Friday, June 18, 2010

Losing My Religion

My name is Anthony C. Okafor. The "C" stands for "Chukwuebuka", which in the Igbo language of Nigeria, means "God Is Great". This is now very ironic to me, now that I'm atheist. But my journey towards atheism means more to me than some religious middle name. I was born on June 9th, 1989 in Awo-Omamma, Nigeria, in a Christian-run village hospital. I came over to the States when I was just a year old. I mention this because I highly doubt i would be who I am if I had grown up in Nigeria. Between the ages of 4 and 18, my education was achieved almost exclusively from Catholic schools. My beliefs were impacted greatly when my parents sent me back to Nigeria in Sept 2004 to complete my Sophomore year of High school. It was here where, in my mind, something was telling me "There can't be a god. It's impossible". This school took prayer seriously, since it was a "junior seminary" school. I constantly wouldn't see the purpose of praying multiple times a day. 'Why can't we just pray in our dorms", I said to myself. Those who wouldn't show up on a constant basiswere brought out and flogged by the seminarians in front of everyone.

After that ordeal, I returned to NJ in Sept 2005, where I met a self-proclaimed Agnostic, named Joey Montefusco. I asked him "What is agnosticism"? He told me "Basically, i believe in a higher power. Just not any that belong to any religion" I was relieved. This was a smart guy who seemingly had questioned his faith in Christianity. I assumed this because his mom was Puerto Rican and his dad was Italian. So, I started questioning my own faith and questioning the sisters who taught at my new school, the now shut-down Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Newark, NJ. I remember one of the Sisters discussing her weight in the class, saying "I've always been overweight. I guess God created me this way". I almost laughed out loud in class when she said this. I couldn't believe someone could attribute unhealthy behavior to a higher power. It also bugged me to see some of the most immoral students (by Christian standards) those dealing with pre-teen pregnancies as young as 10 years old, bringing weed to school to smoke afterwards, having sex in a room across from the Sister's office,dealing drugs, claiming gang "sets", mostly either Latin King, MS 13, or Bloods. Yet, these people 10 times out of 10 would say that I was going to hell for even questioning the existence of a God. Even though I never told anyone, I was sure that would be the reaction.

I realized that there was just too much hypocrisy among the "Christians" for any of their beliefs to be factual. So, I decided to try and make faith more personal. Around this time, I stopped attending church, mostly because the pastor, Fr. George Faour, seemed to preach all too much like the Westboro Baptist Church, than like a Lebanese former Wall Street hedge fund manager who "had a calling from God" to be a priest instead. As time went by and I started reading the Bible, i realized that God was a little too human to be almighty (resting after many days of work "Creation) and a little too petty (First 3 commandments deal with him) to be a higher power. How could his "infallible word" have so many huge holes in it, including him breaking his own commandment (the 6th) with his encounter with Noah)? So, I had the same thoughts I had in Nigeria "There's no god. You only have one life to live. Live your life for others." From this point on, I had become an Atheist. I no longer believe in anything without proof. Obviously, my parents have a problem with this. My mom has threatened to kick me out and disown me if I came out and admitted it to her face. These are supposed to be people filled with "God's Love"?!?! I have devoted my life for others, not to chalk up celestial points in preparation for "Rapture" as I once did. I do good things because it benefits society for us to be good and humane to each other and our animal brethren. This is me. This is why I'm Atheist.