Bringing together non-believers
My names are Kennedy Karuga. And this is my story.
Except for a few respects, my journey to atheism took basically the same course that everyone else’s does: questioning, inquiry then atheism as the ineffable result. My transition from a god-loving Christian to a passionate, militant atheist was a gradual march that involved many layovers and both forward and backward steps. Like with many people, it was a tough journey marked by fear and apprehension.
My family was not any more religious than the average family in my locality so I suffered little if any indoctrination from home. I did not attend Sunday school until I was around 8 years old (intermittently) and when I went with my mother to church, I spent most of the time outside climbing trees in the church compound. At school however, we had compulsory religious education, and that is where a lot of the religious sewerage that I would carry with me for fourteen years of my life was planted in my head. The friction between Christian dogma and my mental faculties began, I recall, in 1996, when my uncle Joseph first introduced the idea of a god to me. Joseph was as irreligious as one can possibly be. He never went to church, went to school drunk and beat up teachers. So I do not count this as indoctrination. His aim was certainly not to get me to believe in god. He broke down the story of Genesis to me. My eyebrows went up when he said the reason people died was because a couple had been talked into vandalizing a divine apple by a snake. That did not seem to fit in with common sense. I could not understand why I should be held to book for the actions of people who predated me by several millennia. At the age of four, I was morally and ethically superior to the supposed cradle of all morality.
Through my Primary school years, as I was exposed to more Christian fables, and as my reasoning expanded, I was growing ever more unsettled. When I examined the African creation myths we had studied in class, I did not see anything that separated the biblical myth from them. If anything, the African myths were actually less implausible: they did not have talking snakes and divine fruits. But each time, I would always find something to reinforce my faith. Many times I’d read the Bible. Other times I’d watch Christian programs on T.V. and I’d look for something in between the ranting to restore my faith. It worked like a charm.
Getting into High School, I became increasingly religious. Barely two months after admission, on March 3, 2012, I gave my life to Jesus Christ at an evening prayer meeting with my peers. My diary entry for that day reads,
“He saved me. He gave me a second chance. Thank you Jesus.”
That was allusive to a song by R.Kelly that I liked a lot. But I was not able to hold on for long. By May of 2007, my faith was slipping through my fingers, upon observing that since my ‘rebirth’, there had been no remarkable improvement to my life. Quite to the contrary, my life was in pretty bad shape. Self esteem issues were weighing down on me and my girlfriend had just booted me out of her life. I took on a deistic view of God and the universe, stopped praying and left my Bible upon my desk going to bed so it would get stolen. It did get stolen. I still went to church, but that was because attending church was compulsory at my Catholic-sponsored School.
I relapsed into faith in the middle of 2008 when my mother was fatally injured in a car accident on June 15, 2008. As she was a single parent, her death effectively orphaned me. This, in addition to the horror brought on by the severity of her injuries and the traumatizing physical condition she was in at the time of her death completely overpowered my reasoning. I saw it as a punishment and a message from God that I should return to the ways he desired. I felt guilty for my mother’s death. I believed I had caused it. I said prayers at the chapel every night, asking God to forgive me. I felt evil. I really did.
But then as time wore on and the trauma came down, my reasoning started to dent my faith again. I reasoned that a God who takes away someone’s mother to teach then a lesson did not deserve to be called God in the first place. My faith further took a beating when I studied Darwinian evolution as part of the biology course for my last year. The evidence for evolution was overwhelming. I particularly could not get around the vestigial organs. Why would a perfect God create organisms with vestigial organs, I asked myself. By the time I was leaving High school, I was a sitting on the fence between deism and theism.
I took the deciding step toward atheism early in 2010. My uncle, who had been to China late in 2009, was talking to one of his associates one day and I heard him say that the majority of Chinese were atheists. I had heard that term but never really taken time to look into it. My reasoning kicked in. I wanted to know why these evil Chinese did not believe in God. So I made a mental note to read up on atheism.
I did this on March 10, 2010. I took out my phone and typed ‘The philosophy of Atheism’ on google. I followed a link that took me to an article of the same title by Emma Goldman, the Russian Anarchist. My heart palpitated as I read the blasphemous article. I constantly felt I should stop, but I just kept reading on. When I had had enough, I decided to look up this Emma Goldman woman. I was sure that a person who wrote such disgusting blasphemy must have died young. Oh No! Wikipedia told me she had died at seventy-one. But how? I went back to the article. And this time, instead of seeing blasphemy, I saw sense. The arguments were perfectly consistent with reality. Over the next two weeks, I was a stressed person. On the one hand, it was apparent to me that all this religious nonsense I had taken seriously all these years was just that- nonsense. On the other, there was the spectre of hell that floated around me. I thought I was going to die for questioning God. I was so scared, I remember going into bed one night with a note in my pocket that said that if I died in my sleep, whoever was reading the note should know that I had died for questioning God.
Yet each morning I woke up in perfect health. I decided to resolve my doubt by reading impartially on religion. I looked at both arguments for and arguments against God. For the former, I saw nothing besides logical fallacies that could have applied equally well for any god, monster or phantom. For the former, I saw legitimate, internally consistent arguments that made no attempts to squeeze me into accepting them. Also notable was that the atheists encouraged the challenge of their arguments while the Christians and other theists claimed dissent was motivated by Satan and constantly insisted on the need to keep away from information differing with their dogma. God was taking quite a substantial beating from reason.
On March 26, 2010, God lost the territory of my brain to the trio of logic, reason and science. I renounced all superstition and expelled the last bits of religious dogma from my mind. My diary entry for that day reads,
“I am done with religion. I am done with all these lies. I feel so happy to be free from all the fear and superstition. I am so proud to be atheist.”
Two years on, I am still very proud of that decision. The days after my awakening were some of the best days in my life. I felt as if literal shackles had been taken off my mind. It was bliss waking up in the morning knowing it was me behind the wheel of my life, not some omniscient spook in the sky. It was a beautiful experience, I tell you.
In the months that followed, I became very vocal about my atheism, especially on Facebook. As word spread to the people close to me that I had gone ‘mad’, much reproof came my way. However, I was not going to compromise. I told them that it was not my fault that I was too smart for this primitive nonsense. I also said that not only would I not cut down on my abrasive criticism of religion, but that I would take it to even greater heights. Seeing the futility of trying to change me, the criticism died down. I have been an advocate of reason ever since. In April. A month after I had been cured of religion, I formed a freethinkers group on Facebook, named African Freethinkers, which I ran till March 2012 when Facebook shut it down without explanation. I now work with Kenyan freethinkers for the propagation of reason, logic and science across this intellectual wilderness known as Kenya.
People ask me what I have gained by being an atheist. Well, for starters, there are no boundaries to my inquisition- I can probe any matter between dirt and sun without feeling guilty or evil. As Robert Ingersoll said, surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought, at least, you are without a chain; that you have the right to explore all heights and depth, that here are no walls nor fences, nor prohibited places, nor sacred corners in all the vast expanse of thought.
There is also delight- great delight- in knowing that the course of life is not predetermined by an omniscient phantom and that only you are responsible for your failures and/or successes. There is great delight as well in knowing that the purpose of life is not to flatter that phantom; that in fact life has no meaning but that which you lay down. Did I also mention the free Sunday?
But the greatest benefit of atheism is the connection to reality that it affords you. Atheism leaves you without any cognitive dissonance, because it is the only world-view that is aligned with reality. It won’t tell you nice things to make you feel important. It won’t tell you that you are the center of the universe, or that you will survive your own death. It gives you the facts: you are insignificant in the grand scheme of things and death is almost certainly where it all ends. And yet it does not rob life of its significance- in fact it magnifies it. It tells you that this is the only life you will ever have, that there is no other purpose to your life except that which you assign to it, and every day therefore counts. This is the message of atheism. An atheist is thus more capable of achieving great happiness than an adherent of a religious doctrine. I invoke the words of Annie Wood Bessant, that “No philosophy, no religion, has ever brought so glad a message to the world as this good news of atheism.”
And that’s the end of my story.
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