Adult in their hoods, Ep. 3: Understanding Religion
In this episode, I interview Tola, the son of a preacher who was a Christian until 5 years ago when he, in his words, “finally let my heart find its own path”. Tola, now a traditional worshipper, spoke about how the ancestors found him, embraced him and how it’s been the best period of his life ever since. I was in awe of his peaceful spirit the entire time I spent listening to him talk about his journey.
It’s worthy to note that Tola has never met me but when I reached out to him, he was more than willing to get on board and let me share his story. At many intervals in our conversation, he would hesitate because of how sensitive it got and I had to keep saying, “Tola, you need to give me something”, which he did. Bless him! This is a really great piece and I hope you’ll enjoy reading. And while you read, remember to live and let live.
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How would you describe the influence religion had on you while you were growing up?
Tola: I didn’t understand a lot of it and I simply felt out of place. It felt more like a duty than anything else. I was a Christian and I can say that the church didn’t exactly have as much influence on my behavioural while I was growing as much as the people in it. My parents especially. My parents are preachers, both of them great people outside of the church atmosphere that encircled their lives. Growing up in the church, I was a holed up young person.
Like I said, I didn’t understand why I had to be part of church activities like learning how to play drums etc. and so I was in my head a lot. Even after studying the Bible on my own, I had a difficult time understanding the many concepts of Christianity and so I did whatever I was told. I played it by the book. At many points in my life, I dealt with a lot of guilt considering how I had to be the proverbial good boy at all times.
What would you say was your catalyst to that point where your heart started to drift?
Tola: There were several trigger events for me, to be honest. There was a time I dropped out of school in my third year. Because of how upsetting it was for my parents, I left the house for some time, and; it was depressing. There were many dark times that I went through but would like to refrain from talking about them. I can give an idea of what it was generally like though.
Growing up, everyone saw my dad as being the easy-going and spirit-filled preacher. I did too. My mum on the other hand was feisty and rugged, largely because of her unsheltered upbringing. Everyone thought she was the wicked one. However, in recent years, there have been several wake up calls to the fact that it isn’t the case. They were briefly separated at a time. Everyone blamed my mum for leaving us behind and moving on with someone else. Infact, I also did.
However, there is one memory that has stuck with me since I was about 10 years old. I remember that I was terribly ill at the time and I needed to go to the hospital. My mum came home; and asked if my dad could drop us off with his car at the clinic. It was late in the night. My dad refused because of how they had a prior misunderstanding. I remember my mum running to the hospital that night all by herself while she strapped me to her back. I think about that memory a lot. Asides from that, now that I am older, when I think about memories as their child; I realise my mum is a better person, even though people don’t out rightly see it because of her outward demeanour.
I always think about how people generally perceive preachers as faultless; and put them on a pedestal that they don’t often deserve. Before I eventually stopped being a Christian, I went through many phases. I was atheist at some point, then I went to being deist. There was the time when I didn’t even know what to believe in.
Would you have preferred if you had a choice in your own belief while you were younger?
Tola: I don’t know if I would have made the right choice for myself. At that age, I was impressionable and would have simply followed whatever I felt fit. However, I think that if I knew a quarter of what I know now; at the time, I probably wouldn’t have chosen Christianity.
Do you pray?
Tola: Yes, I do. For some reason, I still pray the Christian way. It’s not been easy erasing the years of my indoctrination. Although I am a traditionalist now, not a Christian.
How would you describe your journey to being a traditionalist and how has it been?
Tola: Before now, I used to have this dream that no one could interpret. In the dream, I would be on the ground, hurting. It was a recurring dream but I never really paid attention to it. After trying everything possible, I decided to explore the traditional route. While I was doing that, it just simply felt right to my core and I haven’t looked back ever since. Please, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying one can’t find clarity with Christianity or any other religion. I am sure tons of people have. Personally, I just didn’t.
What I have realised is, we all already have some sort of guide within us and if we paid more attention to it, our lives could be remarkably better. I have since stopped having these uninterpretable dreams. I have also started paying a lot more attention to myself. There is also less guilt in my heart which has been freeing.
Do you ever feel pressure about your decision from family or friends? Do you think you would ever go back to Christianity?
Tola: Firstly, I am pleased with myself in terms of where I am. Also, I am at that age where I don’t think I can bother myself with what anyone thinks or approves of. My mum has been supportive. Most of my friends are Christians but I have been lucky with the bunch I find myself with. They understand and everybody does their thing.
Frankly speaking, I have thought about reverting back to Christianity a few times but I genuinely think it’s the many years of indoctrination that’s still taking its course. I am very happy where I am, I am at peace and that is what matters to me the most. No, I won’t be going back to practicing Christianity. The way I have felt in the past couple of years, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. If it means going to Christian hell, then that’s okay. But I know I can’t possibly go to Christian hell because I don’t believe in any of that anymore.
What would you say about the general perception of Traditionalism among people?
Tola: Traditional religion has been dehumanized a lot. Other than that, I feel that it’s an option people should be more willing to explore. However, I understand that fear has a stronghold on people. Especially, the fear of the unknown. I don’t know if so much can be done to change this perception for everyone. When you’re Christian, nothing else matters. This is pretty much the same for every other world religion. I don’t think people should be forced to practice one religion or the other though; especially children.
Religion is widely used as a tool to raise children to be good. I think there are also other ways to do this. Personally, I would not want to raise my children (if I have any) to practice one religion or the one that I approve of. I would like to let them grow up and become capable of making their own choices from what they’ve learnt, be it Christianity or Traditionalism. Of course, I would be providing them the adequate guidance that is required of a parent.
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