I remember vaguely that she was lying on the bed reading a book with many pages. She seemed to be concentrating. I asked her, “Aunty what is this book you are reading”? She replied “the Bible”. “What is the Bible”? I asked. It is “God’s word” she responded. I must have been 8 or 9 years old at the time. That was my first conscious encounter with religion.
All previous encounters had been passive, unconscious, and insignificant. I took personal interest in this Bible and began to read it. I was deeply fascinated as I found a new transcendent consciousness which I never really experienced before. However, I was soon to abandon this new found interest being a child. I picked it up again at the age of 12 when my foster parents began to couple their attendance at an orthodox church (Catholic) with a Pentecostal church. A new wave of Pentecostalism was sweeping Nigeria, gaining a critical mass since the late 1970s through the early 1980s. In the year 1989, I became a born again Christian, a brand of Christianity that grew in power and numbers like wild fire in the dry season in Nigeria. Having a simple and sincere disposition I followed the teachings of this religion.
When I attained puberty I struggled with sexual desire, feelings of guilt, and self-repression. My impression was that the human was vile and corruptible, as was reinforced by repeated sermons. I pursued morality without a basic awareness of what is, but to please God in order to get a reward, which was immediate blessings and ultimately heaven, and to avoid punishments or curses, with the worst being eternal damnation in hell. As I began to grow older, approaching adolescence, I sought for my own personal experience of the stories I read about in the Bible. Miracles of the age to come, the supernatural, and eschatology became obsessions. I knew that I had no experiential knowledge of these things. I wanted evidence to validate my dogmatic reality--a reality that was capricious and based on only what I had read and heard from humans like myself. I had to. I had no alternative. It was the only worldview I had and it was becoming unstable and troubled with doubt. But how could I doubt it? How dare I reject my worldview? Instead, I looked for evidence to support and reinforce it more.