By Leo Igwe
Doubting is a virtue which can liberate those who exercise it from the slavery and tyranny of religion and dogma. Many Africans are going through a process of awakening at this moment in history. They are experiencing the liberating possibilities and promises of expressing their doubts and disbelief.
Doubting frees the mind from the shackling and suffocating effects of comforting superstition and orthodoxy. It expels the dogma of blind faith and exorcizes the demon of thoughtlessness which prevents the mind from engaging in unhindered exploration of life’s horizons. The empowering possibilities of doubt are captured in the story of Sara. Sara comes from Zambia in Southern Africa. She declares that doubting religion has led her to “the right side of history” and recounts her undulating path to this bright and happy side of life.
Sara describes herself as ‘openly agnostic’ and a closeted atheist. Though, her closeted atheism is bursting , rupturing and may turn into vigorous robust and open atheism soon. She was brought up as a catholic in Zambia, a country which the president has described as a Christian nation. But Sarah started doubting religious teachings in her teenage years because she found the answers which religions put forward unsatisfactory “I started doubting Catholic doctrines when I was 15, a lot of things didn’t add up. But I was encouraged to have faith and I tried doing so but I started doubting Christianity again at 19, and started feeling out of place, sometimes I would joke about inconsistencies in the Bible and my friends would laugh, then later I just lost my faith.
It’s only a year now since I stumbled upon an agnostic statement I identified with, I was awe struck, I followed link after link of related subjects and now here I am. I open agnostic pages on Facebook in the morning the same way I use to open Christian ones”
Sara thinks that the passages in the Bible that demonize doubts and divinize blind faith dampened her sense of curious and delayed her skeptical awakening and odyssey. “The only thing that kept me being religious that long was the fear of damnation and also as the Bible says that ‘you are rewarded to overflowing when you get through temptation’, and so the voice of reason was always the voice of evil. I remember my first reaction upon reading agnostic statements. I was surprised at how brave the agnostics were. I was literally gaping as I read on and thought, ‘These are some naughty brave humans’ then later it struck me I had countless times born similar thoughts but was too afraid to explore them”
Sara later discarded the cloak of fear and donned the garb of critical thinking. She mustered the courage to doubt, challenge and question the dogma of God’s existence:
“My atheism has been a long journey I have had back and forth movements. Once, I ran back to the church, and confessed. At a point I sought counsel. At other times I stopped going to church and later I resumed church services. But now I have never been happier knowing that there is no one judging every move I make or a villain stifling my progress. I am responsible for my every success and adversity”.
Nonetheless, Sara, like other atheists and agnostics in the region, has paid a price along the way to this point of liberation and emancipation. She thinks that her religious upbringing had some negative effects on her ability to think critically and the choices she had made so far in life:
“One thing I have realized now is that when I was younger I had a broad way of thinking. I was curious and asked questions. I remember my first confusion was regarding the concept of trinity. I wondered why god chose a young unwed girl. I was maybe 9-10yrs old then. But the society conditioned me to think in a particular way, and all that imagination and skeptical thinking was discouraged. It annoys me right now, who knows what I would have become if I had continued on the part of critical thinking. Anything would have been possible, but now the real challenge is reversing that mindset to the one I had when I was young and to breathe life into that part of my brain which they killed using religious dogma”.
Sarah imagines how a more critical thinking oriented upbringing would have benefited her life: “Sometimes I wonder what decisions I would have made differently and if it was possible to start from scratch. I know I would have ended up studying medicine or maybe something scientific because then science was my passion. The choice of friends and even relationships would have been different.
My reasoning and assessment and conclusions on countless subjects would have been different. That is 25years lost thanks to religion”. But it is never too late to exercise doubt or inject some critical reasoning into those areas where one thinks that irreversible or irrevisable decisions might have been made.
It should gladden the heart of Sarah to know that there are still millions of people in her own country, Zambia, who have yet to realize the negative effects of religious dogma, indoctrination and delusion. Some of the people have lost 50 years, 70 years and in fact their entire life to religious dogma. Some of them were recently at the Show Ground praying to God to save the country’s currency and rescue its economy. Millions of people across Zambia and throughout Africa live, have lived and have died in what Sara would call ‘the wrong side of history’.