Eddy Michaels

In primary school, I had read a comic book that showed how God struck and killed Uzzah for simply attempting to steady the ark of covenant. This really troubled me. I couldn’t wrap my head around why God, the embodiment of holiness, would do something like that. Also, certain acts of David, such as adultery, murder and the death sentences he commissioned Solomon to carry out while on his death bed didn’t seem like what “a man after God’s own heart” would do and so I secretly despised David because of these things. I also found myself sympathizing with people in the Bible whom God had dealt ruthlessly with or killed – Eli the priest was one such person. No amount of justification from the pulpit for how God treated Eli could convince me in my heart of hearts, though I never did admit this to myself or anyone. Noah’s flood and the drowning of the world was another problem, and of course the story of the fall of man. The more I read of the Bible, the more I became alarmed by God’s malevolence.

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My mother had suffered serious complications during my birth which was that catalyst that reignited her spiritual fire because after the ordeal, she converted to Pentecostal Christianity from Catholicism. While I am mighty glad she survived, her involvement in the Pentecostal movement also signified the sign of things to come, not only for me but my siblings too. The Church was an enormous influence on me throughout my formative years to my teens. It was there I learnt that Jesus was God’s son, and learnt about the crucifixion. For me at the time, I was unaware of such a long and painful death since, I could only conceive the idea of death through being shot. I was moved by the story of the suffering of Jesus on earth to pay for our sins and I soon developed an affinity for God and seeking him, which was an unusual yearning at that age, and many of my peers could not relate to it. I became obsessed with the Bible, and even before I could read properly, I would always carry my little Gideon’s Bible almost everywhere I went.

In my first year in secondary school, I became “born again,” which was quite a turning point in my life, really. I met several like-minded students and joined the school fellowship. Soon I became friends with the fellowship president, and I was assigned responsibilities as a worker. The president had been impressed with my efforts at evangelism, and so inducted me into the inner circle of the fellowship. In 2002, I began preaching in the fellowship too. My born again experience meant I had to start reading the Bible a lot. I reasoned that since I ate three times a day, I also had to read the Bible morning, afternoon and night. At this stage, I became more concerned about certain acts of both God and his chosen prophets in the Bible.

Another major problem for me was the silence of God. As far as I saw, God was absent in everyday life and prayers weren’t answered. I had started my Christian walk with a childlike faith (I was in fact a child) and each time I prayed, it felt like there was nobody at the other end. It felt like I was talking to the air. It felt this way because nothing ever happened afterwards. I saw the same pattern when others prayed too. An answered prayer was a rare thing. This was certainly at odds with what we were taught in church and what I had read in the Bible. Jesus said we only needed faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains, but in my reality, faith the size of a mountain could not move a mustard seed. This was worrying. All of these gradually led me down the path to unbelief.

eddy-anonymousDue to the situation in Nigeria at present, I have mostly been in the closet about being an atheist, but I told a few of my friends, and one of them observed my transformative journey. Just one member of my family is privy to my lack of belief, and he is kind of indifferent about it. Sincerely, coming out as an atheist has been one of my big worries the past few years. I worry about the people who would feel hurt, my mother most especially. She hasn’t taken my apathy for church well and it causes a quarrel every now and then, so I often wonder how she’d react if she learnt I didn’t believe in God anymore. In spite of my worries though, I know I have to be true to my own self and the least I owe my loved ones is honesty about who I am or have become. So, I’ve made up my mind to come out as soon as I have enough financial ballast to fall on as I anticipate being excommunicated. It probably won’t be easy in a religious country like mine, but I can’t remain in the closet forever. I most certainly don’t enjoy being in the closet and because of that, I don’t do any real secular activism. A lot of times, when discussing with people though, I champion secular ideas and human rights. For example, I try to let my countrymen see why it is wrong to criminalize homosexuality. Many times I leave them speechless, puzzled and they begin to avoid having discussions with me. Sometimes, they reason with me and make attempts to shift ground.

I believe in the absurd as put forth by Albert Camus. Really, the absurd isn’t so much a matter of belief as it is of accepting. I should rather say I accept the absurd.

Life is absurd. It has no meaning in itself. The universe is indifferent. I do not exist for any real, objective reason. The only meaning that life has is the meaning we infuse it with. The only meaning my life has is the meaning I give it. We create our own essence.

This might seem harsh but I think it’s the truth. Such thinking can actually produce positive and productive vibes. When I know something needs to change and I realize the power to change is in my hands alone, I am motivated to take steps in my valued direction and effect that change. I’m not bogged down by feelings of a fixed destiny designed by some uber-being, so that when I know something needs to change, all I can do is feel my hands are tied and cry out to my uber-being for help. The down side of my view of life is that there are things we cannot change and must just learn to accept. I know it’s pretty difficult, but really, what choice have we? Whether we accept or not, it doesn’t change the fact.

Though I do not rule out the possibility of an afterlife, I do not believe in the afterlife. I reason that if an afterlife exists at all, it must be one that we know nothing about. Moreover, I see no reason why the afterlife should exist for only our species, homo sapiens. If the afterlife exists for homo sapiens, then it should exist for homo habilis, homo erectus, chimpanzees, dinosaurs, trilobites, foraminifera, plants, virus, bacteria and other primordial forms of life. I think the afterlife, if it exists must be connected to life itself, so that any living thing no matter how simple in form, would possess the requirement to live again after death. That would mean the malaria parasite, the HIV virus and the like, would follow us to the next life. Quite an unpleasant picture, you’d agree. This perhaps explains why the Abrahamic faiths do not explore that angle. I believe and accept that my life is finite. The finitude of my life makes it more enjoyable and gives it some meaning. Like an artist aptly illustrated: how would you enjoy eating a doughnut that doesn’t finish? You would enjoy it at the initial stage, but would grow terribly tired of it with time. Such is life. An interminable life is bound to lose its meaning. I would rather embrace the finitude of life and make the best of it.

Editor’s note:
Eddy Michaels is a pseudonym used by the author of this piece to protect his identity.

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