My Atheism

From cult member to apatheist

From cult member to apatheist

Where do I start narrating my God apathy? My teenage years, or from way back to my childhood? My childhood it is!

I was raised in a family of Grail Message adherents. It’s very unlikely you’ve heard of them as the Grail Message is not a popular religious movement. The Grail Message was written by Oskar Ernst Bernhardt under the pen name of Abd-Ru-Shin and was popular in Germany pre-World War 2. Anyway, not to bore you with unnecessary details, let’s continue my narrative.

I recall my childhood filled with stories of elemental beings, God’s little servants that man the air, wind, fire and earth. These servants were somewhat like the fairies, elves, gnomes, and salamanders of ancient times. You were supposed to be good children so that the “beings” would show themselves to you. Oh, I still remember many a time I prayed and begged to see these little beings that were touted as friends of children. Alas, I never saw them!

Then I went away to boarding school and met children from diverse religious backgrounds. The Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses … lots of them. Even at that young age (I was 11 at the time), we little ones were so concerned with living in accordance with God’s Word so that we’d go to Heaven when we die. There were lots of tracts, Saturday fellowships, and religious services. But somehow, I noticed that these activities did little to curb the childish spitefulness and malice prevalent in so many of my schoolmates. In my childlike mind, I put it down to the kids’ not really believing in God.

Characteristic of places where one religion is prevalent, I observed the teachers punishing the Jehovah’s Witness students for refusing to sing the National Anthem, and the students engage in petty arguments over who didn’t act like a true Christian, or Muslim as the case may be. As my self-esteem at this age was still quite low, I kept to myself, reluctant to disclose to anyone where my religious beliefs lay. I still smile wryly whenever I remember those days.

University came and man! My discomfort with religion grew the more. Everywhere you looked, there was a church or student fellowship poster. Students would casually ask you what fellowship you attended, as casually as they would ask your name. I began to wonder if there was anything in my dressing or mannerisms that prompted such morbid curiosity. As I walked to my class, I would sometimes wonder what it would feel like to have no faith in God, any god.

I tried to imagine myself living the life of an atheist and I would push away such thoughts, horrified that they even occurred to me in the first place. In Nigeria, it is generally accepted that you need a god because the omnipresent witches and wizards in Nigerian would pounce on you if you lacked faith in God. How funny!

All the while, I was a practicing Grail Message adherent who firmly believed Abd-Ru-Shin was the Son of Man, the comforter sent by Jesus Christ to bring the Judgment (whatever that means) and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. I took a course in philosophy and my favourite part was Fallacies in Logic, where Argument from Ignorance, Appeal to Authority, and Fallacy of Composition were taught. I accepted the truth in these fallacies, but never really applied them to myself immediately. However, this was the seed of my scepticism.

Fast-forward to a few years later, when I started reading articles on psychology online. I saw a lot of things I recognised as true, but I dismissed because they contradicted the truth of the Grail Message – until I read up on Defense mechanisms in Psychology, and I realized that Abd-Ru-Shin used a lot of defense mechanisms in his book. This realisation made me stop believing in the word of the Grail Message.

I still believed in a God, but I rejected the gods propounded by other religions, saying they were thought out by their founders. Until one day it occurred to me: “Oge, what makes your god any more real than the other gods you rejected? What if this god is also a figment of your imagination?”  And I said ” the heck with it, I’m done with this God stuff!”

In my experiences, I’ve come to realise that belief in a god or in the tenets of his faith does not make a person a good human being. Human beings will always do what suits them, and say God said … God understands … God approves … I observed that the belief in a god is basically like a crutch, a substitute for mature and healthy coping mechanisms for the vicissitudes of life.

I concluded that I can’t prove the existence/non-existence of this god or gods people talk about. Rather than bother myself with it, I will live my life the best way I know how especially as the belief in God won’t stop me from doing what I decide to do. I will make as many meaningful social connections as I can, and not bother myself with what comes after death. To those who ask me “don’t you think of where you’ll go to after you die?” I respond to wherever I was before I was born!

Here I am today, an apatheist!

• Oge Igboegbunam is a freelance content writer and SEO copywriter living in Lagos, Nigeria. You can read her recent Church and State article “Good Without God: The Life of a Nigerian Atheist” here.

61 responses to “From cult member to apatheist”

  1. Daz says:

    It is true that “jealousy” can mean a kind of protective carefulness. A person may be described as jealously guarding their reputation, for instance. However, Marcus’s assertion that this is the meaning of the usage in question rather flies in the face of “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” while although “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” certainly fits his definition, what God would appear to be protecting in this case is himself and his own ego, not his followers.

    Certainly he’s defined, at least partly, by love. A craven and pathetic self-love.

  2. What Daz mentions are commands derivative of Godly zeal / jealousy. He already said it: jealously guarding reputation.

    No other Gods is basically what we now call brand recognition. If there really is a greater god, the command is petty ego. But if there truly is no greater God—it’s brand recognition. Nike sues knockoffs constantly. God simply says “recognize game”…name.

    It’s the same with not taking his name in vain. Think of a decent dad. People know not to —- with you when he’s around. But you need to know not to —- with Him either. The more you keep that in mind…the more likely you are to keep it peace with even a patient father. Respecting a good dad who can actually kick —-…his name, his brand, what he can do—is foremost just right if he’s looking out for you. Moreover it keeps you in the proper state of mind, that even though he loves you…

    Ultimately he doesn’t need your respect, because if you disrespect him enough—he’ll get it.

  3. remigius says:

    “…that would involve the chain of progression from the origin, through the fossil record, to the present.”

    It depends on what you mean by origin. If you mean the first form of life on Earth – it would be such a primitive orgasism that it’s age and characteristics would probably preclude its appearance in the fossil record.

    Some biogenic carbons have been found (approx 3-4 billion years old) but we don’t know whether they are the first ever life forms.

    If, however, you mean the common origin of of all species of life ‘through the fossil record, to the present’ – then yes we do have such a record. It’s in our genomes.

    We can trace our ancestry back to the common ancestor of all life on this planet.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_universal_common_ancestor

  4. Remi…in court they use a principle called chain of custody—without which evidence like firearms are completely inadmissible. Chain of custody documents the actual progression of a piece of evidence from the crime scene to the courtroom on the day it’s presented at trial.

    I appreciate what you said, but I need the evidence itself in the fossil record. They don’t have the evidence in the generic biological genome—they still don’t completely understand the human genome.

    I’ve heard for years that “we have it,”but you won’t find a link producing it for a single bird…fish…mammal…

    I appreciate you being serious though.

  5. remigius says:

    Marcus, if you are expecting such a ‘chain of custody’ in the fossil record – it simply isn’t there.

    But as you will no doubt be aware not all evidence needs chain of custody. Witness testimony is admissible evidence but we don’t put witnesses in a plastic bag with a date code.

    The fact that fossils exist is evidence that those creatures existed. The fact that genomes of all living things carry information about it’s lineage is proof enough.

    And yes I was a lawyer too.

  6. …then, bro…you know the difference between crossing an expert and a lay-witness. A lay-witness’ testimony carries no weight in scientific matters—because it lacks the objective credentials.

    The chain of custody for the evolutionary chain of a single complex life form would objectively end the discussion—but it doesn’t exist. Which is why none of you all have been able to link it here, man.

    If it existed they would have simply taught that to us—and spent less time teaching us to ridicule competing belief systems.

    Best evidence rule, man: the best evidence of a thing is the thing itself…not the competing assertions about it.

  7. remigius says:

    “…the best evidence of a thing is the thing itself…not the competing assertions about it.”

    And that evidence has to be interpreted or it is of no value to the case. As you know, most criminal cases are founded on circumstantial evidence. These include DNA, fingerprints, GSR, etc. They alone are not proof of guilt but are evidence from which guilt may be inferred.

    Likewise the fossil record is not proof of evolution but evidence from which evolution can be inferred, and to a very high probability – much higher than the burden of proof required in a criminal case.

    The ‘evidence’ for any of the creation myths would not satisfy even the lower burden in civil proceedings.

  8. We can agree to disagree…I’m especially inclined to do so now b/c it’s bedtime. I’ll take this parting shot though:

    whether it’s the fossil record or the human genome, none of you produced the “substantiated proof” linking us to the beginning, wherever that is—and that’s typically the knock on Christianity…belief without conclusive evidence.

    My point is fundamentally: mutual respect. I think that we’ve at least approached that. I could be wrong, but…

  9. remigius says:

    Goodnight Marcus. Don’t forget the library tomorrow.

  10. …lol…Goodnight!

  11. Edwin Salter says:

    Reappears corrected – remigius – goes to show…
    While here – Marcus – you could look (if only for curiosity of argument) at how something as surprising as the human eye has evolved (and been approximated to independently) – and your most ancient genes evidence our origin in Earth life generally (noting that life could have arrived here)- there are so many evidences of continuity .. evolution (several theories prior to natural selection) was convincing enough even before the genetic mechanism was known.
    Back to the sensible conclusions of Oge I.