It happened on an evening of ’95, just after dinner in my boarding school. It was the first time, I was witnessing a very heated debate between three Christians and an atheist. The classroom was empty – save for us. We were all in JSS2.
And so I sat, as close as I could, but far enough away should fierce argument give way to frustrated blows. I sat with my face cupped between my palms and I watched, and I listened to both sides.
“Why would anyone in their right mind choose to argue with Isaiah? Much easier to state your case and move on…” I thought.
Isaiah was the atheist – born to Christian parents before he chose atheism. That wasn’t the most unfortunate thing in this case though. The real tragedy (for the sensitive evangelists) who had gone to challenge Isaiah with the ‘Word of God’ was that Isaiah was one of those rare breeds of humans who (quite frankly) had such a high IQ they ought to be banned from school made everyone else look bad. He dusted everyone in everything. Maths, Physics, Language, Social Studies… EVERYTHING. Mr be getting 99/100 while the second best gets 64/100. Yep, he was one of those. He made you look stupid, without even trying.
And so, they argued and raged. Scripture after scripture the Christians threw at Isaiah – impressing the “sin” of atheism and his everlasting burn in hell-fire for “disobeying God”. And without breaking a sweat Isaiah annihilated every argument with logic and science. For good measure, he raised questions about God – and creation through Adam and Eve like who did Kain and Abel gbensh to populate the earth since their parents were the first humans – that the Christians could not answer.
The Christians became angry. It became… less intellectual and more emotional. They became defensive. Soon it became less a debate than it was a spectacle of three shouting over an atheist. God said this, God said that… So, why are you still bearing Isaiah? Leave our Christian name na, devil worshipper… And Isaiah was seated there, still trying to win with logic.
Ah… the many arguments about religion.
Who is the final authority on what God really, really wants?
You see, I didn’t realize until I was older what a unique perspective my parents (and the school they sent me to) gave me. My mother (heaven bless her beating heart) is a staunch Christian, while my late father (God rest his soul) was agnostic.
What’s the difference between an agnostic and an atheist? Well, according to the philosopher William L. Rowe: “An agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God, while a theist believes that God exists, an atheist disbelieves in God”.
Anyways, my father was not an atheist, he was agnostic. He never interfered with our religion (yep, we all took after our mother). A typical Sunday in our home was us (myself, my siblings and mom) dressed in our Sunday Best, while daddy sat at his favourite spot in the compound with his glasses perched at his nose as he read his newspaper. As we digwe-d to him as we walked by him on our way to church, he said only, “bye-bye.” He didn’t stop us, never interfered, and never ever tried to “convert” us to his belief. Just be home safe.
And it went beyond that. We were all sent to a non-religious school (for me 1988-2000; Mayflower, in the era of Tai Solarin) that welcomed all students (the religious, the irreligious and even traditional worshippers kpaa-kpaa like the Sango/Oduduwa/Aiyelala worshippers) as long as they understood that their faith was a personal matter never to be forced upon, nor used to discriminate against another. As such, public religious gatherings and senrenre were expressly forbidden. Once caught breaking this golden rule – express expulsion. Dem fit return the balance of your school fees sef. So, yes… had the atheist and the Christians been caught bickering loudly because of religion, they would all have been sent packing.
Religion itself wasn’t forbidden in my school. It was okay to believe in something. But because it was such a melting-pot of religions, we learnt to live with one another and had a lot to learn from each other. Those of us who believed in something sometimes found ourselves sharing, comparing… while sometimes different sects would challenge themselves (often in the hostels… far away from the school compound) on the facts and fallacies of their faiths.
Choi. See arguments. Most unforgettable are:
- Mohammed versus Jesus (Muslims versus Christians)
- Jesus is not God. (Christians versus Christians). Somehow, they found the concept of Trinity hard to swallow.
- Is Islam a religion of peace? (Muslims versus everyone else) Very brutal argument
- Where Did God come from?
- Catholicism is more paganistic than Christian (Catholics versus other Christians)
- Pentecostals care more about “prosperity” than Christ (Pentecostals versus Catholics.)
- Sufism is not real Islam, Sunni is (Muslim versus Muslim)
- Cele, Hmmmmmmn … (Everyone versus Cele worshippers *insert side-eyes chewing my carrot*)
- There no hell-fire, heaven or God (Atheists versus Christians and the Religious)
- So, are you saying our ancestors, who never heard of Christ before the missionaries came will all burn in hell? (Christians versus free-thinkers).
- Jesus and Mary Magdalene? Were they lovers? (Christians versus trouble-makers) *insert-chuckle*.
- The Bible was written by man, not God (Everyone versus Christians) Choi… see beta argument that day. Eyes were hot!
- “Abrahamic” religious people are highly hypocritical. (Free-thinkers, traditional worshippers versus Christians and Muslims).
Even after all these years, it goes on and on and on. So many arguments about religion. And everyone believes that they are RIGHT. Indeed, they HAVE to make you understand just how RIGHT they are. Never, in my life, have I seen so many people willing to tear another apart just to be the only ones who are RIGHT.
At the end of the day, it is only God that knows who is serving Him. He created us all, and allows the agnostics, the theists and the atheists to thrive. As a religious person, do atheists and others of different religious beliefs bother you? Why, please share? Also, what are the most interesting arguments about God/religion you’ve ever heard/debated on? Please also share. Most importantly, what are the fallacies about God you believe re-reinforce segregation, create crisis, violence, killing and war?
Here are mine, perfectly articulated by N.D. Walsh in his book, The New Revelations; A Conversation with God… In summary, they are:
First, it is the idea that God is so impotent that He needs something to be Himself. Second, the idea that God can fail to get what He needs. Third, the idea that God has separated you (His creation) from Him because you have not given Him what He needs. Fourth, the idea that God still needs what He needs so badly that God now requires you, from your separated position, to give it to Him – or else… Fifth, the idea that God will destroy you if you do not meet His requirements.
Have a truly wonderful Tuesday my lovelies, kisses to you all!
Ps* Aderonke, Davida and Pablo, thank you for last week.