Five Bells And A New Journey
A lot has happened in my life but some really hit me hard in my faith. The hardest I was hit was when my mother got sick. Pastor after a pastor was brought in to pray for her recovery and each only kept giving spiritual excuses as to why she was not getting well. My mother herself had been a very strong Christian all her life and was really engulfed in her church work. She was the one to lead us in prayers at home and her prayers were deemed to be dearer to God because she kept all the commandments. The doctors did their best and she is still with us, albeit still living with dementia. That rang the first bell.
I became friends with a Muslim man and in the course of our regular chats, I told him that I found his religion very practical and I would have loved to be part. My only hesitation was that Islam doesn’t accept that Jesus died for us. He smiled and asked what I gained from that? I responded that I gained forgiveness of sins. Then he asked, “So you have an earthly father who knows how to forgive you when you offend him but serve a God who requires blood in order to forgive you? Then you turn around to say your God loves you more than anyone else? We Muslims believe God is most merciful and can forgive us when we offend him.” That rang the second bell.
I started thinking through what was happening at church, the fact that explanations were constantly being given for why miracles were not to be expected. Meanwhile, we were made to recite scriptures and creeds which implied that God was always on standby to answer us when we called. We could go for all nights and the head pastor could come at dawn and make it look like he was doing us a favor by coming to finalize the prayer with us. One time he made a comment along the lines of “Not all of us are hungry oo…Some of us are just here to help you so if I ask you to stand and pray and you sit and stare at my face then it’s your problem.” I really felt insulted because we had been standing for over 8 hours and he just came and was upset some of us were seated. I was not seated but I was upset he spoke to those sitting that way. The third bell rang.
Another time, the pastor comes to the church service and speaks very harsh words about one of his junior pastors who had left to focus on his own church. It was like he was being cursed and I kept asking myself, are we not doing the same work? Why are you so miffed if one of yours decides to go do the same work elsewhere? Later, I realized it was that junior pastor who had the “prophetic powers”. The head pastor and all his associates were just noisemakers. He could bring 10 pastors for one service to replace what the junior prophet used to do and not even one “prophecy” would come. All they made us do were gymnastics. Different styles and poses for different prayers and big English words. At a point, he even tried to force his son on us as a prophet but still…no prophecy. Now I hear he has changed his title from prophet to reverend. I quit. The fourth bell had been rung.
I decided to give religion one last try and went to focus on an Orthodox Church. No miracles. Just creeds and words of hope. Soon after, they started comparing themselves with charismatic churches and criticizing them, but copying them. It becomes apparent that there was a bigger driving force than salvation. In my many travels, I have come across Muslim countries with a very different approach to life. That was when I started thinking. How could Muslims be so prosperous when my Christian country is so backward. So I started having some conversations with a Muslim friend who apparently was just in the religion for family’s sake but had a different perspective towards life. He pointed me to a few people critical of religion and asked me to listen to their arguments. Those were just the blows I needed to realize that religion was a scam. The final Bell had been rung.
Serendipity strikes and I found more friends who were also battling with similar thoughts. One thing leads to another and we found the Humanist Association of Ghana, which provided a space to explore living without religion further.