All Atheists Have A Voice; personal stories of coming to atheism and troubles in doing so
How long will religion shackle Ethiopia?
I’m at office in a public institution. There is a female staff listening to Orthodox Christian hymns on a personal computer. Even if a new secular rule bans public workers from doing such acts at the work place, they still do and neutral people will remain disturbed. Requesting her to stop the song would be interpreted as an attack on her religion. At the same place, a male staff was arguing with me on an article I gave him to read : https://atheismafrica.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/becoming-an-atheist-in-ethiopia/comment-page-1/#comment-1170.
Among the points he raised on the importance of religion, I remember these:
A. The parties they get involved in during religious festivals are interesting and entertaining.
B. It is advisable to be a believer to meditate and pray in the church. You tell your woes to God and get relieved. On the contrary, the psychological crises and suicides in the West are caused by religious defiance.
C. Fasting is very good for a healthy life.
D. Religion gives hope to the hopeless.
E. A true religion teaches virtues essential in life.”
Religion has many ardent guards like him in this country.
One day in my sophomore year, my family was about to question me on my beliefs. They had set time for a question and answer session. I heard about that from my sisters. Then, I went to visit my married cousin who lived in our village. I spent the whole day at hers. When I came back home, I found my Mom angry with my disappearance. She asked me where I had been to and I told her. “Your father wanted you asked about your religion and every one of your relatives from my and his side was here.” I showed my anger and went out. I headed to my granny’s and she repeated the same thing. “Now I am at university and I will not come back to this place if you keep forcing me about religion! Can’t I spend my summer vacation in my birth place?” I spoke angrily. My granny, anyways, responded, “We want you follow in your fathers’ footsteps. Why should you go astray? If you believe so, if you insist, what can I say? As our Emperor, Haile Selase, said, your belief is up to you, yet we share the nation as united Ethiopians.” My granny gave me my freedom for the first time. She is the first person in my family to recognize my atheist tendency! If I didn’t have another means to fund my studies at university, they would try to influence me by prohibiting me money. This happened to a certain girl. Hers is to do with conversion from Islam to Christianity. The church people funded her education and kept using the girl as a ‘teaching aid’.
All the ‘rosy’ benefits of religion could work for the believer. As to me, there is a conspicuous gloomy side. Most of the killings in Ethiopian history are attributed to religion. Not only this but also the current unnecessary competitions among religions in Ethiopia are causing the nation a huge loss. Islamic extremism, inter-religious conflicts and decline in quality of education that results from students’ excessive focus on religion are some examples. Instead of focusing on science and development, the nation takes religion as her guide in this desert of poverty and recurrent civil wars. Religious institutions are popping up every day and everywhere. Their followers and converts flock to them one after the other. Should it be schools, hospitals, libraries or other social facilities that should be emerge or churches and mosques? Should we fund religion or science?
Everything in this poor sub-Saharan country is dominated by religious life. The culture has fallen under religion’s firm grips. Indigenous practices are almost forgotten and it could be in some research papers that you read about the past of your country – if you are so lucky. A growing number of children are named after Hebrew or Arabic names – if you name your child in your language, you and your child will be issue of jokes. Christianity and Islam played roles in removing all traces of local arts or culture. What and when you eat is monitored by members of your community. The food is prescribed by generations of ignorant religious leaders. Who are they to prescribe me what I eat! There will be days of long festivals including on streets. Most of the national holidays are religious. The wearing style is affected by religion. Orthodox Christians are expected to wear a string on their necks. Wearing a cross helps you identified as an ardent follower of Jesus. Nostalgia derives people including intellectuals to live the way their ancestors lived millennia ago. All in all, the situation in this country is more or less like Saudi Arabia.
They call the country a Christian island. It is more or less surrounded by Muslim countries. Islam is at loggerheads with Christianity as is elsewhere. Arabs kept interfering in local politics. The question is which religion thrives, not what ideas Ethiopians generate to improve their lives.