by Daniel Nkado
I always try to keep my religious status out of the way, even though living in Nigeria without a religion is nearly an impossible thing to do.
You know, you have to have something you believe in. Something that guides you.
A lot of people still think you can never achieve true morality without the help of religion.
Considering all the things belief in a religion offer, from providing easy hope and security, the psychic ability of precognition, and for many Christians, very importantly, somewhere to go every Sunday to showcase wealth and possessions, religion becomes such a huge deal for a lot of people, so precious and profound they dare not wish it gone.
My closest friends were the first to know about my lack of belief in a religion.
They were all so very shocked.
Daniel don’t do this, they begged.
Don’t let the devil use you too.
Don’t fall astray.
Some were sharper with their disappointment – “If you continue like this, don’t talk to me ever again and I will never have anything to do with you again!”
But the truth is that I’ve been very sceptical about religious teachings since a long time that I cannot effectively say when or where I stopped believing entirely.
Growing up in a nice Christian home, my parents fed me religion like a meal.
From my grandparents to my direct parents, evening prayers are a stiff ritual.
I learned Psalms, hymns, worship songs and praises. I felt compelled to quote texts from the Bible at any slightest provocation, pray the loudest when I feel someone is around and share threatening posts on Facebook and Whatsapp, all in a bid to earn God’s favour, and, to a great extent too, my parents’ admiration.
I shied away from sin at all times. Even when I sometimes slip—as a human that I am, like my then pastor would say, grace is always there to wipe my guilt away.
Doesn’t that last part sound so wonderful? Taking no responsibility for anything at all?
Even better, I might not let anyone know about this wrong that I have done. Because in Christianity, letting your sin out is a much more destructive event than committing the sin itself.
Funny how people prance around every day adorned in this flowing cloak of hypocrisy.
One man of God I know even once declared: A sin is not sin if no one sees you committing it. It is between you and your God, period!
But all these times, deep within me, I know there is something else. There is something in me that gives me more motivation to do good and treat people nicely and not cause anyone harm intentionally.
I know that that thing is not my religion. Or the big Bible on the table in my room. That thing is greater. Far greater.
It is my sense of humanity. My only true religion. I choose to call it conscience. Because I am human and knows all it means to be human, I know by instinct, what and what I should do, or not do. I do not need religion to teach me that.
‘Are you an atheist?’ many have asked me.
No, I am not, I would reply, and then tell them what I really am—a secular humanist.