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Chimamanda Adichie: Why I don’t attend Catholic Churches in Nigeria

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a novelist, says she doesn’t attend Nigeria’s Catholic churches because money, fundraising, and thanksgiving activities have become “way too much.”

In a recent interview with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, a television host, she spoke of her agnostic approach to religion.

Though mentioning that she still considers herself nominally a Catholic, the 43-year-old writer said that she attends masses outside the country only if she finds a “progressive” Catholic culture that upholds humanity.

“I grew up Catholic. Catholicism was very important to me. It‘s almost like a culture, not just a religion. So even if you leave the Catholic Church, it’s in you. Today, I don’t like to talk about religion because I don’t know,” she said.

“I think of myself as agnostic and questioning. Catholicism holds you tight. There are many other protestant denominations that are not so. It’s all-inclusive. ‘You cannot eat before mass. You have to go to confession.’

“There are so many rules. It teaches you guilt in a way that I don’t think so many protestant denominations do. I’m Catholic, nominally. I still feel protective of some things about the Catholic Church. But I don’t attend it in Nigeria.”

Chimamanda also spoke of her admiration for Pope Francis on account of his “attempt to reform” the system.

“Nigerian Catholicism is way too much about money, fundraising, and thanksgiving. Some in the east even look at who’s wearing gold. I think the focus of religion should be things Nigerian Catholicism doesn’t focus on,” she said.

“Culturally, I call myself a catholic. But if being religious means performing and going to confession, I’m not. I don’t go to church in Nigeria. Outside the country? Certainly not often. When I find a progressive Catholic Church, I go.

“There’s still something beautiful about the mass. I find Latin beautiful, the priests sweeping up in their dresses, and the sense of community. But there’s also a lot that I quarrel with. It’s the pope I love because he’s so human.

“Hyper-conservative Catholics don’t like him. But if they read Catholic history, they should know there have been people like him who have reformed the church. I respect religion in general while questioning some of its excesses.”

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