Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. — Karl Marx

The thought that I was following the one true religion is one that was carried on from my childhood straight into my adolescence. It felt good, honestly, now that I think about it. I, by pure chance, was now part of a long line of people chosen to follow a path, the one true path.

As I got older and I got exposed to other religions, other sources of knowledge, the less sense it made. If I was in the ‘one true religion’ didn’t that, by default, denote that everyone was part of the ‘many false religions’? Religion is a thing of faith and belief; how could somebody be wrong and how could I say someone’s religion was false?

I mean, why did Christianity itself have to be true? Fundamentally, everything it had, other religions had too, there really wasn’t anything strikingly different once you stripped it all down. Who was to say the Muslims weren’t right? Or maybe the Buddhists have it or the Baha’i even. And to them, they were worshipping the ‘one true religion’ and I was the one who was worshipping the false religion. Either way, I was an unbeliever to someone.

This idea of rightness, this belief that somehow the religion you are in is infallible and must be followed by all is one of the most damaging and dangerous lines of thinking and we see proof of this in our own history. Men, women and children dying over wars about faith and belief with the goal of conversion. When does it end?

We have schools, universities built upon this stupid narcissistic thought. That somehow, the world would be better off with more Christians. That people would be happier if they embraced the Christian teachings, that this is the one true way and everything else is nothing but yet another path to eternal damnation.

The religion I was born in was an accident, much like the language I ended up speaking. Most people don’t even know much about the religions they’ve been following, they go through all their lives coming in contact with only material that confirms their own beliefs. They only watch, read, experience things that correspond to their faith, damning anything else as ‘heretic’ or even ‘satanic’.

But how can you make a decision, one as big as your religion, without even looking at all the options you have? How does it make sense that you follow a religion you were born with, not because of anything much but simply because it’s the only thing you’ve ever known?

The issues I have with the Christian teachings are the ones I think about the most. Why are homosexuals, other human beings, detested for no reason over a quote in a book? Why is it that when someone is converted from another religion to Christianity, they are referred to as ‘saved’? Saved from what exactly? The horrible notion of another religion apart from your own?

Why do people even have to be ‘converted’ anyways? Isn’t everyone better off on their own, to find their own path without being coerced into Christianity with the thought of hell? Within Christianity, we have everything from Catholics to Pentecostals to Seventh Day Adventists, who is the right one? Who’s following the one true path in the one true religion? Are Muslims going to hell? Do you have to be a Christian or a good person to go to heaven? If we are meant to be all loving why do we hold so much hate for people with contrary lifestyles, beliefs and ideas? Anyways, isn’t Christianity even a western religion and more or less a powerful ideological tool that was used to colonise us? Keep us all under the umbrella of a common religion?

And then, we have the pastors. In Nigeria, it is impossible to deny the problem these men and women pose. Here, we have emissaries of God himself who claim to have divine instructions from the Almighty and can therefore not be challenged. These are people who have clean clothes, eat as many times as they like, roll in private jets while their own congregations are left to starve and die. Sixty percent of our people are absolutely poor and yet these men and women are able to live comfortably, using money their own doctrines say is the root of all evil. Money they’ve only been able to amass from the masses they have deceived. I’ve written on this topic before in Five Steps on How to Become a Stereotypical Nigerian Pastor and Letter to my Pastor.

I think about this a lot and I’m still trying to find what the truth is within myself.

But the more I look, the more I think that maybe, just maybe, the one true religion doesn’t exist.

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.