Atheist Society of Nigeria

We seek a Nigeria where public policies are based on rational reasoning and critical thinking and not influenced by religious beliefs

Group Picture

Friday, 30 November 2018

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Humanists remain a unique branch of the secular community. However, most, perhaps over 90%, identify as atheist, but not all, nonetheless. How does humanism permit a wide range of co-accepted beliefs in the secular community?

Dr. Leo Igwe: Obsession with labels can sometimes be energy draining, distracting and counterproductive because people who do not believe in a god or those who question religious claims are found in all cultures and they face similar challenges no matter how they self-describe. This is not to say that debates over these concepts are not necessary but they should not be belabored. In fact, to those who are outside the English language traditions, designations such as humanists, atheists or agnostics are actually a play on words and terminologies and do not necessarily indicate distinct branches or unique sets of beliefs. 

Jacobsen: A new event will take place soon. Why start the event?

Igwe: The time has come to focus attention on people from various cultures and countries who self-identify as nonreligious or as nontheistic especially in Africa. Such persons exist and have always existed in the region but they have largely been ignored. For far too long, African societies have been (mis)represented as essentially religious, theistic and supernaturalistic. Magic has been used as the concept to study, explain and understand Africa and Africans. The rational, the critical and the skeptical have been portrayed as western and as unAfrican. Thus Africa’s indigenous critical and rational resource has largely been overlooked, untapped and unharnessed even in addressing the challenges of religious extremism and superstitions. Shining the light on the travails of those who exit religion has become so necessary because the situation of apostates sheds some light on the other side of the religious Africa that is too often ignored. That religion is used to legitimize violence, oppression, and human rights abuses. Today, the world is grappling with these religious excesses and highlighting the travails of apostates and blasphemers can be an effort in that direction.

Jacobsen: What is the event?

Igwe: The event is a conference on Leaving Religion: Risk, Challenges and Opportunities. Panelists are expected to share their stories and experiences as those who have left religion or as those living as nonreligious. The event is organized to provide a platform for ex-Christians, ex Muslims ex-indigenous religious believers to describe their journey and struggles. The program is also meant to get the Nigerian society to know that there are Nigerians who have exited religion and that it is okay to renounce religion. Attendees will also get to know the resources that exist out there for apostates and atheists. In short, the event is meant to tell all religious nonbelievers in the country: You are not alone. And you will not walk alone. 

Jacobsen: How will the event play out over its course?

Igwe: This event is bound to play out at different levels. On the part of the government, this event will help get the state officers to know that there is an active humanist community who care about freedom of and from religion. It will be a wake-up call to the politicians to know that the lives and rights of apostates in Nigeria matter. To the human rights institutions, the program would get them mainstream the rights of those who leave religion. And to those who have had this monolithic view of Africa, the event will make them begin to rethink that stereotypic notion of Africa and begin to understand that the other, the religious other Africa exists. More importantly, the program will help galvanize efforts to awaken Africans from their dogmatic slumber and realize a religious reformation of a global dimension.

Jacobsen: Who will be welcome to attend it?

Igwe: Anyone who subscribes to the values of reason, critical thinking and freethought can attend. Any person who is worried about the harmful effects of religious extremism and superstition-based violence should try and be there. Religious believers can participate especially those who are interested in dialogue or in holding civilized conversations with religious critics and apostates. In fact, anybody who thinks that there are no atheists in Nigeria or that the persecution of apostates is a made up story should try and attend.

Jacobsen: How can this help the humanist community in Nigeria?

Igwe: This program will help strengthen ongoing efforts to provide a sense of community to all who exit religion, all who question religious and superstitious claims, all godless people in Nigeria. It will improve the standing of the humanist community locally and internationally because the humanist/atheist organization is often ignored whenever issues concerning religious persecution are discussed. Meanwhile, those who populate the humanist community are the most persecuted of the religiously persecuted. Simply put, this program will make the humanist community in Nigeria more visible, active and effective in the region.

Jacobsen: Any further information about the event?

Igwe: Too often, authorities have trampled upon the rights of humanists or atheists or apostates based on the notion that religious nonbelievers are in the minority; that the number of humanists, skeptics, and freethinkers in the country is insignificant when compared with the religious. Actually, there is strength in numbers but at the same time, we cannot put the numbers above human rights, equity, and justice. The focus should not be on protecting the rights of majorities alone. The rights of minorities matter too. That the religious nonbelievers are in the minority does not mean that they should be oppressed with impunity and that their rights should be flagrantly abused. This is a clear mark of moral failure and error in judgement that should be addressed whether it has to do with the rights of (non)religious, ethnic, or sexual minorities.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Igwe.


Igwe: Thank you for this interview.
--
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
--
Image Credit: Dr. Leo Igwe.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018





When I was growing up in the eighties, I associated churches not just with religion, but with schools and hospitals. One could not talk about schools without saying the names the Catholic saints they were typically named after, and the same went for a lot of healthcare institutions.

Being raised Catholic, I assumed Roman Catholicism was closest to the ideal religion and that all other religions were, at best, slightly misled and not to be taken seriously. 

I started using prescription eyeglasses at seven, and I recall an incident when some white garment evangelists made it all the way to the staff quarters at the University of Port Harcourt, Choba Park, where we lived. 

I can't remember if they were barefoot, as they tend to be nowadays. They knocked on our door (our parents weren't in) and were let in by someone in the house, I can't remember who. They said they were there to pray for us and heal us, and asked if anyone had something they wanted healed. With typical childish open-mindedness and a precocious recognition of short sight as a disability, I was quick to say “my eyes”.

I will admit to being a bit excited by it all. Nothing I had come across led me to believe it was possible for people to pray and heal any ailment, but I would be glad if they could do it. So they prayed, laid hands on my head, and did what I later came to know was called “Speaking in Tongues”. I still wear glasses, and the short sight is slowly being corrected as the long sight that most people begin to get at my age sets in. So, on the whole, a mildly entertaining, highly ridiculous (my siblings and I laughed about it for years) but mostly disappointing experience.

Entertainment at best, silly for the most part? Not any more. Today some of these once mushroom organizations have risen to unprecedented levels in Nigeria, with their heads publicly rubbing shoulders with the highest elected officials, displaying obscene levels of affluence, but with none of the education and health-care mandates that I had learned to associate with religious organizations while growing up.

I've always felt everyone has the right to do as they see fit (within the law, of course) with what they own. It's the responsibility of government to provide schools and hospitals (among many other things), after all. Nigeria is very underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure, so there's a lot of work to be done in that regard. Akwa Ibom state in particular, has one of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in the country. This is why I found it extremely offensive and disheartening to learn that the government of Akwa Ibom state has endorsed, promoted and campaigned for an “International Worship Centre” to be built in the state capital of Uyo, and has used public resources to support the N10 billion (USD $ 27,000,000) project. 

That the project is purely religious is not in doubt. The foundation stone was laid in a religious dedication by one Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God – once a small prayer group but now one of the largest and most affluent churches in Nigeria. 

Is this legal? Section 15(2) of the Nigerian Constitution, states: “Accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.”
Using public funds for the benefit of one religious group clearly discriminates against all the others. To avoid discrimination, the government must equally support all religiously defined groups, or none at all.

His Excellency Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom state, has said, “Akwa Ibom State is a Christian State that will continue to look up to God for his guidance and blessings”. If true, this is also directly in contravention of Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution, which states: “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.”

In a country where religion and ethnic sentiment are barriers to accountability and progress, the Atheist Society of Nigeria (ASN) is an organization that works with state and non-state institutions to promote and protect the rights and interests of atheists, freethinkers and nonbelievers in the country. Like me, ASN is not opposed to the building of religious centers for any religion - it is opposed to unconstitutional state involvement and use of public funds for projects that should be matters for religious bodies. ASN has asked a court to rule on the constitutionality of the state government campaigning for building a religious center, and dedicating public resources to it.

With the rampant abuse of power and lack of accountability in Nigeria, this is a case that takes a step towards making Governors and other public officials aware of public scrutiny and willingness to take action, and also towards reversing the harm that uncritical reverence for religion allows in the country.

The era of religious organizations in Nigeria as bastions of education and human welfare seems to be long gone. It would be tragic to allow the diversion the available meager public funds to the questionable benefit of one religious group.

Written by George (ASN Member).

References
http://www.atheistalliance.org/campaigns-suing-a-state-governor-in-nigeria/

http://saharareporters.com/2018/01/22/evil-mission-pastor-adeboye-akwa-ibom-state-inibehe-effiong

Monday, 29 October 2018



The Atheist  Society of  Nigeria  launches  a constitutional challenge  against  the Akwa Ibom  state government.

In suit  No:  HU/321/2018  filed in  Uyo, the Atheist  Society of  Nigeria  sues  Akwa Ibom  State Government  for  its  involvement  in  8500  seat  worship  center at  the  High Court  of  Akwa Ibom  State, Uyo judicial division.

The Government  of  Akwa Ibom  has  endorsed, promoted, sponsored and adopted the construction of  an 8500  sitting  capacity International Worship Centre  believed to  be costing  the state  an  undisclosed billions  of  Naira and undisclosed area (size)  of  large  parcel of  public lands  for  that  purpose.

After  taking  legal  advice,  ASN  believes the Federal  Constitution of  Nigeria  prohibits  State  or  Federal Government  involvement  in  religious  affairs. Consequently, ASN  believes the actions  of  both the Governor  and  the State  Government  are  unconstitutional. ASN has  asked the court  to  rule  on the constitutionality of  the state's  involvement  in  the worship centre  project  and, if  it  is  ruled unconstitutional, to  set  out  the steps  the government  must  take to remedy the matter.

ASN believes this  will become  a far-reaching test  case  that  will clarify the constitutional boundary between religion and state  in  Nigeria  and  have  implications  for  many projects  across  the entire country. For  the avoidance  of  doubt, ASN  does not  oppose  the building  of  religious  centres, but  such should not  be funded and  promoted by the State.

ASN is  happy that  the Federal  Constitution of  Nigeria  gives every citizen the right  to  follow  a religion of  their  choice  or  to  have  no  religion, and prohibits  government  interference  in  religious  matters. It is  to  uphold  these  important  principles  that  ASN  is  asking  a court  to  clarify this  matter.

For  more  information please  visit  our
website: www.atheist.org.ng
Blog: blog.atheist.org.ng
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/atheistng
You can  also  send an  email to info@atheist.org.ng or  Phone:  +234(0)8180105733

Friday, 5 October 2018

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did religion influence early life?
Mr. Ben Osondu Uduka: I grew up in a strong Methodist family. So, I was indoctrinated at a very tender age.
My childhood was more like someone being groomed to become a clergyman. So. it’s all about religion. I saw life from the religious angle. I believed everything revolves around God, Jesus, Satan and the Bible. I never knew they were other religions, though I was aware of just 2 other denominations – Catholic and Apostolic, but believed them to be infidels.
Aside from school activities, church activities formed major weekly tasks. I was very active in the Sunday school, was among the prayer warriors and took part in bible recitation competitions.
There were times I wished not to grow because I wouldn’t want to be stained with the sins of adulthood. And the Bible had tipped children to be the ideal group to inherit the kingdom of God.
I developed this feeling of unconscious discrimination against those who belong to other denominations. And was meant to hate the Traditionalists – we were not even allowed to enter their compounds or play with their children.
At 11, I started living with my elder brother (in another village) who doubled as a Pastor and Prophet. That’s when I became more spiritual. I was promoted from the Sunday school to the Adult service, not because I was grown up yet, but by virtue of living with a man of God.
Living with him made me understand that my former church has not been as spiritual as supposed. They were not even close. My brother saw visions and cast out marine spirits from the congregants, mostly women. We fasted on every Sunday and every other festive day, praying for the world.
From then onward, I started judging people based on how spiritual they are… If you’re unable to hear from God or get directives from God, I wouldn’t see you as a true Christian.
So, I doubled my struggle to become holy, to be able to hear from God.
Jacobsen: What were some ways in which religion was positive in early life? What were some ways it was definitely negative in early life?
Uduka: On the positive side, I started memorizing the Bible, even before I started school, so it helped me academically.
It helped my socialization with people in the church. But this was mostly with members of our church. Sunday was usually the best day of the week for me, as I’m free to play around and dance to the musicals.
I also enjoyed the choir and their lyrics. The Bible became a moral compass for me. And I had to live according to its dictates.
On the negative, I automatically became a perfectionist due to the stories and commandments learned in the bible. My brother made it worse, as I became too critical of my actions. And I struggled all through childhood to keep all the rules.
I didn’t like the discrimination, because I had mates who used to play football together, but because their parents were pagan, I was warned not to play with them.
My life was filled with fears. Fears of darkness, fears of demonic spirits, fear of hellfire, fear of death, fear of God’s punishment, I was deprived of childhood luxuries. I never had time to celebrate festive days as we spent those days fasting and praying.
I hated the fact that my sisters fall under the influence of the Holy Spirit. I hate the pastors touching and pushing them until they fall. I also didn’t like the fact that I must spend a coin on every Sunday.
Jacobsen: What was the moment or series of moments for becoming an atheist for you?
Uduka: It began when my brother started flogging me mercilessly.
Any little mistake I made would earn me 10s of strokes. I expected the man of God to forgive, and because most of the mistakes were things I never knew or were unavoidable. He condemned almost every other pastor and claimed he’s the only one that hears from God.
When I left for college, I had the opportunity of attending a Catholic mass service and realized they were not as evil as I was made to believe. They were just worshipping God in a different way.
Then, I fell in love with their masses which were not as time-consuming as in the Methodist. But I still had at the back of my mind that they don’t hear from God, so they are not genuine.
I started avoiding churches gradually. It became a burden, a kind of work to attend any of the church services. I only attend if I visited my brother. Then, I went to study at a tertiary institution. It was a different type of Christianity. The kind I had not seen.
Nobody bothers about righteousness or hearing from God. The church was like a social gathering. They may have had great sex before proceeding to church. It didn’t matter to them. The most important thing was to be there. This was against my upbringing.
I attended for a few days and vowed never to attend. I started listening to Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Grail message. When I got a job, it was obvious that my brother or parents won’t compel me to go to church again and I had left home, so I formally stopped.

Jacobsen: Is corruption common with the religious leaders in Nigeria?
Uduka: Yes, but not all of them.
Jacobsen: What are some prominent cases? How did the public receive the corruption?
Uduka: Cases where the money generated from the church is used to live a flamboyant lifestyle abound in Nigeria. Most of the top Men of God in Nigeria do not have any other business, aside from in the vineyard.
Jacobsen: Who are some inspiring atheist figures in Nigeria?
Uduka: I was not inspired by anyone. But Leo Igwe, Mubarak Bala are prominent figures. And they’ve inspired many. I never had the guts to talk about Atheism, nor did I know the term until I started reading Rudolph Ogoo Okonkwo’s column on Sahara Reporters.
He wrote things. I thought God could have killed him, so I became encouraged to talk about being a freethinker in selected publics. When I found out that I’m an Agnostic Atheist, I went online to look for Nigerians who share similar ideas, and I got Mubarak Bala, who linked me to others.
Jacobsen: Can you recommend any books on or around atheism from a Nigerian author?
Uduka: There is one written by IMO David, I cannot remember the title. I only read part of it, and it was talking about almost everything I know or have thought about in the past on atheism.
Jacobsen: What are the social and professional consequences of being an atheist in Nigeria?
Uduka: Socially, loss of primary support system, e.g., family, then friends. Restricted social life – attending church services forms a major part of our social life.
Unable to get a marriage partner. Most Nigerians wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with an Atheist. Unemployment –  the criteria for some jobs are linked to religious status. People laugh at our misfortune and see it as God’s punishment.
Extremists in Nigeria could lynch an atheist. At work, I’ve been forced to lead in an opening prayer. People got discriminated on the basis of their lack of belief, and there are limited opportunities for training and career. Clients may keep on shoving their beliefs on atheists.
Jacobsen: For a young person who wants to leave religion in Nigeria, what are the risks? How should they do it?
Uduka: The risks are those outlined above. The best way is to start as closeted until one becomes financially independent. They could also choose not to work in institutions with strong religious attachments. They should stop abusing God or other people’s religion in public.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mr. Uduka.
--
Original Publication in Canadian Atheist.
--
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
--
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was growing up like for you? Was religion a big part of it? How was religion or faith incorporated into family and community life? What were the social consequences of taking part in non-religious activities as you grow up or later in life?
Mr. Dominic Omenai: I was a Catholic when I was growing up, I was manservant for some time before leaving that to try other religions. Yes, religion was a directing force in my life. Back then when I was growing up, immediately after returning from school the next place to spend time was at the church attending one program or the other, we prayed as a family.
Jacobsen: What were the social consequences of taking part in non-religious activities as you grow up or later in life?
Omenai: The individual that has inspired me in Nigeria who is a humanist is a man named Wole Soyinka a Nobel laureate. Religion is the worst thing that has happened to mankind that prevents a man from using reason.
Jacobsen: Who are some individuals that inspire you in Nigeria? What are some organizations people can look into to organize, strategize, and have a base of operations for activism for the atheist community? Does religion seem net negative or net positive to you?
Omenai: The individual that has inspired me in Nigeria who is a humanist is a man named Wole Soyinka a Nobel laureate. Religion is the worst thing that has happened to mankind that prevents a man from using reason.
Jacobsen: Are there any prominent books or authors as well worth mentioning?
Omenai: A prominent author worth mentioning is Dan Barker, I have read nearly all his books. I have almost all of Dan Barker’s books, except Losing Faith in Faith. David Silverman’s book Fighting GodWhat on Earth is an Atheist by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Jesus is Dead by Robert Price, Natural Atheism by David Eller, A Case Against God by George H. Smith to mention a few.
Jacobsen: What ones have had the most impact on you?
Omenai: Natural Atheism by David Eller has had an impact on me and fighting.
Jacobsen: Are there some atheist books that tend to influence the Nigerian atheist population more than others?
Omenai: I just started the library, the response is encouraging.

Jacobsen: What do outsiders, such as Canadians like myself, simply not get about the atheist and non-religious community in Nigeria?
Omenai: Atheists in Nigeria, struggle with the backlash for being an atheist if you tell someone that you are an atheist in Nigeria you will be treated cruelly.
Jacobsen: How can people donate time, professional networks, skills, educations, and people power to advance the interests of the non-religious communities in Nigeria?
Jacobsen: Any final notes? You had something to say about a Canadian friend who deserves kudos.
Omenai: Her name is Elizabeth Mathes, I have known her for some years now. She is married and lives in Canada. She was recently appointed an affiliate director of Atheist Alliance International. She has been my support and helps in the book gathering for my library.
I wish to use these opportunities to thank her and recommend her to the Canadian Atheist community as someone trustworthy with a desire to help the Atheist struggle over religion.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mr. Omenai.
Omenai: Thank you for interviewing me.
--
Original Publication in Canadian Atheist.
--
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
--
Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

Saturday, 29 September 2018

His self-description: I am Ebenezer Odubule. I will turn 50 years of age on 14th September 2018. I am a legal practitioner engaging in private legal practice in Lagos Nigeria. I was born into Christianity and was indoctrinated along Christian dogma until 2007. So, I have been an atheist since 2007.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Was religion a part of real life? If so, how did religion influence personal early life?
Ebenezer Odubule: In Nigeria, unfortunately, religion is a major part of daily life. We breathe religion; we exhale religion, when you wake up in the morning you are treated to the loud public address system from the mosques calling out on adherents in the daily call to prayers.
Same goes for the churches, undertaking weekly prayer meetings, night vigils and playing loud worship songs to the public space with no consideration given to nonmembers of their faith in the society. You are made to bear with noises associated with religious worship day and night and sometimes throughout the week
The story is not so different in the various levels of the educational institution both public and private, the religious faith of those at the helms of affairs is usually imposed on staffs and students with impunity.
In the workplace also, the impact of religion is everywhere, it is a well-known fact that Nigeria is the most religious country in the world but we are yet to see any significant gains from this religiousity.
On certain days of the week, public many employees of government institutions and agencies will abandon their work from 1.00pm in the name of going for prayers and many will not return back for duty on that day as it marks the beginning of the weekend – so much talk about productivity.
In some private businesses and professional organizations, the religious practice of the head is imposed on the rest of the workforce. Religion is part of work, school, family life, social and political life – it is exasperating.
In the political space also, religion is a key factor. Leadership is not sourced on the basis of an individual’s level of competence and fidelity to humanism.
This allows for manipulation and patronage of religious leaders and polarization along religious lines. Corrupt settlement of political cronies via pilgrimage programmes at the pleasure of the President, the governors and local government chairmen across the country
So, it is visible to all, that religion is a substitute for good governance in Nigeria. The people do not have any faith in the political leadership and since god is dogmatically assumed and regarded as a problem solving all-powerful spiritual entity, the majority will cast their burden unto God rather than seeking practical or rational ways to solve problems.
This is not surprising though as strict religious indoctrination encourages segregation. Muslims do business purely with fellow Muslims whilst Christians do business mainly with Christians in many instances.
So from these premises being religious have its obvious social advantages in providing the social and economic pool for followers to leverage for business or even professional advantages and Nigerians knew this and that is why they are jumping on that very bandwagon as survival strategy rather than as an expression of religious faith per se.
Consequently, early personal lives are enmeshed in these dynamics be it social, educational, economic, or political – you are willy-nilly coerced into one form of acceptance of religion one way or another. It is a huge challenge to sound personal development and one that has placed Nigeria in the state of stagnation and misery as it is today.
Jacobsen: What were some early moments of questioning faith for you?
Odubule: started my elementary education at age 6, but I can recall before then, that I often as a child question the veracity of the existence of God as the foundation of the human faith. But religion is crafted in ways which did not allow for disagreement with its dogma.
So you either shape in or you wash out. But then again, we are told that if we rebel, we will burn in hellfire and if we obey God we would go and enjoy in heaven. So for me, the real essence of serving God was borne out of fear and not love. The primordial fear factor – to save our own necks from the scorching flames of hell – very funny.
So, the early moments of questioning faith for me started in primary school. I was seeking answers to the legitimacy of god but not openly because the majority frowns at such inquiries and I had to endure life going to churches because when your parents get ready for churches they compel their children to come along for lots of reasons unconnected with religion too.
I never saw an overwhelming righteousness or fidelity from my fellow Christians when I was religious except for a few devoted individuals.
In my adult life I came to the conclusion that there is a different almighty god for the Chinese people that Nigerians do not yet know, given the firm commitment and socio-economic results witnessed in China, and the gods worshipped in the U.S or Canada is certainly not the same god worshipped massively in Nigeria because the world knew we aren’t making the landmark progress that we are potentially poised to achieve in the first place.
When you look around the country you will see overwhelming misery and poverty facilitated by advocates of religion in public life.
Jacobsen: Who are some prominent Nigerians that people should know more about, who are atheist in Nigeria?
Odubule: Apart from my colleagues in organized irreligious communities such as Leo Igwe, it is hard to say one prominent Nigerian is an atheist or not. I have heard people saying that the Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, is an atheist but I am not able to confirm this neither have I seen the professor associating with any organized atheist groups in Nigeria. I can only say someone is an atheist by association for now.
Jacobsen: What are the professional and family consequences of coming out as an atheist in Nigeria?
Odubule: There is still a good measure of culture shock in Nigeria when people get to hear you say you are an atheist. They exhibit shock and surprise. Hence, with the daily influence of religion earlier portrayed.
Some family members will keep their distance, they believe that you are a bad influence on the religious development of other family members. Professionally you are at a disadvantage too, especially when you are in a profession where advertisement if precluded and you would rely on references from a wide variety of sources.
But this is okay by me because the sanity of my conscience weighs more importantly than any professional accomplishment – all my life, I have never enjoyed the degree of inner peace I now enjoyed when I was religious. No more nightmares and surely no more praying, casting, binding and battling any unseen and perpetual enemies.
Jacobsen: What were some of the pivotal moments of becoming an atheist for you?
Odubule: That was during the Atheist Society of Nigeria national convention in 2017 at the University of Lagos. I was impressed at the large turnout and the fact that the crowd are mostly young Nigerians men and women from major parts of Nigeria including the north.
There is a future for secularism in Nigeria. Before my membership of ASN, I had initially thought I was alone in my atheism but now I know better.
Jacobsen: Do the religious have any formal arguments, rather than social reprimands against atheism? What are they?
Odubule: I am not aware of the existence of any rational formal arguments deployed by religious bodies in defense of their faith.
Jacobsen: For a young person who wants to leave religion in Nigeria, how can they do it? What are their risks?
Odubule: This will depend on the family or social background of the young person. We have had challenges with some young adults declaring openly to his Jehovah’s Witness parent on the practice of atheism and the result led to ex-communication by friends and expulsion from the family home.
I have also experienced another young male adult who’s atheism activities on social media has led his family to declare him insane and he was promptly taken to a mental hospital as a measure to persecute and he was effectively coerced to abandon his conscience and went back into the closet.
My advice to any young person is to wait until they are independent of all parental influences before coming out with their atheism but I am also aware that some families may be liberal in their reaction to such issues hence, a balancing approach is required otherwise the risk of social reprimand is always hovering around such declaration of atheism at early stages and family members often applied punitive measures withdrawing financial and emotional support to the subject.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mr. Odubule.
--
Original Publication in Canadian Atheist.
--
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
--
Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash