Religion is nothing but a crock used by people to fortify themselves against the frightening prospect of death, that chillingly inevitable end of life.
And when death impends, be that at war, in hospital, or on death row, people cling more desperately to that delusion.
Even nonbelievers walk on eggshells when faced with a dying person. We wonder: Is this really a good time to tread on their sensibilities and disabuse them of their crock? Not long ago I found myself in that quandary.
Someone I knew was dying, and I went to her deathbed to pay my respects. She was a woman who respected me as an elder of the Nigerian community in Cleveland.
She was also something of a protégé, having sought my advice repeatedly as she considered the proper advanced-degree path to pursue.
In my days as a scientific educator—when, also, two of my sons were in the university—I had become something of an information resource for my fellow Nigerians on matters like the choice of college to attend and the discipline of study, and especially how to tap into financial assistance programs available to good students and their parents in the U.S.
I chose to visit her when most of her friends and well-wishers would be at work. I was wary of the perplexed reactions of my fellow Nigerians when it became known that I am an atheist.
My friends told me I would come across much better as an agnostic or a pagan than an out-and-out atheist, for Nigerians are often ranked alongside Americans in sheer religiosity—of the pushy and loud sort.
It’s amazing that the very people whom religion has historically oppressed and denigrated the most (i.e. women, Blacks, colonized people) are the ones who cling to it most tenaciously!
The Nigerian media go so far as to estimate that one in three houses in the cities and townships of the Christian south of the country are used nowadays as churches, chapels, temples, tabernacles, or other places of worship.
“Nigerian atheist” is considered an oxymoron. Those who know I was raised a Catholic—and, to boot, an altar boy able to recite the entire Eucharist liturgy in Latin and English—profess themselves baffled by my apostasy.
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