Since I was a child, I’ve struggled with religion. My parents are Muslim so I was raised with Islam but a lot of my extended family are Christians. It’s almost 50/50. I remember going to church with my grandad at age 6 and the only thing I remember clearly was a massive image of white Jesus. 6 year old me was very confused as I looked around the room taking in the sea of black faces that surrounded me. This was a church in Nigeria and they were praying to a white man. I felt uncomfortable, really out of place. If we were made in the image of God, something clearly went wrong somewhere.
Throughout the years, I’ve had my struggles. I went to Arabic school for almost 14 years until I got kicked out and never bothered to find another one. At this point in my life, I was angry. I was pissed off at my parents for moving me from a place that was, and will always be, truly my home to a foreign country where I felt isolated. I was angry at my older brother for not being someone I could confide in, I was angry at humans for being generally trash. And I was angry at God. I was angry at the fact that a deity that was supposedly all-loving and omnipresent could allow horrific things to happen to me and those around me. At this point I was agnostic. I was at war with God.
At the age of 16, at a gathering at a friend’s house, we were having a conversation about life and death. We’d just lost another comrade and, at this stage, the death of another friend felt like a conversation starter. We pondered on the likelihood of the existence of an afterlife and the possibilities of our fallen soldiers actually scamming their ways into heaven. Kasey, a devout atheist since the age of 6, laughed and said this life we’re in is the only one we’d ever have. I felt a flash of anger, not at her but at the fact that I’d been lied to all my life. Being conscious of the inequalities that exist within society, the thought of an afterlife seemed comforting. After all the suffering we face on earth, we can finally relax and enjoy a peaceful eternal life.
But why did we have to wait till after we die to know peace? Why must we suffer on earth first before we reap the rewards in heaven? Why was life a test? Surely the omnipotent and omnipresent God who created us must already know who’s worthy of heaven. So many things made no sense to me and soon God became a puppet master who enjoyed inflicting pain on his puppets. The idea of a being that would subject any soul to a test as cruel as life sickened me. At that moment, I decided I was done with God but I knew something within me wasn’t quite ready to let go
I met Enzo, possibly one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Enzo was a simple guy. Everything he owned could fit into a medium-sized suitcase. The world was his for the taking. His philosophy in life was simple: the world is mine. What struck me most about him was how different our perceptions of life were. I saw a sadistic world that thrived off the sufferings of those deemed lesser but he saw beauty. Beauty in the struggle, in nature, in other people, in the stars. He taught me a lot about his spiritual views. To him, God wasn’t a being somewhere in the sky watching us fail at life. Instead, God was a force of energy that exists within us all.
All is one and one is all.