Breaking free from the chains of religion
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I was born in Zimbabwe in the 80s. This was a time of racial and religious turmoil. We had just gained independence from colonialism (my families involvement in this is a long story). Apartheid was still a policy in the country to our south. South Africa. Robert Mugabe was the new president of the new Zimbabwe. I was fortunate enough to witness the religious justifications and excesses that lead me to the inevitable. This was the catalyst to my de conversion.
My family is Afrikaans. We are the white Africans that have been in Africa since the 17th century. We are European, descendant mostly from Dutch and German, exclusively white and blamed for Apartheid. I wish I could give an account of the bravery of my family against the injustices of segregation and prejudice. I can’t. My family was not only sympathetic to apartheid, but involved. This involvement was religious. Black people were the son of Sam. They were Kaffirs.
My grandfather was a civil engineer and a political reporter. He died the year that I was born. He taught my father that black people were above animals, but below us. This was not their fault, but we had to take care of them and keep them in line. This was God’s will.
My father’s mind changed from experience. He was an elite SAS soldier during the war. He fought against black independence. His friend was shot. His surgeon came to explain his condition. The surgeon was black. This went against the view of the ignorant kaffir that my dad had expected.
Despite this, the Afrikaner religion (Dutch reformed) persevered amongst the stubborn. I was born into this confusion. I was baptised Dutch reformed but by the time I was cognisant of what was happening, my family had moved to the Presbyterian church of Zimbabwe. This was the equivalent of the Baptists, or whoever the crazy, clappy, folks are in the US.
This church had the veneer of inclusiveness. This was bullshit. The leaders and their children were racist, classist and incredibly judgemental. This was my first reaction as a kid. I felt guilty for disliking them. So I studied the bible. I went to a school where you would be beaten with a cane for not praying at school assembly. So I prayed. I read the bible. My friends came to me to understand verses. I explained chapters the way they wanted and reassured them. This made me feel sick and fraudulent. I never believed. I never went up to accept Christ in church. Yet I was the model of Christianity in the new Africa.
In 2001 we had to leave Zimbabwe. Our land was seized and we were declared “enemies of the state” for being white farmers. This episode saw me, as a 15 year old, with a revolver under my bed and an escape plan in place. God was on our side. God was on their side.
This was justified by our president Robert Mugabe as a message from god to the rightful people of Africa. Robert Mugabe is catholic. We were told to return to Europe. My family had been in Africa for 350 years. We had nowhere to return to. Our only refuge at the time was the small island nation of New Zealand. An atheist nation in every regard.
In New Zealand we found refuge, understanding, acceptance and a second chance at life. Nothing was expected from us, yet we were judged entirely on how we acted. God was irrelevant. The most beautiful, reasonable, honest and straight people I had ever met were in New Zealand. God was irrelevant.
This was what I had dreamed of. I was free. I would no longer be beaten (literally, with a stick) for doubting, but embraced for asking questions. I had no more qualms. I learned to use a computer (at 16) and found atheism on the internet. There was no turning back.
I now live in Australia and being an atheist down under is not a remarkable thing at all. But I had to fight to fit in.
I occasionally meet black Zimbabweans who are ardently Christian. If you think it’s strange for black Americans to be Christian, it should be doubly so for black Africans. Yet they are doubly religious.
I have learnt a lot in a short life. Yet I will never understand the true power of religion. We see silliness, but I see devastation. Africa has crumbled under belief. We laugh at absurd beliefs. In Africa, these absurd beliefs devastate entire peoples. The most true statement I have ever heard is that if God exists, he left Africa a long time ago. Thank fuck he doesn’t exist.
I do not believe in the Tooth Fairy. I do not believe in Krishna. There are no serious books to my knowledge that contain accounts of the Tooth Fairy’s exploits that claim to be true and accurate. There are books and writings that do make such claims about Krishna. But I do not spend my energy or time writing a blog against such. I’m interested in why you spend anytime on a blog that is concerned with a non existing being? Methinks the lady doth complains too much. You believe there is no God, Ok so get on with your life. Why all the blogging about it?
PS is it your personal historical social context that motivates you against the God of the Bible alone? Why not blog against the god on the Qur’an or the god of the Bhagavad Gita?
A moth to the light me thinks
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