Proselytism or religious conversion was what I went through this past weekend. I had to because I couldn’t take it anymore; I couldn’t take the suffering, the abuse, the ridicule and the innuendoes. It got to me, and so I had to abandon my two-and-half decades of agnosticism-atheism so I can fit into the Nigerian society. You cannot imagine the abuses that came my way when I tell people I don’t do God or Church or any form of religion. The next question is usually, “if you don’t go serve God, what do you serve?” to which I usually answer, “if I don’t serve God must I necessarily serve some other god?”
Even some of my friends, relatives and neighbors have taken to spying on me, watching to see if I have been making midnight or early morning visits to the Shango, the Egbesu, Babalawo or some other shrine thick in the forest. They keep their ears and eyes wide open to see and listen to my visitors — wondering if I have been entertaining marabouts and voodoo priests. My goodness, there must be thousands of people like me in Lagos and all over Nigeria who don’t give a hoot about religion, spiritual matters and about God. There has to be people like who has no use for God. Common, there has to be.
In any case, all that is moot now as I have had to convert to Christianity. My people are happy now. In the weeks before my conversion, I had to decide which of the sects I’d belong to: Cherubim & Seraphim and the Aladura, Jehovah Witness, Olumba Olumba, Seventh Day Adventist, or the Methodist, Redeem, Anglican, Celestial Church of Christ, Catholic or a hundred others. And in fact, I also toyed with the Islamic faith. I decided against Islam because more than half of my Muslim brethrens also attend Church services. I couldn’t figure out why they attend Mosques on Fridays and then Church on Sundays. How strange.
I am almost a full-fledge Catholic now: getting to know about catechisms, the Nicene Creed, the holy trinity, the sacraments, salvation and grace, the Virgin Mary and the rosary and several saints. The Catholics have a lot of tradition, dos-and-don’ts, Creeds, Bishops and Popes and a whole of customs, most of which may or may not have any thing to do with God. But I tell you what: it is a very easy sect to fit into. There is not a lot of bullshit. There is not a lot of talk about born-again, of not committing this or that sin. And even if you committed some of my favorite sins, you can always go to the confessional.
It is like the Mafia folks — they have the proclivity to kill and kill and kill some more, but at the end of the day, they go to the confessional and are clean and whole again. I like that. There is not a lot of talk about burning in eternal fire, about hell and damnation and all that crap. I kind of like the fact that they don’t scare the shit out of people. And you know something? They don’t waste too much time on songs and prayers. The Aladura and the Celestials and the Redeem and other white garment Churches are notorious for that shit: spending hours on end on prayers.
Heck, they pray for and against everything so much so one would think that without such prayers witches and wizards and all sorts of evil principalities would be on the attack day and night night and day. The way they see it, your father or mother or sister or brother could be a witch, or be the one responsible for your failures, headache and body ache and malaria. The spiritual Churches, in my opinion, are peddlers of negativities including fear of the known and unknown, eternal damnation, untimely death, and bad fortunes. These Churches do not encourage or foster the spirit of adventures; they do not encourage and or approve of attributes necessary for one to succeed. For them, it is all about prayers and prayers and more prayers, seeing evil and failure and danger where there is really none. Everybody is under the cloud of suspicion. They are suspicious of everybody and of everything,
Confession — also known as the sacrament, penance, reconciliation — is a big deal in Catholism. After the confession, the priest says, “ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti” translated to mean, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” You absolve me from my sins? Holy Moses, damn, that’s a license to commit more shit! The really heavy-duty sins!
In the follow-up prayer, the priest would say, “Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi, merita Beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, quidquid boni feceris vel Mali sustinueris sint tibi in remissionem peccatorum, augmentum gratiae et praemium vitae aeternae,” which means “May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints obtain for you that whatever good you do or whatever evil you bear might merit for you the remission of your sins, the increase of grace and the reward of everlasting life.” Now you are talking; you are talking: do more damages!
Let me tell you something: hearing those words week after week after week makes me feel good. Whatever I do, however many times I do them, I can always go back for more absolution. Consider last week when I went to the confessional. It was unusually long.
First, I told the priest about all the times I lured all those born-again girls into my room. Come to think of it, most came on their own volition. Some came with their Bibles, others with their sanctified water and perfumes and candles. But really, everything I did, the devil made me do. It wasn’t my fault.
Second, I confessed about all the times I forced most of them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. Now, this part of the confession was especially hard for me as I still have vivid imagination of all those things. If sins are ranked, well, these would be at the top.
Third, I confessed about the times I was a ghost-worker (1976-1979 and 1983-88) at the Federal Ministries of Labor, Works, Finance and Defense. I used the money to buy houses in Ikeja, Apapa and Festac Village.
Fourth, I confessed about the time I was a foot-soldier for political parties, first for the AGPG, then for the NCNC and later for the NPNO and we had to rig elections all over the country so as to meet the 2/3 of 19 requirement.
I also confessed about the time I was in the Police Force and we had to mount legal and illegal road blocks so as to argument our salaries. At first, the blocks were legal, but when we weren’t meeting our weekly quota, we had to do the illegal road blocks, too.
Since my return to Nigeria, I have come to realize that if you are a Christian — any sort of Christian — so long as you claim to be born-again, or if you spice your every sentence with “God Bless You,” “In the name of Jesus…In the name of God,” “Bless You Sister,” or “Bless You Brother” or any such variant, things will be much easier for you.
I am a Nigerian; I am a team player, faithfully going along with the charade. I am a quick learner… May God Bless you for reading my essay.