An Atheist Letter to God

An Atheist Letter to God

Dear God,

I am not exactly sure who I am writing this to, or if there is that someone at all, but if there really is an almighty Lord, hopefully, I will find out someday. The intent of this piece seeks not just mention my doubts, but to also acknowledge my open mind and uncertainty of anything divine. I contemplate these things every day. I am persistently looking for an answer no living creature has ever known, and most likely, will never know. Often, the search seems hopeless. It’s easy to become a nihilist. I might find out when I die. Maybe, I won’t.

There is a chance I will reside in hell because I am not a devout follower. There is also a chance, as I have been told throughout my childhood and adolescence, a savior will lead me into the light, regardless of my religious background, and God will greet me at the gates of heavy with a tender grin and friendly welcome. My heart wants to commit to this utopia but my mind denounces it as a fantasy. Don’t worry, my Christian relatives and friends, I don’t entirely deny this paradise, but I also don’t devote myself to it. I cannot bring myself to sign my life away, even if it may ensure eternal life. It doesn’t resonate with me. I will not know what happens after death until I actually experience it firsthand and even then I won’t be able to share it. I refuse to commit myself to something that is literally up in the air and only a possibility but I will not reject its existence out of hand because of my ignorance. But, at the same time, I accept the beliefs of atheism. My philosophies are diverse. My mind is open.

For a while, I identified as an atheist, but then I realized I, too, was hypocritical. Not all atheists share my hypocrisy. Personally, I subscribed to atheism as a solely confirmed belief, that nothing exists beyond death and there is no divine supremacy of the universe after all. Despite how naturally I want to believe nothing is greater than human existence, I must allow myself to be open to new ideas, for the sake of art and intellect. A close mind is not attractive, creative, nor intelligent. That doesn’t mean all atheists are close-minded, but it does bring into question how I practiced atheism myself.

I then began to identify as agnostic. Life turned a bit brighter and less dark, but existential thoughts still reoccur. If there is no throne, is there still a kingdom? Is there still oppression without a dictator? Why does life exist if our only objective is to survive? Why are we surviving at all? How are we? The questions add up after a dreary day but I do eventually fall asleep. I carry on in my slumber and explore a false reality, the world of dreams, where heaven is not a myth but a matter of common knowledge to the people of the Earth.

A wise friend once quoted Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor, and I will forever cherish the concept.

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

I cannot emphasize this enough. I will not follow the rules of an organized religion or their texts, in the hope of being righteousness. I trust myself to be righteous naturally, not because I was told how. With that, I will not restrict myself from “living my life to the fullest.” I am self-conscious, but I am not selfish; I am righteous, but not greedy. I hope whatever force out there, if there is one, can accept and admire my decisions. I am proud of who I am and the choices I make. Alongside that, I am mortal and flawed. However, in the context that any superior force cannot respect my imperfections and occasional misbehaving, I might as well not worship that said divine vigor. I am entitled to my precious life just as another being and am also entitled to make my own personal decisions. Why else would we have free will?



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#BringBackOurGirls: One Year Later

Hashtag activism, as it’s often called, is not sold on everyone. But usually I find those who have the privilege of power, voice, and viewpoint in traditional media circles are most apt to mocking this form of activism entirely. Awareness, like it or not, is the first step in change, any change, and more so with regard to movements. For those whose ideologies, concerns, and perspectives have always received attention, hashtag activism seems futile in bringing about awareness and change. For those whose narratives often are ignored by the power dynamics that are invested in popular and mainstream media, online activism – hashtag activism – offers the opportunity to present ideology to a variety of audiences, to counter negative narratives of one’s community, and to speak for one’s self. This has all been done in #BringBackOurGirls.

Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora were and are still in a certain kind of disbelief that terrorism on such a scale exists in their country. While recent Nigerian history can point to the deplorable violence that took place in the Biafra war, Nigeria’s civil war from 1967-’70, subsequent military coups which were not without bloodshed, religious violence at different periods in especially the north of the country, kidnappings of foreign nationals in the Delta oil-rich but very poor region, Nigerians could still not fathom for the most part that Boko Haram had come this – kidnapping over 250 young children, young girls. Writing as a Nigerian, it was distressful, disturbing, and yet still astonishing.

The reality however is that Boko Haram had been active since 2002, and had begun their violent insurgency since 2009. This was a year before President Yar’Adua died in office, who was then succeeded by sitting President Jonathan (who will be succeeded by Muhammed Buhari in late May following the late March election). The overarching point is that since 2002, Nigerian public officials, international terrorism watchdogs, and diplomats everywhere have been ignoring this problem. #BringBackOurGirls started in 2014 but it was five years since Boko Haram had been committing acts of violence, and twelve years since the group was active. Are we so incompetent as a people – both Nigerians and those concerned for the manifestations of terrorism internationally – that we only act after a situation escalates, and not before? Is prevention not better than cure?

Now one year later, we know from multiple reports that there have been about 57 girls who through their act of bravery, escaped the fate of kidnapping, and possible death by Boko Haram. We also know that about 200 girls are still missing. Hashtag activism has not brought them back. Boko Haram in fact has killed more and kidnapped more. Nigerian military and intelligence has claimed they are not equipped to fight terrorism, and have also found that Western allies have not been forthcoming with the necessary intelligence. So this has slowed down counter-terrorism efforts, as they’ve been forced to look elsewhere for assistance.

On the ground, according to sources and family, there seems to be a psychological divide as much as a physical one between the north and south of the country. The north and particularly the north-east feeling the brunt of fear, while the south goes on almost as if it were a different country altogether. Life goes on indeed – it has to, even when you mourn such great loss in a nation. Still, it is telling of Nigerian political ineptitude that politicians and public officials could not break through ethnic and religious differences, in order to unite the country behind the common enemy that is Boko Haram.

Indeed it goes without saying that despite President Jonathan’s successes in the Niger Delta with improving the area, and especially in leading the country to become Africa’s number one powerhouse economically, he, above all, will be credited with failing the girls and especially the people of the north-east, and perhaps all Nigerians in his handling of Boko Haram. It is cited largely as the reason why as an incumbent, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, he lost the election. However, I don’t think it is solely Jonathan’s fault but a combination of all presidents and elected officials who have been ignoring this problem for twelve years. It is, I think, part of a certain Nigerian mentality where people learn to “manage” their suffering rather than demolish it entirely. Of course until things really get bad.

One year later, I can say that Nigerians have had a much-needed wake up call as to the reality of their government and their governance. It is a shame that Africa’s most populous nation should be stuck in such a horrid security disaster in the midst of economic and social progress. But is a reminder to the powers that be in the country that it simply cannot move forward in such a state. It is a reminder that the country has a long way to go before it really achieves the greatness its people know it is capable of. And while I do not absolve history and the effects of what has been stolen (and continues to be stolen) from African people – from resources to narratives to self-described identity, Africans cannot afford to get in their own way.

One year later, I think Nigerians know that while it is tragic that activism alone does not #BringBackOurGirls, it is important to the social reality of the country to hold their politicians accountable, as well as forcibly participate in shaping their own global media narratives and stories. Those girls, wherever they are, should not be martyrs for their country or the world – humanity does not need such martyrs. Even if by a miracle, they were to be rescued, it would still stand that the country had failed them – perhaps even before they were kidnapped. I hope one year later, Nigerians and those who care, will not continue to fail the most vulnerable among us”Nigerians Cry

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Experiencing Depression In College Is Both The Best And Worst Thing To Happen

College is supposed to be the best four years of your life. You finally have all the freedoms you could possibly want—living away from your parents, choosing your classes, eating shitty food, drinking to your hearts content, trying new things, and making yourself into whoever you want to be.

Depression can make it really hard to live the most awesome college life with the best experiences and the best times of your life.

There’s no desire to leave your bed, make friends or do your homework. There’s just emptiness and sadness all the time. You get stuck in the depths of your mind and can’t find your way out. You sever relationships, sacrifice good grades, and make poor life choices that you immediately regret once you find yourself out of the gutter.

This only happens if you let your disease take over though. There are opportunities that can help lessen the effects of depression, and allow you to have great experiences in college. But it’s all up to you and your choices.

Depression takes control of your mind. It deceives you. It lets you think that no one likes or needs you in their life, but that’s not true.

College can be the best time to take the reigns on your depression and guide yourself to a happier life. First of all, you LIVE in a building with tons of other students your age, all in the awkward first semester of college where everyone is looking for friends an acceptance… You can be WHOEVER you WANT to be. INSTANT FRIENDS!

There are many clubs on campus that allow you to find your niche, and find yourself. High school was a time where you had to conform to the select cliques offered, while in college, there is a more diverse community, filled with people that will accept you for who you are.

Colleges across the nation offer many different social opportunities for students. You just have to take that first step and go to something you find interesting!

I’m not saying depression is ever anything fun, but it’s more tolerable when you can be surrounded by people your own age, with lots of common interests, who are all in the same boat as you.

I’m also not saying that everyone’s journey will turn out like mine, but will you ever know if you don’t take the chance?

I’ve learned that to lighten my mood, even just the slightest, I have to get out of my bed, put myself together, hang with friends and work out—and at college, you’re just surrounded by people your age — utilize them.

Live and love college, don’t use it as a time to sulk in your sorrows and make your misery worse

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There Is A Foolishness In Believing What Others Say To Be True

Ray Bradbury, in the Illustrated Man, wrote: “We’re all fools…all the time. It’s just we’re a different kind each day. We think, I’m not a fool today. I’ve learned my lesson. I was a fool yesterday but not this morning. Then tomorrow we find out that, yes, we were a fool today too. I think the only way we can grow and get on in this world is to accept the fact we’re not perfect and live accordingly.”

Since I was young(er) I have never felt like the most intelligent, most beautiful or friendliest person. I never had a preconception that I was better than anyone – I always thought we could learn something from every person we met or every situation we found ourselves in – whether it’s learning something about them or about ourselves. What I always did have though was a strong belief in certain ideas, such as happiness is self-created; love is important and people are genuinely good (this doesn’t mean that I have to like everyone).

As I’ve grown (older) these beliefs have been tested and for the most part have stayed true. This is from the objective me speaking. The objective me believes that these ideas are what is needed to create a good life and what is needed to ensure that we are not sucked into a world of depression and hate and anger. The emotional me falters nonetheless every now and then.

Emotions tend to test our ideas and beliefs and the worst or best part is that we become fools or feel like fools for believing in people and their spoken words when we would not normally do so. The idea of hope and belief becomes so strong that it blocks all objectivity. Then one day everything changes, just like that, and the only notion we are left with is the question of whether or not what was said or done was true or was it all said to test our resolve and to test our boundaries. We are not only fools in our beliefs or believing but also in our actions and when in that state the lesson is hard to learn or even acknowledge.

Accepting that one is a fool is easy enough. The difficulty comes in getting over the humiliation or embarrassment that comes with it. And once that step is over (which takes a while) the next step is to question whether or not you were a fool for your beliefs or a fool in believing. Two very different ideas – the former can be disproven or argued or debated and will always be different for everyone. It is not a certain point in time but is continuous.
The latter is an action, a thought, a moment and in this step lays the foolishness

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The Problem Of Pushing Yourself Too Hard

One of the most satisfying feelings that we can have as humans is the feeling of growth. Positive change. Especially when it is something that we have been constantly practicing. Whether you improve at salsa dancing, getting more flexible and balanced at yoga, or simply adopting better habits for your life, growth is a form of transcendence on some level, no matter how small. It is one way to own your life story. It is powerful.

If the future and its uncertainty is what gives this thing called life its zest, then personal growth, particularly conscious growth towards a specific target, is how we measure the success of our lives. Life wouldn’t be interesting if we didn’t change. Growth wouldn’t be transcendent without the possibility of regression. The feeling of having control over your life wouldn’t feel nearly as good if life weren’t so out of your control. Do you see what I’m saying?

You need the apparent chaos in order to organize it. Organization only exists when disorganization is close by to compare it to. Growth only exists in contrast to stagnancy and regression. We only know what “success” is because we have so firmly embedded in our mind what “failure” is. Black needs white and chocolate needs vanilla. One team needs another to compete against. But the most difficult part to remember is why we play the game in the first place.

In order to grow, you need to push yourself. You need to push yourself a lot. Particularly if it is something that you are afraid to do, you have to do a lot of it. The fastest way to conquer a specific fear is to get to the point where you afraid to not do the thing you were afraid of. Let me say that again. The fastest way to conquer a fear is to become afraid of the opposite thing, namely not doing the thing you’re afraid of.

Let me give an example. Say you want to get good at public speaking. You’re terrible at it. It absolutely crushes you when you do it. The easiest and quickest way to beat your fear of public speaking is to do public speaking. A lot. So much so that you would feel terrible about yourself if you didn’t speak in public that day. Do you get what I’m saying? The quickest motivator to conquer a fear is to be more afraid of what would happen if you didn’t do the thing. To fear that you would hate yourself so much if you didn’t do it, that you automatically force yourself to do it.

This is the best way to learn things and get good at things quickly. But it’s also not exactly healthy.

The problem with it is that you are primarily acting out of fear, yet again. Say you want to do standup comedy but are afraid to start. So you force yourself to do it, and do it, and do it. By now you’ve somehow done it twenty times. It’s not as bad as it first was, but it’s still a little scary to get onstage. But right now, if you didn’t go perform tonight, you would hate yourself for succumbing to the fear of doing it. You are afraid of how you would feel about yourself if you didn’t do it.

You are afraid of yourself.

In both instances, you are acting out of fear. Most people don’t do things or continue things because of some sort of fear of seeming stupid, not being good, etc. And some people get really good at things because they are afraid of not doing it. The thing is that this doesn’t seem like you’re conquering a fear, does it? You are merely replacing one fear with another. The emotion that you feel is the same even though you have seemingly externally experienced growth. You’ve expanded your comfort zone, but it is this new fear that keeps nagging you to maintain and even grow it.

To grow, we need fear. That’s how humans work. We need some sort of dynamic energy, some inertia, and fear is a very powerful motivator. It gets us out of the bed in the morning. It helps us do our work. It’s helping me write right now. It has its place. But it is important to remember that it only exists relative to moments where you are not fearful.

Trying to constantly grow involves constantly pushing yourself. Constantly pushing yourself to the brink, of fatigue, exhaustion, and hurt, is masochistic and usually a mask for some sort of fear of who you are right now. If you are always trying to grow, you are probably just as afraid of yourself as someone who is constantly afraid to start.

The whole point of growth is to expand your comfort zone. The point of a comfort zone is exactly that. Comfort. C-O-M-F-O-R-T. And to go back to the beginning, you can’t enjoy the personal growth that you accumulate if you cannot sit and enjoy it. If you can’t turn your thoughts off for one second to appreciate how far you’ve come. Even if you think you haven’t grown at all. How much more do you know now than you did five years ago? Crazy, huh?

Which is why you shouldn’t focus on making plans for the future if you cannot sit and be grateful for right now. Stop. Breathe. Put down your coffee or your breakfast food and just sit. And look around. Do this for five minutes and see how restless you are. How many things you are trying to do right now. How many thoughts you have about who you should text, the work you need to do, how much more information you need to consume. Please. I beg you. Stop. And look around. And smile.

This is the relationship with fear that you have been seeking when you have tried to grow. You push yourself to grow because you are afraid of fear. You want to get rid of it. But fear of fear is another type of fear. So remember to sit and look around and look at yourself and your thoughts. This is how you live with it and laugh at it, and laugh with it! And then it will slowly creep back, asking you to transcend yourself once again

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You Have No Idea

You have no idea the effect you have on me. When I see you it instantly brightens my day. It could be Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans but the second I see you it turns in to an eighty degree and sunny day at the beach. When you’re not around, or I don’t hear from you for a lengthy period of time it feels like my world turns gray. Nothing seems to be fun, nothing seems to be beautiful.

You have no idea how attracted to you I have become. As you smile I immediately warm up. Your ear piercing laugh, for some strange reason, fills my heart with sheer joy. Your mind, your sass, your attitude, and your sarcastic remarks fills my dark soul with color. My day is complete when I see you. You take my breath away. You’re beautiful, inside and out.

You have no idea how you have changed me. I think about my future a lot more now, if it includes you or not. You inspire me to do things I’ve never thought I could do. You make me a better person. Your self-motivation has rubbed off on me in a huge way. My work ethic is far superior with you around. You make me want to spend my money. I want to buy you things for no reason, just to see you smile. I want to look nice, and smell great when I’m around you. You make me want to go out and do things, and I’ve never been this way before. I thank you for all of this, regardless of where things go from here on out.

You have no idea that you turned me in to an extreme softie. A hopeless romantic. When I look into your big blue eyes I get the butterflies, and often find it hard to continue the conversation. I re-read your texts, just to make me smile. Whenever I go on social media I check to see if you posted anything new, because it’s usually silly, or witty and it makes me giggle like a child. I want to hug and kiss you whenever the opportunity arises. I want to drive around with you for hours and just talk, about anything. You make me want to settle down a bit, and I’ve never felt this way before.

You have no idea. You have no idea how I actually feel the way I feel. It kills me inside. I know you don’t want anything right now and frankly neither do I, but I don’t want to miss my chance and turn you into another one of my regrets. You’re one of a kind. Do I tell you how I feel and risk losing the only bright spot I’ve had in the past few months? Or do I keep it in and slowly let it eat at my soul, just to keep you around?

Do you have an idea? Because I have no idea

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Millennials, And Why We Never Get Off The Grid

The “me-me-me” generation is defined by vanity, laziness and a constant need for external affirmation. We fear rejection and scorn those who attempt to reject our ideas of what defines humor or success and how to measure self-worth. Most frequently, we are characterized by our obsession with technology, be it social media or those omnipresent phones, whether smart or dumb. What all of those older generations don’t realize when they look down from their advanced years to our lowly standing on the totem pole is that our obsession isn’t with showing ourselves off to others; rather, it’s with the “other.” While technology provides us with the perfect platform from which to broadcast to the world our many social graces, hilariously awkward anecdotes and “unpopular” views on society, the backbone of our constant need for phone in hand is our desire to be connected. My generation doesn’t just see a friend count, we see a touchpoint and a reminder of a particular place and time in our life. We scroll through friendships past and present, relationships scorned and fostered, acquaintances first-hand or second-hand. Through our phones and computers, we connect to each other and the world.

Other generations don’t understand. They’ll never get that feeling in the pit of their stomach or the slight catch of their breath when their phone connects with someone else. You see your phone light up with the promise of someone there. You hear the chipper tune of your phone letting you know that someone has reached out. You see that fucking red number one hovering there and daring you to look. Who’s there? You can’t help yourself from filling in the time from “message received” to “message read” with the expectation of something monumental. “I love you, I hate you, I need space, I need you here, I have something to tell you, I need you, I can’t do this” all tear through your mind with the force of a potentially life-changing call to arms. In these moments, your insecurities and fears war with your hopes and desires and make it impossible for you not to reach out and put an end to the questions. There is such promise in those unread messages. It could be anything or anyone and all you have to do is look and reach out. Our generation thrives in this moment and, because of that, it’s hard to understand the scorn and derision we receive from our elders. It is so easy for them to begin their story with “back in my day” and chalk up our glazed-over eyes and vacant expressions to our inexperience with life and “what really matters.” We really know, though. Our vacant stares and vapid attitudes are rooted in our frustration in their inability to truly get it. Our phones aren’t just about selfies and check-ins. In our phones, we hold innumerable relationships and memories that are more precious to us than merely seeing ourselves affirmed in our beauty or wit. In reality, we are our truest selves when we connect with others. We define and shape ourselves based on our interactions as we grow into understanding who we are and what we value. It has nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with connections, friendships and love. And that’s something that every generation should understand

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