had issues with catholic prayers in particular, the Hail Mary. She queried why such prayers should be said. The conflicts and contradictions in the teachings of the two churches were confusing to her. Hence she never found any strong reason to belong either to the Seventh Day Adventist or the Catholic Church. In fact, at a point she decided to suspend going to any church until she became convinced of what to believe in and which church to attend.
During this break from religious worship and church attendance, Cynthia came in contact with members of the Jehovah’s Witness. They gave her a book on questions people ask. Expectedly Cynthia thought the book would provide answers to the questions that have perturbed her and agitated her mind but it did not. In fact the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witness added to her confusion.
Members of Jehovah ’s Witness tried to persuade her to join their religion but Cynthia said she was not convinced of their teaching. Later she went back to her mother’s church, the Seventh Day Adventist, and tried to get baptized. The church agreed to baptize her but on the condition that she stopped wearing ear rings but she refused. So she could not be baptized.
Some years ago, Cynthia moved to Europe where she is living at the moment and tried joining the Seventh Day Adventist church in her region in the quest for family and community feeling. However the religious romance was short-lived because after watching a BBC report on witchcraft-related abuse of children by Christian churches in Africa, the scale of transcendental illusion fell off from her eyes. She literally woke up from her dogmatic, supernatural and theistic slumber.
Cynthia said that she later listened to the audio book of Carl Sagan, and after reading other books by Isaac Asimov, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, she could no longer continue to identify as a religious and god believing person. Reason overtook religion in her quest for truth, knowledge and meaning. Cynthia eventually found the courage to come out and openly identify as a freethinking non-religious African woman.