Nde Emmanuel is Cameroon’s first openly atheist. He speaks on his experiences as a Christain cum atheist and challenges some critical thoughts. BaretaNews brings this as part of its Sunday reflections. He writes…
I was brought into this world by traditional Christian parents. I was thought good from bad, right from wrong, left from right, black and white from colorful. One of the places I was imparted with this knowledge was the church–where I became aware of theism and deity. Two of the fundamental teachings from the church’s textbook–the Bible were to have faith (believe in a supernatural power-God) and hope for the good life in Christ and to meet our loved ones who passed on to the afterlife. In order for us to be set free from our sins, worthy to be called his children and have the good life in abundance through his Divine plan (Romans 8:28, Psalm 135:6, Ephesians 1:11, Jeremiah 29:11) we have to obey the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1–17 and Deuteronomy 5:4–21).
If his only begotten son had been sacrifice for my sins, (John 3:16) the least I could do was to: obey the commandments, serve him, praise him, worship him, adore him, honour his name etc. My parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties and “God-father” saved some of their best harvests for the Lord to thank him for his grace and the gift of life. I become an unfaltering follower of Biblical teachings and morality. The good life now wouldn’t have deterred me from that path. I wasn’t just one of the regular lads who would go to church every Sunday morning sing and dance kumbayah, and shout hallelujah. I made sure I unequivocally took part in all church activities within and without the church premises; that I was permitted to participate in. Though sometimes shy, I join my peers to evangelize after Sunday service as well as on other days I had time on my hands. I dedicated the greater part of my teenage life to evangelism–spreading God’s word to agnostics. I would go down on my knees first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to bed to thank the omnipotent, omnipresent, all-powerful being for the gift of life and wish that his will be done in my life. Life was ecstatic in that illusory world and I couldn’t be happier and prouder of the life I led, what I had accomplished and the gent I had become.
Then, reality happened. I watched good people (according to Biblical standards) falling like dominos. I thought is this the divine plan–to prosper his children? These faithful people never prayed for death during their routine prayer sessions. What about the millions of innocent being killed around the world, some even in his name; what about those being killed in his house, corruption in his house, diseases, plagues, hunger and starvation faced by millions of his dedicated followers while their so-called preachers live ostentatious lifestyle and the coffers of the church keep swelling. Some of such followers can’t even afford three square meals a day nor education for their children yet they sacrifice their all to glorify his name.
What happened to the God who stroke down those who didn’t obey his commandments, what happened to the God who killed if you cheated or lied or stole? Has he grown frail, became sentimental, remorseful and repented, has no powers over happenings in the world or is he complacent to all these happenings as part of his divine plan? Therefore, it doesn’t matter what you pray for or if you pray at all. The omnipotent, omnipresent all-powerful being already has a plan for you even before you were born and there are no adjustment bureaus to it. Why should I ask for forgiveness after I have sinned, why should I pray; he already knows I would do those things. Why would he have plans for me, knows my thoughts and actions and yet still give me the 10 commandments to obey them before I could be worthy of his grace or to be called his child? If I fail to obey any of those commandments, would I get half of what has been promised me–NO! I would rot in hell for ETERNITY. What a joyous way of showing appreciation.
Therefore, I was a Christian and doing good not because of the blood His only son shed on the cross for me, sang and danced kumbayah and shouted hallelujah nor did I gave my tithes for the sake of goodness. I was doing it for me. I was afraid of the consequences if I didn’t. Susan Neiman and Julian Bagging asserted that behaving ethically only because of Divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Some Christian fundamentalists believe it is a righteous act to kill “sinners” (such as homosexuals, adulterers, etc) but on the other hand, castigates Muslims and another religious sect; if they do. Dare I agree with Karl Marx that the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness?
God very much didn’t lead by example. He is a very jealous God (Nahum 1:2) and at the same time, He is love (1 John 4:8). However, His book further tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that love is not jealous. The character of the Biblical God violates the law of non-contradiction, which means either God doesn’t exist or someone has a lot of explaining to do.
The same 10 commandments he wants us to obey; he failed to obey some according to the bible. For example “You shall not kill” He took everything away from Job. A man he considered upright. Job 1: 21-23. Just because they kept some proceeds of the land they sold, God killed Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5:1-11. “Honor your father and your mother” Yet he made Eli’s sons disobey their father and death was inevitable (1 Samuel 2:25). On several occasions also, he led the devil to use him to lead his people astray (Job 2:3, Isaiah 63:17) If he were the all-powerful God, wouldn’t he just cast this devil into eternal hello? There are things happening in our world today, which the Bible has, no collections of such as homosexuality, rape, nuclear, cyber threats, etc. Isn’t it time for another Newer New Testament? Just the ambiguity of the bible itself cast more doubts to the whole saga. If there were no other god(s), why would some denominations have more books or writers in the Bible than others?
Well, who am I a mere human being, a sinner to question the ways of an omnipotent, omnipresent and all powerful being (Romans 9:20-24)
Now, with all these questions pondering my mind, I thought it was high time I gave him a penny for his thoughts; a face-to-face meet with the omnipotent, omnipresent all-powerful God. Moreover, his good book tells us that: if you ask, it will be given; seek you will find (Mathew 7:7) I sorted for empirical evidence for his last known location or kingdom, a hotline, a web or email address but couldn’t find any and even asked around yet nobody seems to have any clues as well. Would these suffice for me to assume a pragmatic atheist believes God neither provides purpose to life nor influence everyday life; an implicit atheist-absence of theistic belief without conscious rejection; an explicit atheist–conscious disbelief; agnostic– either believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a good or noncommittal on the issue or an agnostic atheist. Atheists, therefore, hold many spiritual beliefs.
As such, can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs; for there exist ethic values that not require principles and rules to be given by a deity such as social contract, utilitarianism, virtue, etc, According to a survey based in the US, there is a lower crime rate in atheist inhabited neighborhoods than those inhabited by theists. Another survey also reveals that higher proportions of theists are predominately the underprivileged and impoverished areas and countries (mostly in Africa South of the Sahara). Dare I add, these regions have been force-fed, brainwashed and conned with God’s word as the only way to salvage themselves from “bondage” and their “sins” to be worthy to be called his children and be qualified for the good life in abundance in Jesus Christ through his Divine Plan.
At the end of the day, it wouldn’t matter if you’re a theist, atheist or agnostic. “There aren’t any atheists in a foxhole” Just like you had no recollections of where you were before you were born, so too you have no collections of what happens after you die (or if you do, please indulge me) Therefore, break the chains and live free. Nevertheless, always remember to do good not because you have been conditioned by a deity to do so against a reward; but do it because you understand the need to do it and crave doing it for the betterment of humanity.
By Nde Emmanuel for BaretaNews