JULY 21, 2019
I was raised without religion or any knowledge of what it meant to belong to Christian, Buddhist or Muslim faith. Despite my parents both coming from traditional Christian families, they chose to leave religion up to my sister and me to interpret for ourselves later in life. It wasn’t until I was older when I began to understand each religion and its different connotations. My all-girls-private-Catholic high school education introduced me to Catholicism and other religions. While most of the time I was bored sitting in the chapel, I learned what religion meant to the individuals who practiced their faith.
Fast-forward to July 2019, I have found myself being constantly reminded of religion while in Ghana. Wandering around in Accra I have seen countless posters stating, “if you accept Jesus Christ today you will be saved,” countless advertisements for different churches and multiple decals on the backs of tro-tros that spell out, “God is still in Control,” and “God first” in bold yellow lettering. Religion is seemingly inter-twined into Ghanaian culture.
Before coming to Ghana I knew the nationally recognized religion was Christianity; however, I wasn’t aware of the extent that Christianity has an influence on the culture in certain regions. It is fascinating to see the impact the Christian missionaries had and still have, over the African communities as well as the African American community today. This concept became more apparent to me on my first day at my internship. After filling out paperwork I was introduced to my boss who was surprised and intrigued I did not belong to a specific religion or have a religious background. I explained to him my perspective on religion and my spiritual beliefs despite fearing he may not respect me for not being Christian. His response took me a bit by surprise. He responded with curiosity and asked for more information regarding my beliefs.
In a hushed tone, he revealed he too had many questions regarding Christianity. He described how there was a lot of corruption in his church which motivated him to stop going on Sundays. Similarly, I have noticed some of my friends who were raised to be strictly Christian or Catholic, stray from their own churches for this same reason.
His main issue with Christianity was that there was no proof that they would be “saved.” Despite pastors claiming they will save them from hell and from sin if the individual gave them money to fund the church, my boss saw his wallet being drained with no reassurance of salvation. When he turned to the Bible he found that the stories were so far fetched that he was left with more questions rather than reassurance.
He believed that religion was relative. Despite the bible stating that those who sin should and will face the consequences, those in other religions who have “sinned,” according to Christian faith, have not been punished. For example, it is not considered a sin for Mormons to have multiple wives, yet in Christianity, it is seen as sinful.
My boss described his perspective on religion behind his closed office door so quietly it was barely audible. It was evident he was nervous to share his ambivalent ideas surrounding religion, but it was also clear he wished to talk to someone with a different perspective. Despite making the bold decision to play tennis on Sundays opposed to going to church, he still feared others knowing his religious ambivalence towards Christianity. Perhaps this was heightened due to the fact he is a high-up news editor who thrives off of the respect of his peers and employees. It was interesting how despite both of us being from different backgrounds we were able to have a conversation about our mutual ambivalence towards religious institutions.
During my second week at my internship, I found myself describing to a couple of my coworkers my viewpoint on religion as well. Because I wear a small cross and buddha necklace they were confused about which religion I belonged to. Similar to my boss, they were confused and shocked I didn’t belong to a specific religion. They asked me if I believe Jesus will save me and when I responded no, they responded, “do you not want to be saved?” Unlike my boss, they weren’t budging in their faith. Even though they didn’t agree with me, they made an effort to understand my beliefs and attempted to make sense of this new perspective on religion.
I have found that being religionless in Ghana is very different than being religionless in America. Interestingly enough despite many having doubts about my own personal expression of spirituality and faith, each was very interested in learning about my religious beliefs even if they didn’t agree.