‘Coming out’ as a Zulu atheist

Aug 7, 2015

By Taylaann Holtz

I WOULD like to tell you the story of how I “came out” to my family and community as an atheist. I would, more than anything, like to tell you what a difficult transition it was and how I can now put it all behind me. I would also like to tell you how accepting the Zulu culture – my culture – is of atheists and other free-thinkers. I would love to tell you all these things, but I have learned that the truth is far from being rosy. Imagine being the only child who did not believe in God when everyone you have ever known does. Now, imagine being an adult always defending what you (do not) believe in. The trouble with telling people that I am an atheist, in isiZulu inparticular does not sound as romantic as it does in English. Now, “I do not believe in God” sounds pretty straight forward to anyone who understands the language. The exact statement in isiZulu makes you sound like a crazy person or someone telling a sick, tasteless joke. “Angikholelwa ku-Nkulunkulu”, makes moderate and ‘advanced’ Christians think you’re a lost soul or the spawn of the devil. I have even been invited to my very own exorcism by a prominent ‘prophet’ in the small suburb of eSikhawini. While atheism may be accepted as an alternative religion in some contexts, I must stress here how the nature of atheism (opposite of theism – a belief in God or a deity) is the absence of belief in God. It is as much a religion as “off” is a TV channel.


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3 comments on “‘Coming out’ as a Zulu atheist

  • Douglas Adams namedrop? Wow, respect 🙂

    Someone explains to me how Christianity manages to get its roots so deep in cultures that suffered the worse of it and its twin brothers and sisters, colonialism and slavery. That stuff always baffled me. I don’t mean no disrespect, but to me, it seems almost like a case of Stockholm Syndrome. Reminds me also of the deprogramming that goes on sometimes in the military.

    I suppose the doctrinal aspect of Christianity (and Islam, BTW), go hand in hand with that kind of subjugation. You know, Sin, sinner, redemption, heaven, hell, and those enablers, Jesus and Mo…



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  • obzen
    Aug 8, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Someone explains to me how Christianity manages to get its roots so deep in cultures that suffered the worse of it and its twin brothers and sisters, colonialism and slavery.

    I think colonialism and slavery explain a lot.
    The subjugation of the body and mind for a few generations, leaves only traces of original cultures which are convenient for the dominating colonisers, as heavy discrimination takes its toll in subjugated populations.



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  • agree with the above. theres also the notion that if you take on the religion of the subjugators you too might become members of the successful elite .



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