I have always had a tormented relationship with religion. My memories of going to Sunday school include mental images of me crying or begging my mother not to make me go. My parents eventually gave in and I was no longer forced to go. I guess I was born with this resistance to religion. I was a curious and sceptical child and asked a lot of questions. I recall being scolded for asking how a bible teacher can truly believe that those who are not Christian are doomed to hell even though in their frame of reference, they know only Islam and only their god. My ‘liberal’ viewpoints were not widely accepted in the small free state town I grew up in and this often got me chased out of classes and excluded from social gatherings that were often organised by the local church.
I once joined such a church group because they were doing great work for the elderly and less fortunate and I wanted to do contribute. Once they found out that I had not been part of the formal classes one has to regularly attend to become a decent member of the church, I was whisked aside and what followed was an intense praying session to try and convince their god that he must open my heart in order to be saved. This also involved phone calls to my parents to inform them that they were doing me a huge injustice by not guiding me in the proper religious ways. Needless to say, this just strengthened by no-religion stance and put me off ‘believing’ in a controlled, rule-governed fashion.
During my student years I dabbled in all sorts of things, Buddhism, paganism, and later just labelled myself spiritual until one day I realised that it does not matter. Why wonder and ponder about the after-life and why we are on this planet, when you can rather just marvel at the beauty of life and appreciate it for what it is: NOW? I gradually moved toward an agnostic standpoint and I am now happier and more content than I have ever been. I do not have any complex academic or even rational explanation of why I choose not to believe in god, I just found that searching for meaning in everything spiritual or religion-based, to me, was fruitless and frustrating.
I cringe every time I attend weddings where they stipulate the wife’s role and that she must obey her husband – and believe you me, in this day and age, among my educated friends, it still happens. Can’t we all just be equal and not worry about what might happen if we die and instead live, love and protect our planet and appreciate the very fact that we are alive and are able to marvel at the universe? I realised it is not necessary to believe in a god and being open and frank about this is very uncomfortable at times – as many people immediately think you worship some dark lord or practice black magic in your spare time. I’m a humanists and a lover of life. Frankly, I’d rather live until I die.