I was born in Nigeria into a Muslim family but from the comfort and security of my home in Germany I can now announce that I’m now an atheist. There is nothing to hide anymore. I’ve hid this fact for a very long time now. Before leaving Nigeria, I had confirmed to myself that I lack a belief in the gods of any religion or in the existence of supernatural entities. This is not a decision I made because of the ‘freedoms’ of Germany. At first, I was shocked and scared that I came to this conclusion. I said to myself: “Ayo, you’ve memorized a decent portion of the Qur’an, you can’t do this, you can’t allow the Shaytan (Satan) to use you now, repent and return to Allah.” I however quickly realized that there was no turning back for me.
I have weighed the evidence for the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and realized that they are no different from the earlier Zoroastrian faith or even Manichaeism. We are born into this world mostly through our mothers and from birth, we are labelled with a religion, tribe and even social class; we never choose them. I am often amused when people say to me “I chose my faith, I was not born into or forced into it”. This, in my opinion, is a highly dishonest statement. If you chose your religion, why is it that it’s the same religion of your parents/guardians? Why is it that it’s the same religion(s) of your society? Why have we not seen Nigerian Hindus evangelizing? Or Nigerian Zoroastrians? The answer is simply that most of us have not heard of these religions.
I am not an atheist because I want to sleep with different girls, or spend all my time in a club or become a “bad boy”. I’m an atheist because I know with a high level of certainty that no one knows about the existence of a God; if we knew about a God, we would all have the same idea of him/her/it/them. But the reality is different; everyone believes differently about God. Some think God is male. Others think God is a giant Elephant. Some others think God is on a throne in Paradise. Another set think God has a son and several children. We even have groups that think God wields a hammer and lives close to the North Pole. Which of these ideas is correct? How do we test or validate them?
My disbelief in God and religion has made the circumstances very harsh for me. I lost a girl that I really loved. I lost the friendship of close friends. I got a few scary and saddening messages from former friends. I was diagnosed with depression by the psychiatrists at my university in Munich. Only few people know this. I was put on Sertraline Zoloft to curb my anxiety and panic attacks. For me, it was a painful dawn that I became an atheist. I’m lucky I could pass my exams very well in spite of all these.
Our forefathers evolved a belief in God(s) mostly due to a lack of understanding of natural processes during their time. The hurricane, tornado, tsunami came with their full force and our ancestors thought this was because of their own misdeeds. They knelt and bowed to the sky and begged for restraint. They offered each other as sacrifice to appease the entities that were “controlling” these disasters. Today we know how the Coriolis force, tectonic plate motions and so on drive these disasters. We know today that earthquakes are not due to homosexuality or sin but due to converging tectonic plates.
Some may ask me “now that you don’t believe in God, how would you be moral or good?”. My answer is that morality is not based on religion. If many of us took our morals from religion, we would stone all fornicators around us. We would kill those who don’t believe like us. Morality is evolved; societies that were immoral simply became weaker and died off. They killed each other and looted each other’s property and became weaker ensuring that they weren’t strong enough to defend themselves from warring tribes.
Some may also ask me “if you don’t believe in a God then how did we all get to this world?”. My answer to this is two-fold. One, I came here through my mother like most of you. Secondly, as regards initial existence, I don’t know how it started but neither do you. The only difference is that I’m honest with this answer. How can we know about things that are beyond our conception? What is wrong with saying “I don’t know about the origins of life”?
I’ve been threatened with hellfire as a punishment for my disbelief. What can I say? Who amongst those who threaten have seen such a place? Many of us are afraid of hell and thus stick to religion. Unknown to us, we create a hell in this world for ourselves and loved ones. Muslims and Christians threaten each other with hell but both of them can’t be correct at the same time. Even within Islam, many think the Ahmadis and Shi’ites are hell-bound.
I think everyone should be free to believe or lack belief in a God or Gods. I don’t criticize others for holding religious beliefs; I only take offence if those beliefs are harmful to other people.
I think that life should be lived with positivity and happiness. Some live longer than others but it’s not enough reason to not be happy in this world.
If I ever return to religion, I would return to the religion of my ancestors. I would worship Eledumare through Ifa and I would happily recite the “Odu”(I lack a proper English translation; someone can help) of Ifa and praise Eledumare. Our ancestors were at peace with this before the invasion of the Abrahamic faiths.
I know I have disappointed many, [because of my position] but each person has an individual course to chart in life. I hope that I would be accepted by those that I love in spite of our differences.
Taiwo Gold Ayodeji lives in Munich, Germany. He came into prominence in the Nigerian press in August 2016, when his Facebook post on religion went viral. Due to mounting pressure on him from friends and family, the original post was deleted but Ayodeji’s convictions remain unchanged.