Bringing together non-believers …
The reactions are varied, when you tell people that “no I don’t have a church, I am not religious and I am somewhere between agnostic and atheist”. If you are male they will probably laugh and leave it at that, if you happen to be female however, you would think you just announced that you torture kittens for fun.
Some of the typical reactions are:
Person 1: So what do you do on Sunday mornings?
Me: Laze in bed and read until noon, make brunch, catch up with my laundry, …………
Person 2: You probably just haven’t found the right church, can I invite you to mine?
Person 2: our pastor is really good you will enjoy….
Person 2: I will pray for you
Me: *rolls eyes*
Person 3: One day when you have problems, you will find yourself coming back to christ
Me: *blank stare*
Person 4: You will never get married, men like spiritual women
Me: My boyfriend doesn’t really care
Person 4: He is your boyfriend now but when he decides to get married he will find a godly woman to be the mother of his children
Person 5: You don’t feel like you are missing something in your life?
Person 6: You are just aping the western world, probably from all those books you are always reading
Me: you are worshiping a deity that was brought to you on a boat and you think I am the one aping the western world?
Person 6: *silence*
It goes on and on. A guy who was hitting on me once actually told me I had gone from a 10 to 5 in his eyes because he is looking for a woman who will take his children to church. After I was done laughing I told him it’s a good thing that at least we now knew that there was no future for us. He then promptly invited me to church. There is an assumption that women are more religious that men. It’s taken for granted that we are the ones who wake up on Sunday mornings, drag everyone to church, and lead everyone in prayers etc. so it baffles people that there are non-religious Kenyan women out there. I have never done scientific research on this but I can bet, the ratio of women to men in any church service is usually 70:30 at any given point in time. From my experience as a Kenyan, we are all expected to be religious, there is no space for skepticism when it comes to religion in Kenya. For women, our virtue is somehow tied to how religious we are. If we are godly then we won’t be one of these wanton women who go out drinking and partying till the wee hours. If we are godly, it somehow makes us homemakers, submissive and wife material.
I have always appreciated the fact that I did not grow up in a super religious home. My siblings and I were never truly indoctrinated, maybe that is why it was so easy for me to discard whatever little religiosity I had left in me. We went to church semi religiously during my childhood, a local catholic church, until my catholic primary school started having mass every Thursday morning. My father decided one day when I was in class five or six or so that there was no sense in going to church twice a week, and that is how my brothers and I stopped attending church on Sundays. I started losing my religion when I joined high school. Since some religious service of some sort was required on Sunday morning, I wandered into the protestant service on Sunday morning. The service was fun, coming from a catholic background where we didn’t have a lot of singing and dancing it was an interesting change. I attended the service most Sundays when it began to get uncomfortable really fast.
My school used to invite pastors from popular churches to come and guest preach. These guys were dynamic and appealed to young people. On almost every Sunday people got saved, Catholics converted, tossed their rosaries and became protestant. The speaking in tongues was the weirdest thing I witnessed since I really didn’t get it. It got weird some of my fellow students started being exorcised after the CU sessions on Sunday. For some reason, demonic possession became an issue every time these external pastors came to school.
Long story short, I quickly hightailed it back to the catholic group where there was no speaking in tongues, no exorcisms and most importantly, when we couldn’t get a priest at school we got to walk to the nearest Catholic Church for mass. Every time a wild girl got saved and denounced past ways, you could feel the excitement among the CU ranks. From the few CU sessions I attended, I always felt extremely emotionally manipulated, especially where some pastors linked passing KCSE to being saved. Anyone who was in a public high school in Kenya must have watched the old left behind movie, it was always followed by an altar call and prayers people getting saved all over the place . Once, one of my classmates, a CU leader announced that god had shown her who her future husband would be amidst cheering and tears. With hindsight, we were quite the hysterical bunch.
After I left high school I pretty much stopped going to church. I attended various churches once in a while but my Sundays were largely for relaxing at home, reading, experimenting with recipes and doing college assignments. There was no big AHA! Moment for me, I just sort of wandered away from church. I still prayed every morning and evening but that was the extent of it. I was 27 or 28 years old when I realized that I had simply left religion behind. I will be the first to admit that it was and sometimes still is scary when you realize that you are responsible for your own life, when you accept that you are fine and capable, when you acknowledge your successes and accept that your failures are all up to you. There is no deity controlling what happens to you, except you.
This is what people struggle to understand when it comes to me. I don’t have some story or reason for not believing. I don’t quote Hitchens or Dawkins at people though I love sharing the “religion is bullshit” clip done by George Carlin. It pretty much sums up what I feel about religion besides ambivalence. I believe in my capabilities as a human being, and in the goodwill of other humans, I am not waiting for signs from above, or praying for miracles. I simply do the best I can with the resources I have. I think through my problems, ask for help where I need it, help others where I can and challenge myself to be a better human being. I don’t need a deity to be that.
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