After so many months away from home, I walked in, finally, on Monday, 19th of November. This meant that come Sunday, I would be in church. Six days separate Sunday from Monday, but seeing my pastor in front of the church that Monday evening, it felt somehow having to go to church again. In school, I went to church for four Sundays, exclusively because of my girlfriend. She is not so religious, but she would not allow her boyfriend to be used by the devil in this relationship.
I knew school would do this to me. This meaning developing a totally different perception of God, Christianity and religion. Even before I left home for school, I was a bit of the devil in the house. I wasn’t really excited to go to church, unlike my brothers whose commitment did make me envious. On some days, I wake with this strange aversion to everyone, so going to church to see people who would try as much to invade my life with Bible verses and envy infuriated me. So I’d just go back to bed, ditching sleep.
Dealing with the subject of God has never been easy. First, I do not (I do, but I’m afraid) have the liberty to post about such matters on WhatsApp without sounding ungodly and worldly, according to my older friends from church. My aunt will be quick to point out that I remove the post as it negates my belief in a Supreme God, and my friend, Tobi might add that I just use big English to say that I am losing faith in God.
I hope with this myriad words, I establish my stance on the God matter, and even that of Christianity, hence religion.
Before I make any affirmation, I state at this point that I believe in a Supreme Being. To me, He is not just a concept, or a philosophy, or just a topic for intellectual debates. However, to arrive at the conclusion of being a believer did not come easy, as I was an avid reader after my secondary education. I wanted a broad mind, so I allowed it to be poisoned by the venom of books. I devoured any material I could. Read the Bible, took a shot at the Qur’an. Read a Jehovah’s Witness book on the History of Religions (not exact title). At the age of 16, while I worked as a primary school teacher in a private school down the road; in a bid to sound intellectual, I asked a corps member, ‘What do you think about God?’
He smiled, shrugged, and said, ‘I don’t know. I am still struggling with everything myself.’ My intellectual self didn’t know this corps member had a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. He left and soon came back with this large book, written by some American philosopher (that’s all I remember).
Thomas Aquinas says God exists because of this and this and this…
Cosmological argument. Causal something…
Honestly, I did not understand. How could I? If someone asked me to prove God’s existence then, the only argument I could boldly defend was the fact that there are discoveries that uncovered the mystery that is Jesus Christ. He existed. That was all. I. Knew. Nothing. Else.
Delving into the world of philosophy and Thomas Aquinas, I became acquainted with logical arguments and the philosophy of God. Thomas clearly highlighted Five Ways, sometimes called Five Proofs, which he claims proves the existence of a God. I became immersed in the words, and soon got hooked on some of them. At this point, I could have easily qualified as an agnostic, but something in that book jerked my faith.
It was the argument of the unchangeable changer. It is however accepted and known as the Argument of the Unmoved Mover. Thomas argues that change is ever happening in the world. Hence, for change to happen, it is being changed by something else. He further goes to say that that which changes will inevitably go through change, thereby leading to an endless chain of change. To avoid further complication of matters, he concludes that the change (already a chain) must be influenced by an entity incapable of change. Due to the fact that we cannot lay our hands on this entity, or give a definite explanation to its existence, then it must be God. It must be something bigger than every other thing which changes. Then he goes on about potentiality and actuality.
The argument is loose. Very. First, Aquinas establishes a premise that prompts us to accept that everything in the universe, and the universe itself (in its natural state) is at rest, further establishing that therefore motion, or change must set in. Philosophers have argued that there is no law that states that the universe is naturally at rest. It is an assumption based primarily on belief, which is not a useful tool for philosophical arguments. There is also a sort of counter argument that examines the behavior of the Christian God, and draws conclusion that he moved from potentiality to actuality, from the Old Testament of the Bible to the New Testament.
Just like you, these arguments bore me. But something about that argument seems to cling to me, like bedbugs. It is the idea of the term, ‘Unmoved Mover’. Forget the play on words, and the Christian adaptation of the Unchangeable Changer; the idea fascinates me. Growing up is scary. You do more things on your own. Meet new people. Try new things. Live with strangers. Be away from your parents. And the scariest part: know how to make and spend money. Through all these happenings, change is inevitable. Socially. Physically. Emotionally. You make more sensible and foolish decisions. However, imagine being watched over by someone or something that does not change. Like a faithful lover (if such exists). It is exciting, and even allows me tell myself that I can fuck up, make mistakes, live right (or wrong). Why? I reckon most times that this is because this unchangeable entity will understand.
That is the perception of God I have created, and thanks to more books, I have come to create a God that looks like me in my head, and not the one with grey hair, sitting on a golden chair. But when it comes to attaching my faith with Christianity (I seem to have added Jesus to my team), I encounter the same problem most people face. The problem of deceit associated with deceit. And this problem have propelled me to make a conclusion:
Most African atheists, (even agnostics) have created a perception of God based on the religious practices of the people closest to them. Uncle Peter stopped believing because his mother died from cancer, and the God in his church said the Anointed shall not die while young. They shall live to proclaim the Gospel. His mother is anointed. This happens even when his mother did not discover the ailment early enough. This happens even when there are no medical facilities available to properly cater for her health. This prophecies from his church came even though the doctor said his mother’s ailment was terminal, and the late discovery reduced her chances of survival. So Uncle Peter asks God in anguish, ‘But your servant said she will not die. I paid offerings to you. I danced. I…’ Mother dies. Uncle Peter goes on Facebook, ‘God does not exist.’
I understand that almost all the religious systems in Africa have switched to the money-making agenda, thereby preying on the minds of young and old Africans. They have resorted to various business tactics: manipulation, advertisements and competition. I understand that this infuriates countless Africans, and even causes some to draw biased conclusions. These conclusions have created an avenue for a niche who find joy in criticizing an entity that they do not understand. The trouble is religion. Not God. By contrast, if He does not exist to you, then criticize the systems that glorify an inexistent entity through dubious means.
It is important to emphasize the need to mind one’s business. My perception of God, I know, my parents and church friends do not accept. But as long as I create a false front, and do a different thing (that which I call my truth), I will remain friends with these people. Plus I also will enjoy relative peace of mind. Call me what you like, deceitful, or Janus-faced; it works for me.
My idea of God, my perception affords me to make some very ungodly choices. For instance, the God I grew up believing would not want me having a girlfriend, or watching certain kind of movies. But I do, and I live fine, because I have allowed myself to live by the standards I have created for the God (Christian) I believe in. Even though I am still dealing with the reality of this philosophy, I pray (through Jesus), and I live with renewed understanding of what faith means.
At the age of 18, I came across Existentialism through a friend, and its teachings (mostly atheistic) focuses on existence before essence. This simply means that we must exist first before we know what we are meant to be, and this stems from the notion that we become whatever we become exclusively because of our actions. It puts forward that man does not have an essence until he defines himself. This negates the teaching of Christianity which believes everybody that exists have a predetermined essence, which is usually in line with the propagation of the Gospel.
In the philosophy of existentialism, there was this term I came across: Forlornness. Literally, it depicts sadness which usually stems from abandonment. However, in the aforementioned philosophy, it is associated with the inexistence of God, hence concluding we have to deal with the consequences as humans. What I find funny and striking about this philosophy is the amount of responsibility it has put on humans. The God concept, I know, has been an excuse for a huge number of Africans.
There is this woman in my church. She once had a shop, but let the business liquidate due to reasons I do not understand. So she stopped working. I infer that she has been doing nothing, because her pastor keeps saying a huge blessing is coming to somebody here. She’s waiting for her turn. If only she knew that according to existentialists, her inaction has caused a break in the human labor of the Universe, because in working for herself, she works for the entire universe. Hence, if she still refuses to, then another human would have to exist, and then do that which she ought to do.
Pretty crazy, yes?
My idea on God allows me sleep, accept my failures, and avoid blaming it on some supernatural force. I have not written this to change your thoughts about whatever your belief is, or spoon-feed you mine. It is due to the need to air my thoughts on my religion, my personal convictions on the brittle subject of God. I have done so; I don’t care what you think.