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

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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

According to Leadership, one of the major sources of troubles within Nigeria society, increasing in the current period, is the religious intolerance pervasive throughout it.

As noted by the reportage, there is a high rate of killings, of murders, due to the level of religious intolerance within the nation, which is seen as “worrisome.” Some might see this not only as worrisome but also as life-threatening intolerance.

The insurgency of Boko Haram has been and continues to be a significant source of discontent and religiously motivated violence in Nigeria.

“More than ever before, contemporary Nigerian society is beset with religious conflicts that continues to threaten the fabric of the country’s unity,” Leadership reported, “To a large extent one can say that Nigeria of the past could boast of religious flexibility and tolerance for many years but all that is lost, after gruesome stories relating to religion continue to rear their ugly heads, resulting in the loss of lives.”

With this rise in violence and fall in tolerance, the conclusion about religious conflicts is multiple, of which the solutions need to be numerous as well. We simply have too many issues surrounding fundamentalist ideologies leading to violence.

But they have multiple sources; it is not a situation of a single cause. However, a significant cause comes from the religious, texts, disagreements between communities, and the penchant for violence in the history of the faiths. These cannot be ignored as factors.

Leadership stated, “One can say that a curious feature of today’s Nigerian society is religious intolerance, most especially in the north and the middle belt regions of the country. In these places, religious fanaticism has been hidebound and its spread is unbridled.”

This “fanaticism” is bound to interpretations of faith informing the practice of the religion. Now, several innocent Nigerian civilians or citizens have been caught in the midst of the violence as it is “unleashed.” Bauchi, Benue and Gombe, Damaturu, and Maiduguri are embroiled in this for the last 4 years, which is a non-trivial amount of time for the violence to be occurring.

It is the activities of extremist and terrorist interpretations that produce the terrifying activities and actions of extremists and terrorists like Boko Haram. People are becoming less and less patient with the religions of their neighbors.

In that, the extremist versions of religions not only have the direct terrible effects with the murders of innocents, or the torture and so on of them, but also the influence on the ordinary religious Nigerian citizenry to become less and less tolerant of one another.
This is the basis for the second wave of intolerance falling out from the centralized activity of the true extremists and terrorists found in fundamentalist religious groups.  

“In the face of this, the national president, Two-faith Interreligious Organisation, Mr. Hillary Iheanacho, believes that the future of the country which is in the hands of the youths, has to be redirected to healthier ways of looking at issues to ensure the survival of the country,” Leadership explained.

Mr. Iheanacho is working with the campaign in the secondary schools in order to make the young more sensitive to the real concerns of the society in addition to the need for more peace within it.

Leadership argued for freedom of religion and freedom of belief as important values to uphold in this work to prevent extremism, stating:

...whether one is religious or not, every human being should be interested in the protection of religious freedom since religious intolerance poses a great threat to human rights. Human rights apply to all irrespective of colour, gender, sex, religion, health status, dress, socio-economic status, etc. This threat is not simply because of the specific acts of fundamentalist groups which may be recognised as concrete violations of human rights standards; the real threat comes from the political aims or the political project that is at the heart of fundamentalisms, which is essentially to transform the way identities are ascribed and negotiated.

The respect for the religion of one’s neighbor, and the freedom from religion for other neighbors is a crucial and, indeed, fundamental human right and freedom, and, as noted, among the most important as this has been such a central aspect of so many people’s lives for centuries.

For Nigerians, as with all nationalities, it becomes no less important to uphold these values as universal human values, regardless of one’s background. With the fundamentalists, the humanity of someone is limited to full humanity for those within the fundamentalist group and then declining human status for the other interpretations of the religion as not pure enough or of the other religions as simply misguided and wrong, so much so as to need to be punished by the pure: them.

“Professor Abdelfattah Amor, special rapporteur on religious intolerance, of the UN Commission on Human Rights, considers that ‘no religion is safe from violation.’ It is quite likely, then, that intolerance and prejudice are commonly faced by some religions where you live,” Leadership reported, “Confirming these fears, the director of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, United Kingdom, observed: ‘All evidence points to the conclusion that religious intolerance is increasing rather than decreasing in the modern world.’”

The perceived superiority of one’s religion over others, or non-religion or others for that matter, becomes the basis for the fanaticism and intolerance that leads to the horrific acts seen in the history of and in the current period of Nigeria society, where the increase in communication, respect, tolerance, and unified identity as human beings become the basis for combatting it.

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:

Friday, 8 February 2019

According to Leadership, a set of delegates from the Humanist Association of Nigeria have come together to help with inclusivity within Nigerian media.

In particular, they have worked for the inclusion of the voices of the non-religious within Nigerian society. Dr. Leo Igwe visited the National Headquarters of Leadership newspaper in Abuja on January 14, 2019.

Igwe said, “The Abuja Humanists convention just ended. This historic event focused on the risks and challenges that people who renounce religion face in the country. The Convention provided an important platform for ex-religionists to tell their stories and share their experiences”

As others may have noted, and as Igwe did, the purpose of the coming together of the humanist and the atheist groups within Nigerian communities is to create community and raise the concerns of the community in one place.

Igwe continued to describe how the issues facing the non-religious tend to be missing from the issues considered important within the nation. 

In fact, that the non-religious, though small in the total religious demographics of Nigeria, represent an important and growing presence within the country. A set of voices with unique concerns that should be taken seriously by the leadership of communities and the nation. 

"In reporting issues that are related to religion, the voices of the non-religion are missing," Igwe stated, "They are conspicuously omitted making the media publications look like church and mosque bulletins. Hence, this wrong impression that over 90 percent of Nigerians are religious or that there are no atheists, freethinkers in the country.” 

Igwe, in a manner of speaking, was simply indicating a discrepancy, an honest one from a sincere and intelligent person, and then requesting, in a way, that the media just do their job properly: no more, no less. This would, by implication, include the fair time and treatment of the non-religious. Not as betters compared to the religious, the same time and the same treatment as one gives to the religious: fair critiques and equal presentation alongside them.

This is a fair and democratic proposal, of which I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Igwe. Igwe explained, "While various media organizations allocate spaces and airtime especially on Fridays and Sundays to the dominant religious faiths for sermons and prayers, incidentally there are no such allocations for the non-religious/humanist constituencies."

Igwe described how the ways in which Nigeria is seen as overwhelmingly religious and without the sub-population of non-religious and humanist citizens is a direct consequence of the media exposure for the religious and the lack of exposure, in a fair light, of the non-religious/humanist populations. This should change. This can change.

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:
Photo by Zachary Keimig on Unsplash

Sunday, 23 December 2018

According to The Guardian, Professor Yemi Osinbajo argues religion and tribal affiliations should be removed as factors within the political life of the nation.
In particular, he spoke at the “Ahamadiya Muslim Jama’at, Nigeria 66th Jalsa Salana, in Ilaro, Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State,” where there was a commendation, by Osinbajo, for the Jama’at’s promotion of peace and unity.
In line with the comments of Osinbajo, the promotion, by anyone or any organization – religious or secular, can assist in the promotion of the moves towards greater tolerance and, in turn, moderation in the belief systems weave of the fabric of the nation.
Any social, economic, and political development will, as with the advancement and empowerment of women and girls, link to the creation and maintenance of the tolerance between religions and with the non-religious.
Osinbaajo stated, “Our country is one, people want to create division between Muslims, Christians and tribes. God does not see us as tribes, he sees us all as one. I thank Ahmadiyya Muslim group in particular because you preach the message of peace, Nigeria will be great with people like you.”
Ahmadiyya Muslum Jamaat Nigeria President Dr. Mas’ud Adenrele Fashola praised the leadership of President Buhari in addition to his system of government, recalling, of course, the statements from the previous post.
Although, atheists and theists, and traditional spiritualists, may disagree on the fundamental nature of the cosmos and the relationship of the universe to humanity; the point of tolerance as a foundational cornerstone in international and national relations as an important pre-requisite for sustainable development cannot be denied.
Some of the statements of the religious leaders may link to simply supernaturalist ideas and rather fear-based and built-based ideas about the role of individual Nigerian citizens. Regardless, the principle of tolerance can be, at a minimum, a stepping stone for equality of atheists with the theists and traditional spiritualists within the Nigerian polity.
The Christian Association of Nigeria Yewa South, Moses Padoun, also gave approbation and endorsement to the statements about peaceful coexistence or tolerance.
This is one basis in some minor news for positive projections within some subsectors of Nigerian society, as ASN and others work towards the improved equality of the non-religious throughout the nation.
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:
Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Sunday, 16 December 2018

President Buhari is making an appeal for the non-politicization of religion in Nigeria. 
In an article, he described the ways in which the Muslims and Christians can live together in greater harmony than emnity. But, of course, this will or may require some work.
The article, on a historical note, states, "In 1844, the Revd Samuel Ajayi Crowther returned home to Yoruba land (now part of modern-day Nigeria). Twenty years earlier, he had been kidnapped and sold to European slave traders who were bound for the Americas."
Crowther was given freedom by an abolitionist naval patrol. The Church Missionary Society received him. This became the basis for the story of the first Anglican Christian mission work in Yoruba land. 
This coincided with translations of the Bible into Yoruba and Hausa languages. This then formed the further basis of communication between faiths.  
Crowther was the first African Anglican bishop in Africa, apparently. Now, Nigeria has the largest conglomeration of Christians of any nation in Africa. 
Thus, this becomes part of the beliefs of much of the population, of millions of people. The argument put forward is one in which the assertions of  Christians and Muslims can be a basis for compassion and flourishing together.
Intriguingly, and predictably, in fact, this ignores the growing atheist community within Nigeria in addition to the violence, hatred, and bigotry exhibited in many inter-religious contexts.
Ideally, the amount of co-existence would be greater in these contexts; however, this is not always the case. Therefore, in spite of the call for co-existence, it is, historically and right into the present, instructive to note the centuries of horrors committed by the religious against the religious, and the religious against the non-religious. 
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:
Photo by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

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:
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).


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.

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