Religion and spirituality are a huge part of the Nigerian experience and atheism isn’t as common as it is in other parts of the world. We spoke with a few Nigerians about leaving religion and discovering themselves. Check it out.
1. Wale, 26
I’ve been an atheist for seven years now. I was born into a catholic home. I also went to a Catholic primary school, and a Catholic secondary school after that. My parents are still very religious. Growing up, It made sense to think that they couldn’t be wrong.
In 2013, I had a friend who had become an atheist, and we were also listening to very transgressive music. At that point, I gave myself permission to think outside the box and I realized religion, especially Christianity wasn’t for me. For me, this realisation came with depression, but once I accepted that I was now an atheist I started to feel better. The void that leaving religion left was quickly filled by philosophy.
When people hear that I’m an atheist, most people say something along the lines of “No matter what, when you look around the world, everyone believes in a God, there is God.” But then there’s a very small set of people who get angry and say stuff like “Please don’t bring that nonsense here.”
2. Mike, 25
I believe in a creator but don’t believe in any religion. I was born into a religious home. I attended Deeper Life growing up. My parents are church workers. When you’re younger you believe almost everything you’re told, so I believed all of the things I was hearing in church. Things changed when I got into university in 2016.
Growing up, I didn’t really mix with people a lot. But when I got into uni, I got to see other people. I saw a lot of hypocrisy, even from people who claimed to be born-again. I decided to read up on religions like Christianity and Islam and the concept of God and it was then I understood that people just need something to believe in and once you can convince them that it’s from God, it becomes religion. Religion is basically a tool used to hold people back, but maybe if the Holy Spirit or an angel appears to me, I’ll reconsider.
My parents know I have some beliefs that are different from church standards because I question things happening in the church, but for now they don’t know where I stand. They’ll know soon.
People keep telling me, I’ll go to hell and that this demonic spirit needs to be cast out of me. I just tell them that death is what will tell.
If I was an “atheist pastor”, I’d have bastard money right now because a lot of young people today are not keen about religion. A little nudge from me and they usually see the light.
3. Nonso, 30
I always had doubts about the things I was taught growing up, but somehow I chose to believe because I trusted “authority”. I grew up in a very religious home.
After high school, I fell in love with History. The more I learned about our past as humans, the clearer things became. I took interest in the history of beliefs and religions around the globe. It took a long time – about 3 years – but slowly and surely I let go of deep-rooted indoctrination. A few years living in a country where people are not very religious might’ve contributed to that as well.
I take my siblings to church every Sunday. They know I’m not superstitious and lack belief in the supernatural. But I’ve never openly expressed my complete lack of faith.
In my first 1-2 years after loss of faith I was an evangelical atheist. Especially online and on campus. It was fueled by anger – the realization that I had been deceived for so many years and not allowed to think for myself. I felt betrayed – there was a travesty happening and someone had to stop it. Afterwards I became calmer. I understand some people need religion to make sense of life, that’s the reason it was invented in the first place. Why knock something if it makes people happy? These days I don’t speak about faith unless it’s thrown in my face. I still stand against childhood indoctrination, but I also respect peoples’ rights to raise their kids how they want.
I don’t admit to being atheist when I get asked. There’s an atheism phobia in these parts and it’s safer/more tolerable to people when you tell them you’re still trying to figure things out. It also saves time that would be spent on pointless arguments. Funny enough, claiming mild agnosticism makes people more willing to discuss freely and that’s when I can plant some doubts in their minds with a few facts. I have friends who have been waiting 5+ years for me to “come around and see the light”. Some end up losing their faith – there’s a very vocal one on Twitter who’s a daily God-basher. He claims conversations with me drove him to self discovery and faithlessness. Lucifer would be pleased.
4. Kevin, 27
I used to ask my mum some ‘logical’ questions about God when I was in secondary school but she insisted that there were questions I couldn’t ask God. So, I tried understanding Christianity as a religion. I became a full-fledged Christian during my depression, but things weren’t adding up in the Christian community. It felt like hypocrisy – The bullshit that God is the beginning and the end, that your life is predestined. Many people in the church were very judgemental. They lacked empathy. Then I realised that people tend to choose the Bible verses to favour their acts. It didn’t also make sense that different churches had different doctrines.
I don’t think there’s a chance that I’ll go back to religion. Many people don’t believe that I’m an atheist because I used to be a preacher of the gospel. Some of them have warned me against blasphemy. Many have cursed me.
The experience has been a bliss because what exists for me now is acceptance of what is and what not and conscious effort of knowing what to control and what can’t be controlled.
5. Sophia, 23
I grew up in a very Catholic home. My uncle was a Catholic priest. I had so many questions growing up, and everyone, my siblings especially, told me I’d go mad for asking such questions. When no answers were forthcoming, I started reading books but got more questions. Then at some point, I decided to exercise faith through it all and believe wholeheartedly, questions be damned. But before I decided to have faith, I tried to die briefly so I can quickly ask God a few questions and pop right back- I would try to sleep a little harder each night so I’d pass into death. I was young.
I had a period where I tried to be the best Christian that I could be. My zeal and efforts to become a better Christian led me to where I am today. I just started reading stuff and couldn’t stop, and all those questions I suppressed came right back up and it was something of a well-oiled slide from there. I read the Bible more deeply, end-to-end, more Christian books, Christian TV, documentaries, etc. I used to argue a lot with atheists so I also needed to see things from their points of view and prepare to “decimate” them and somehow, those materials just made sense. In all this, I was in denial, but you can only resist logic for so long.
My family knows I don’t go to church, but they don’t know I’m an atheist. When other people hear that I’m an atheist, they respond with outrage and shock and say things like, “You’re joking”, “Who do you pray to?”, “What do you do on Sundays?”, “Who gave you life?”, and of course, “Jesus loves you.”
I don’t try to convince people to switch to atheism. To each, their own. I just tend to point out the absurdities that they believe – jocularly with friends, more seriously with non-friends. Also, with friends, I tend to tell them that I hope they come to see their belief for what it is – an inane absurdism, fit only for the stone age.
6. Eljay, 26
My mum wasn’t overtly religious while I was growing up. But her siblings were and I was forced to participate in religious activities. I don’t think there was a particular moment when it all changed for me. Even as a child I never really liked going to church, not even to showcase “fine clothes” as other kids did. I actually read the Bible over and over again just to pass time whenever they managed to drag me to church. Of course, then I didn’t know what atheism was, I just knew that the stories in the Bible sounded ridiculous and I treated them like fiction.
In 2015, my first year in university, I finally put a name to what I felt was my opinion on religion. At this point, I can no longer stand church services. The whole thing feels ridiculous. I used to attend church whenever I would go home, but I don’t do that anymore, not even to shut my mum up. I am a 100% atheist and there’s absolutely no doubt about that. Nobody in my family knows though. I do not have the strength for that fight.
I am still scared of the dark, especially after a horror movie. But I don’t think anyone in my village is out to get me or something of that sort. People always tell me that I’ve not seen any problem that will make me run back to God and that I’m doing all of this just to form woke.
7. Paulo, 24
I was always sceptical from a young age. I have a naturally curious mind. I hate “not knowing”. Couple that with the ‘unaskable’ questions in Christianity, it was only a matter of time before I took the pledge to find out if what I was told to believe was true. I was always skeptical, but entering the university, being away from my home church, with the freedom to choose what influences I allowed into my life, I was able to take a step back and analyze my religion. So asides from the hidden suspicion that it may all be untrue, I can say I turned in 2016 and became officially atheist last year.
8. Samson, 23
I had a lot of questions growing up. When I was in Primary 4 I asked my class teacher who was very religious and she wasn’t convincing at all. She said “That’s the revelation and mysticism of God.”
I enjoy poking holes in religion, especially Christianity. I like when Christians who don’t even know the Bible squirm or add me to a group with their youth pastor trying to convince me. My mom thinks it’s just a phase and that when God’s time is right I’ll go back.
Sometimes though I tend to say things like thank you God and other stuff. But not because I mean it but as something of a habit. Some might say maybe I left it so I can sin without remorse but I feel more free to live my life.
I used to be scared of dark spiritual powers, but I have not seen any evidence and I’ve not met anyone who has seen spiritual powers first hand.
9. Ekanem, 22
I’m agonistic. I’m sceptical about religion because honestly its total bullshit, but the possibility of the supernatural cannot be refuted. It started when I had freedom and I lived next to the church my grandfather built so trust so I was hearing a lot of preaching. I noticed that everything these people said just led to a single path: pay tithe, obey our laws, fear Christ/God , have hope that your situation will change, hustle and when you make it thank God cause he did it for you. It was all a scam.
I started doubting everything, I’m not even gonna enter how sexist the church is and how women are susceptible to this rubbish but because of oppression religion is all they have. In fact the reason why religion, and words like “faith’ and “hope” are still strong is because they’re tools to keep the masses oppressed.
Not gonna lie, it’s hard being different. I mean I lost girlfriends over this shit. Some chicks refuse to commit adultery with me because I don’t believe in an Israeli religion. But it’s made me see the world better.
Note: Some names and ages have been changed to protect the identities of the contributors.
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