“There’s a Trick to the Graceful Exit…

… It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over – and to let go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its value.”

– Ellen Goodman

The time has come for Miss Devi to make her graceful exit from the internet. I will no longer be writing posts or moderating comments on this blog. However all the archives will remain intact for, well, posterity. It’s been a great journey and I find it oddly appropriate that both the first and last posts of this blog were written in the month of April.

When I started this blog, I’d been an atheist for about six months or so. I craved an outlet for all the things I was discovering. This blog has been instrumental in my journey and maturity as an atheist. I mean maturity in the sense that my atheism is a part of me, but not the backbone of my existence. However, for as long as I am still breathing, I am still growing and learning and discovering.

If you would like to reach me, you may email me at iamakenyanatheist at gmail.com. However, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not an address I check regularly and it may take me a while to get back to you. Hopefully though once we begin communicating, I may be able to arrange a meet-up (even if it’s just a virtual one) where the actual person behind Miss Devi will be revealed. Personas can get a little stifling, if I say so myself. 🙂

Until then, stay safe and keep discovering.

☆ Miss Devi

 

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Weddings, Baptisms and Other Atheist Problems

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Happy 2013!! Hope you all enjoyed your holidays and spent some quality time with the people you love. 🙂 I spent mine in a charming little farmhouse far away from the city with what has to be the most gorgeous view in the country. If you suspect that I’m a little unhappy to be back, you would be right. Ah, well. Onto the next one, I guess.

You know, it seems I lull myself into a false sense of security in my atheism every so often, the kind where I somehow convince myself that it really isn’t that big a deal that I’m an atheist. Hell, I can go for weeks on end without a single atheist thought crossing my mind. It becomes just another aspect of my reality, the same way I’m female, or Kenyan, or whatever other mundane little thing that could be used to describe me. Then something happens that makes me think, “Holy shit. I’m an ATHEIST! And someday that’ll make things pretty unpleasant for me.”

Baptism_image_2I’ll explain. This past month was rather eventful for my family, with weddings and christenings and other miscellaneous activities that tend to have a religious twist. Naturally I started thinking about how on earth I would pull off a non-religious wedding or what I would say to my folks when they ask why my kid hasn’t been baptized yet. Trust me, there’s nothing quite like hearing your father give a passionate lecture on the evils of garden weddings (because they’re not performed in the sanctuary of the Lord) to make you dread your wedding day. I mean, there’s no way that’ll turn out well. I don’t even want to think about baptism questions, especially since in the Catholic faith (in which my parents are devout believers) baptism is an all-important event that should be done in infancy.

At the end of the day, family is extremely important to me. I would hate for there to be a rift in my family because of these things, because they are pretty silly things to fight about.

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I mean, can’t two people just get married, for fuck’s sake? Does it really matter where those vows are said or who officiates the ceremony or whether small round pieces of unleavened bread are eaten at some point during the day in the name of receiving communion? I mean REALLY? And can’t children be born without their parents being harassed to have a ceremony during which water is sprinkled on the baby’s head in the name of some god? Can’t we just be happy that two people have found love and/or that new life has been formed? Where is the love, people? 😦

I’m curious. Has anyone been in any of the situations above or anything similar? How did you deal with it?

The IAKA Project: Meet Chris

1. Introduce yourself.

I’m Chris(topher) Wachira  aka Biggie/ Big Smoke. I’m proudly Nairobian and a 19 year old music and humor fanatic.

 2. What’s your atheism story?

I don’t really think I found atheism and to quote a great man, “We’re all born atheists, religion is a choice imparted mainly by tradition and culture of the society.”

I was actually a really good Christian (almost like a saint); I had read the entire Bible by age 13 and was even in a TV church choir. I remember one day I stole some coins and the guilt enveloped me. It was one of those situations where coming clean would make things worse. Funny enough, when I was repenting and reading the Bible I came across the story of Job. I had heard it a hundred times before but for the first time I really read between the lines. The first reaction that came to my mind was, “That’s it? God does all this narcissistic bullshit and then leaves Job to live like nothing happened. This is the guy I worship?’”

Long story short, I used the cash to buy candy and never looked back. Not that stealing is okay, but my guilt was far rested. The entire process of denouncing religion actually came from reading the Bible, Quran and about Mormonism.

3. What were your best and worst “coming out” moments?

My worst coming out moment is when my Dad told it to everyone in a family gathering and they all gasped and started calling it a phase or an excuse to ‘sin’ (unfortunately, this was around the first time I started smoking, drinking, dating, piercing and tattooing).

4. Atheism can be very lonely. Do you have an atheist/ skeptic social support system? Are you in any atheist/ skeptic forums or groups? Which ones?

I only go to Facebook for the page called “The thinking Atheist.” It is more than just atheists ripping on theists. They introduced me to Hitchens, Dawkins, Pascals’ Wager and other intellectual atheists and philosophers. I unfortunately have no atheist friends and I constantly have to keep it to myself to avoid fights and losing more friends.

Atheism is not the inability to comprehend religion,it is the ability to comprehend reality and see through the bullshit.

The IAKA Project: Meet Samuel

1. Introduce yourself.

Hi my name is Samuel Kim, I just turned 25 as you can tell from the name I’m male, I live in Nairobi area and I’m a web developer.

2. What’s your atheism story?

Ever since I can remember I had a problem reconciling religious beliefs and the reality we live in but it’s been over a year now that I have identified as an atheist.

3. What were your best and worst “coming out” moments?

I’ve only come out to my mom and one of my friends. I still don’t think they’re taking me seriously but other than them no one else close to me knows.

4. Atheism can be very lonely. Do you have an atheist/ skeptic social support system? Are you in any atheist/ skeptic forums or groups? Which ones?

As soon as I started to identify as an atheist I went straight to good ol’ Google and did some research about atheists in Kenya and Africa as a whole that’s how I found your site. I joined a group of Kenyan atheists on Facebook and the discussions there are awesome.

5. Wild card.

One of the issues I still can’t get over (we should have a discussion on a national level about this) is how the Catholic Church got away with removing 3 very educational books that I personally think show the youth the reality of the world they live in from the school system.

Shame On Me

Aplologies, readers.

I generally do a bit of a crap job of keeping up with my mail. To be specific, my iamakenyanatheist @ gmail.com mail. I check my personal and work emails almost obsessively, but for some reason I check my Miss Devi mail sporadically at best. So for those awesome readers that actually send me mail, I am really sorry that they’ve gone unanswered for shameful lengths of time.

In related news, it was with pure, unadulterated delight that I logged into my Miss Devi email account a few minutes ago and found not one but TWO IAKA Project submissions. A big massive shoutout to Samuel and Chris, whose IAKA stories you shall be reading about shortly. 🙂

Ni hayo tu kwa sasa.

P.S: Who begins a blog post with “Apologies, readers”? 😀

Atheist Adventures in University

So, as I’m sure many of you are aware, I am a university student here in Nairobi. For the most part, I like my university. I mean, sure, there are some things about it that I’d change, but I have a mostly good relationship with the institution. However, this relationship has been somewhat threatened this semester. You see, my university is Catholic. And before you all collectively facepalm and wonder why on this green earth a self-professed atheist would knowingly and willingly enroll in a Catholic institution of higher learning, I’d just like to say that it really is a good university. Good facilities, great lecturers, solid reputation. And, it being university, nobody forces you to attend Mass or any such thing. The thing is, Catholic institutions do tend to offer a really good education.  But damn if they won’t find a way to sneak their beliefs into the curriculum.

Case in point: this semester, we have a charming new unit, deceptively called “Philosophical Anthropology”. It’s really just Catholic theology, where we are taught all about things like life after death and human sexuality with a strictly Catholic  twist. They won’t come right out and say that the unit is based on Catholic teachings, but the course text was written by a Catholic priest, for crying out loud. Plus I’ve been in enough Catholic institutions to smell that bullshit from a mile away. The unit isn’t optional, so I am stuck with it until the end of the semester. On the up side, it will provide for some pretty interesting blogposts, methinks. 🙂

Another thing: this past week, a prominent CEO gave a talk on campus. The secret to his success? A relationship with God, of course. To be honest, I enjoyed his talk. He is a great man: humble, intelligent, humourous and obviously very good at what he does. I didn’t even mind the Biblical references in his talk overmuch, because those are his beliefs and I respect his right to have and express them. But I still can’t quite decide how I feel about people who have great careers/ lives/ marriages and insist that the secret to a great career/ life/ marriage is God. Hmm…

P.S: You’ll notice that I withheld the name of my university. That’s mostly because I wouldn’t want this blog to be associated with it. Also, I am trying to maintain some degree of anonymity. But I do think it’s fairly obvious which university I’m talking about if you know me or know something about Kenyan universities and/or can Google worth half a damn. However, if it really bugs you and you simply must know the name of this fine institution for whatever reason, drop me a line on iamakenyanatheist @ gmail.com and I might tell you. 🙂

She’s Alive!

Where “she” refers to me, of course. 🙂

I am back from my unannounced hiatus, and while I am sorry I haven’t posted in so long, the truth is I can’t promise this won’t happen again. That said, I have decided to try to diversify my content a little, because there really is only so much you can say about lack of religion. Still, even while I expand the subject matter of this blog, I promise not to bore you all with the finer details of my life (also, as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, my privacy is something I value). 🙂

Well, I have been doing pretty well these past couple of months. The most interesting thing by far that has happened is that I seem to have slipped and landed in this crazy little thing called love. I am informed that it happens to the best of us, so I’m taking it in my stride. 😀

For anyone who might be wondering, he isn’t an atheist. He was raised Catholic, but is now more of a pantheist (although he’s not particularly concerned with labels). I was completely honest about my atheism from the very beginning, and you may be pleased to note that he neither fell off his seat in shock nor ran for the hills, never to be heard from again.

This may be a biased opinion, but he really is an all-round amazing guy, and it was a match made in geek heaven. He is the CSS to my html. 😀

Moving on to a subject I rarely talk about: politics. Am I the only one who’s thinking this Peter Kenneth guy may be onto something? I spent quite some time yesterday investigating him and I think he just might be what Kenya needs. Something that struck me was this quote from his website:

I am not a career politician; I have been in the field for less than 10 years. Short enough to avoid the corrupting influences of power but long enough to know that Kenya’s problems can be solved and how they can be solved.

It made quite an impression because I am convinced that the longer you’ve been in Kenyan politics, the harder it is to avoid corruption. Some useful links:

Meet Joseph Wahome, A Kenyan Atheist

Introduction:

Hi there. I’m Joseph Wahome – businessman, venture capitalist, writer and, at one time in the hazy past, a choreographer. Somewhere along my time-path, as I’ll soon explain, I deconverted from Christianity, and came to embrace such philosophical perspectives as humanism, utilitarianism, empiricism and, generally speaking, free thought. The world, at large, opened up to me, and my insatiable curiosity had me researching all manner of spiritual stances in humankind. I have, over time, come to interact with many hues and tones of theism, atheism, philosophical and methodological naturalism and, in one or two instances, such peripheral perspectives as the Gaia philosophy. I now write a lot on such topics on such platforms as Facebook and my personal website. My Facebook url is www.facebook.com/beyondephemera. I’ll provide the url to the website as soon as it looks presentable :-).

Journey to atheism:

I tell people that, often, the process of deconversion starts with a subjective phase of cognitive dissonance. This was the case for me, at least. Towards my mid-teenage years, I found myself getting more and more dissatisfied with the information and perspectives that my Christianity was affording me. I’d experience, or read about, events or phenomena that simply crashed with the ideal world painted in religions. Every so often, my naïve perspectives, as nurtured by my religious beliefs, would be laid out bare, as reality, in its absolute, immutable ways, sought to express itself. It was about then that I started asking questions.

There were questions about origins of existence, about the meaning of existence, and about the destiny of existence. There were questions that spanned from metaphysics to philosophy, from cosmology to quantum physics, and from neurology to psychology. In all these, I sought answers to what questions, I presume, must surely occur to each and every individual, at one time or another in this life. Woefully though, I gradually came to realize that, despite myself, these questions were steadfastly creating a cognitive gulf between me and my religious beliefs. I found my religious beliefs inexorably becoming less intellectually fulfilling. Simultaneously though, science, in its many flavors, became more and more satisfactory.

One day, I came across the concept of atheism. It’s strange, but on that very day, I finally found a perspective, shared by certain other people across the world, that was profoundly resonating with my very psyche. I began researching on this new concept, and read voraciously on very many disciplines that were even remotely related to atheism. To my heart-felt joy, I came to realize that, in fact, there was a perceptual path through life that not only provided fulfilling answers to my questions, but that also pushed me towards ever loftier levels of enlightenment, day by day. I came to realize that atheism was a journey… one that offered new adventures, new experiences, new opportunities to be noble and humane, every single day. I came to treasure – nay, guard jealously – the one gift that atheism offered: that of a truly liberated mind.

Since the actual period of my deconversion, many seasons have passed. I have, in the meanwhile, acted upon the new perspectives that atheism inherently spawns. I have formed bonds with other people that are based not on some ethereal ideas about the hereafter, but upon the very realization that this very life, that we currently have, is the only one that we are guaranteed about. Giving up upon this earthly life, for the promise of a hereafter, is like ignoring a physical sanctuary, and instead going for the shadow that it casts in the daylight. Because of this, I live for the now, plan for the tomorrow, and strive to remain on that willowy path that the concept of universal utilitarianism necessarily draws.

Best and worst coming out moments

For some reason, I have never really suffered adversely from my decision to deconvert. If anything, my deconversion has proven, over the years, to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever had. If prosperity and fulfillment are the gauges of a life well-lived, I’d say that, undoubtedly, my best memories, and my most cherished moments in life, happened after I became an atheist. I even came to discover that, quite counter-intuitively, prophesying my atheism to my friends rarely affects our friendship in any way. I guess that how atheism is viewed depends a lot on how the individual atheist packages it. Most of my friends, some of whom are deeply religious, know that I am an atheist, but this rarely taints our interactions.

The one single incidence that has forever stuck in my mind, from my coming out phase, was one which involved a theologian. We had had a long discussion when, out of the blue, the theologian said: “You know what, perhaps your particular perceptions make you more real than most other people. You have no reason to pretend or hide behind some religious statements. I, for instance, can rest assured that you don’t have some hidden cards in your sleeves, and that you speak your heart.”

Indeed.

Loneliness in atheism

I’ll paraphrase an earlier statement here: that the essential nature of atheism can be packaged in a myriad ways. How the individual atheist relates with fellow human beings is a matter of personal uniqueness. Ergo, relationships with other people can either become better after the atheist comes out, or the relationships can wither out. The one thing that is universally valued by all human beings is just how real, and unpretentious, a person is, regardless of religious persuasions. And because of this, I’d say that suffering loneliness in atheism says more about the individual atheist, than it does about atheism in general. It is possible to be an atheist, and still live a normal, fulfilling life with theists, since ideally, atheism doesn’t define the man. In the final analysis, all humans share and value such concepts as love, humility, integrity, honesty and happiness, and we can all relate at that level.

Final words

The odyssey of atheism meanders through all aspects of humanity: from the psychological foundations to the cognitive paradigms, and from the sociological dimensions to personal image and self-esteem. It is an odyssey that, currently, is experienced by a minority in the human race. And yet, those few people who do embrace atheism, and its close cousins, such as secularism and rationalism, often live to prophesy the virtues of these perspectives. But, even more importantly, atheists often end up living exemplary lives, and become living proof that there are undeniable advantages related to deconverting. For, while most people spend their earthly lives chasing after shadows and unseen specters, atheists settle for what is empirical, verifiable… and humane.

Meet Nelson Ondari, A Kenyan Atheist

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to all of you our first interviewee for The IAKA Project, somebody who has over the past few months become a personal friend of mine. Meet Nelson! And check out his blog here.

Introduce yourself.

My name is Nelson Ondari, also known as Chowder (popular cartoon; I know, I refuse to grow up). My mum used to call me Mandela but I quit using the name, too cliché. I am twenty three years of age and fresh off campus. Professionally I am a psychologist but philosophically I espouse many tenets such us freethought, Buddhism, atheism and igtheism.

What’s your atheism story?

As for my comprehensive atheism story, check out this link.

What were your best and worst “coming out” moments?

It’s not easy coming out as an atheist in Kenya. We all know how religion and particularly Christianity is entrenched in the Kenyan culture. My mum is a very staunch Christian and I have to confess that she is yet to be aware of my belief (or lack of). I am just scared of hurting her and how the news will affect her. One day it will inevitably come up and I will speak my mind then.

I can’t say that I have had a worst moment when coming out as an atheist. I have never been a staunch believer, I rarely used go to church even when I was still a Christian and as result I never had close friends in my Christian circle of friends. That made it quite easy for me to break away from the religion. However, I lost quite a number of Christian friends when I started posting anti-religious sentiments on Facebook. Other than that I have had no major negative reactions for my atheism apart from the few you-will-burn-in hell’s from the faithful.

Atheism can be very lonely. Do you have an atheist/ skeptic social support system? Are you in any atheist/ skeptic forums or groups? Which ones?

Being an atheist can be in deed lonely, this is not only limited to Kenya but to the rest of the world. I have read horror stories of mothers who have denounced their kids on finding out about their lack of belief. People have been harassed and sometimes even assaulted just for being atheists. It is especially hard when you are scared to even talk about your lack of belief for fear of negative reactions from your family, your friends and work colleagues. This alone has kept many atheists in the closet in Kenya and elsewhere. I have had my lonely moments; luckily I started a Facebook group (funny story) which later morphed into a freethinkers group with loads of atheists as well. (The group is FIKA – Free Thinkers Initiative of Kenya, which also has a website.) This has since acted like a social support of sorts to me. Here I am free to express my atheism without fear of reprisal or vilification.

I am also in the Kenyan Atheists Group (it’s dormant though) and The Kenyan Free Thinkers group (albeit with reservation). I am also an avid reader of Miss Devi’s blog The A-Word which addresses a myriad of topics affecting atheists in one way or the other. I think she is doing a brilliant job and would love to see more talented atheist writers doing what she does; we need all the intellectual voices we can get.

Wild card.

Hmmm, what to say. Well, being an atheist and a non-believer has led me to meet the most brilliant minds in Kenya; I have forged true friendships with true friends who share the same passions as me. I have met atheists and freethinkers who honestly want to see a better Kenyan society free of religious infringement in the public sphere, religious sanctioned hate and discrimination and a Kenya where secular ideals reign. I find it ludicrous when some Kenyans think and say things like “Atheists are immoral”, I just wish they would meet more people like me (tooting my own horn), Miss Devi and the rest of the lovely people I have met who don’t believe in god but still have the warmest hearts. I would like to see atheists and skeptics uniting all over Africa and indeed I am involved in such a project. Atheists and skeptics in Kenya need to realize that we are a small minority and that we are all we got. I honestly think that this is the best decision I made in my life.

When I am not busy making noise about how god is non-existent I also have a life. Although I am a text book geek, I also do fun things like playing chess(most would argue on the validity of that statement), skating (roller blades and roller skates)… so yeah there is more to life than atheism as most fail to realize. Atheism to me is the ultimate freedom, with no prospects of hell and no fear of hell I am able to define my life the way I want it to be, I am able to create my own reality. Life is like a game of chess and that the grim reaper always
makes the last checkmate. In this prospect the least one can do is have fun in the meantime. YOLO (which, for the non-savvy internet users, stands for You Only Live Once).

The I AM A KENYAN ATHEIST Project

Inspired by The Out Campaign, I have decided to start a project on my blog. Introducing The I Am a Kenyan Atheist (IAKA) Project.

This project will be in the form of a series of interviews of Kenyan atheists on this blog. The aim of the project is to raise awareness about the fact that atheism is alive in Kenya, and that atheists are perfectly normal people. I also hope that through the project, Kenyan atheists will realize that they are not alone and be able to make connections and form networks with their fellow Kenyan atheists.

Do you want to take part in The IAKA Project? Here are the interview questions (which can be sent to iamakenyanatheist at gmail.com):

1. Introduce yourself.

Here, you can give your name/ nickname, age, sex, location, occupation, or whatever you feel defines who you are. Feel free to provide a photo/ picture/ url, but of course this is completely optional.

2. What’s your atheism story?

I would urge you not to be too wordy. If you have told this story online before and would rather not be repetitive, you can give a link.

3. What were your best and worst “coming out” moments?

As is implied, tell me about any remarkable experiences involving your coming out as an atheist.

4. Atheism can be very lonely. Do you have an atheist/ skeptic social support system? Are you in any atheist/ skeptic forums or groups? Which ones?

Self-explanatory, I think.

5. Wild card.

I give you free leave to be uninhibited. Burning issues, funny stories and/ or witty parting shots all qualify as appropriate wild card material.

UPDATE!!! In the spirit of promoting diversity and creativity, you do not have to adhere to the questions above! You can be as different, creative and uninhibited as you like!