Why Atheism is rejected in Africa: writes Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

You could be many or anything to a typical African and still be accepted.

For instance, you can be a seedy politician, a duplicitous accountant, a scoundrel in high places, a governor without conscience – it still wouldn’t matter.
Many would in fact make excuses for you, and may even pray to their God to have mercy on you. For sure, a sizeable number would genuflect and show some measure of love and respect.

In essence, if you claim to believe in God, then, all is forgiven. But what you cannot be and what you cannot confess to is Atheism. Confessing to a typical African that you don’t believe in God is to commit a serious sin. Many would look at you as if you have lost your mind.

They presuppose that if you don’t believe in God, then, you must believe in what they commonly call juju. The thinking here is that no African is without a belief system; every African worships something – no matter what that something may be. The irony is that when it comes to religious and spiritual matters, many Africans hedge their bets: Many Africans are at once Muslims and animist; they are at once Christians and animist.

They stride both worlds. A second irony is that the vast majority are bad students and terrible disciples when it comes to faithfully obeying the teachings of the Bible or the Quran. The most recent election period (in Nigeria) offered several illustrations. Many of the country’s so-called men of God stood in deeper cesspools than many politicians.

 They lied. They cheated. They tricked. They betrayed. They spoke from both sides of their mouth. Their level of greed and depravity was legendary. The love of money and access to power made them do what Satan wouldn’t make them do. Frankly, Lucifer would be too shy and too embarrassed to commit some of the atrocities many members of the clergy committed. Atheists are a special breed of people.

They are very intelligent, very rational and very caring. Not for them the belief in myths and made-up stories about hell and heaven and a deity in the sky. They know that man invented religion and God and other religious phantasms and belief systems. Tell me: how many Atheists do you know who go about crushing and slaughtering fellow humans in the name of God?

They don’t go about exploiting and subjugating women and children and the underclass? One of the things I don’t understand about Africans who are Muslims and Christians is simply this: why would they forsake the religion of their ancestors for the Abrahamic religions with roots in the Middle East. Why forsake original myths and accept the myths and religious tradition of other cultures? Are African myths and deities and traditions that bad and inferior?

Every so often I find myself in private functions where activities commence and conclude with supplications and gratitude to God. I really don’t mind going to such places, or mind participating in such events. For instance, the most recent wedding ceremonies I attended and or participated in made allowance for prayers. I didn’t mind. I bowed my head slightly, but didn’t close my eyes. I never object to such religious traditions because, frankly, I never want to appear intolerant or insensitive. But there is never a time I don’t wonder why anyone would take religion and religious ceremonies seriously.

I do understand the fact that religion and religious practices appearing to have therapeutic and consoling effect on some people. It appears to bring peace and serenity to some people. And I definitely understand the fact that it gives many people hope – even if such hope and comfort and peace and serenity are nothing but placebotic.

How humans got themselves into believing in God and lesser gods and in hell and heaven and related fables is what I don’t understand. If the men and women who lived in hunting and gathering societies believed in such, it ought not to be the case with those who live in industrialized societies – societies dominated by science and technology and reason and evidence and rationality.

Sabella Ogbobode Abidde 

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