It is also possible that I might have learnt about the words later than I learnt other words because they weren’t words that found common usage amongst people in the part of the world where I hail from. Somehow everyone believed in some kind of God, either indigenous or foreign (mostly the Abrahamic religions).
I saw that change over the years, to a point where people no longer raised eyebrows on discovering that someone wasn’t a frequent church goer or as a Muslim, didn’t pray five times daily, nor fasted at Ramadan, and indulged in the consumption of alcohol. The acceptance of this situation nonetheless, people are quite skeptical in voting a non-religious person into positions of authority, hence “student union” elective positions remains a tug-of-war between adherents of major religions of Christianity and Islam in Nigerian colleges, and sometimes the Christian vote may be split when a staunch catholic is involved, and that’s apart from the role ethnicity plays. That was why Chaurasia (a member of a Christian fellowship in college) defeated Sesan (a non-fellowshiping free thinker) in school elections to become president, even though he didn’t necessarily pander to Christian tenets while in power. It was also why my Deeper Christian Life Fellowship roommate decided to vote for Obasanjo (who after regaining freedom from jail declared he was now BORN AGAIN) rather than an Olu Falae, whose religious inclination he wasn’t too sure of, just as the death of Patrick Yakowa (Kaduna State’s first Christian governor) in a helicopter crash gave rise to wide celebrations and jubilation amongst Muslims in Kaduna and Kano state.
What I’m trying to say is this, though Nigerians have begun accepting that some people are not necessarily so religious, and that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be good people, they are yet to accept that such people should take up positions of responsibility, especially politically at all levels regardless of their level of goodness. This is why even the most crooked Nigerian politician is quick to play up his religious card (especially of being a Christian or Muslim) as and at when due (some even pander to both sides if need be).
Nigerians have also come to accept the presence in their midst of adherents of the third and oldest arm of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism as well as Eastern Religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and the likes. I haven’t intentionally left out the Occultics and Fetishists, which has always been and is now staging a comeback even amongst members of the established religions (evident in the fetish paraphernalia that litter major roads of Nigeria, especially at crossroads and shrines), who either drop their western adopted religions or simply combine both.
But this yarn isn’t about those who adhere to all the religions I’ve stated and more, it isn’t even about those who pretend to be followers of any of them, nor those who though are areligious but believe in the existence of a SUPREME BEING, or if you may in a GOD. It is about the growing number of those who do not believe in, or that deny the existence of a God or Supreme Being, is what I feel to qwerty about.
This group of Nigerians have yet to receive wide acceptance from other Nigerians (relatives or not), despite their growing number. While many have become quite vocal and visible, many have elected to stay under the shadow, especially when they haven’t become independent or fully independent, or for reasons best known to them, especially if such a move will hinder advancement for them socially, politically, financially and/or otherwise.
I did tinker with atheism at some point in my life, and sometimes such thoughts come to mind, but I find enough arguments to counter it, not necessarily using experiences or events without me, but rather within me, and so far such have kept me from falling to the other side. I am however intrigued by those on the other side in Nigeria, especiallywith those whom I’d known to be brought up in very religious homes, even in homes of pastors and highly influential Muslim clerics. I have often wondered what must’ve influenced their change especially coming from a religious society like Nigeria.
From the little poking and picking in the brains of a few atheist friends, I found that the reason were quite varied (and probably this space may not be enough to accommodate all of my findings), but I shall limit them to the ones I found interesting. Though I’ve read posts from Nigerian atheists on Facebook and on Twitter who’d been Muslims, I am yet to see one physically. As for those who’d been Christians those are just too numerous to mention, while because of the proby nature of Judaism (with constant revision of the Talmud), adherents can easily slip in and out of atheism, infact it’s still a wonder to me that many Jews who witnessed the holocaust and their descendants still believe in a Supreme Being, and these being some of the most intelligent people to walk this terra firma (as their cache of Nobel Prizes in various fields can easily attest to).
It used to be the preserve of scientists especially with universities and colleges where maverick lecturers and professors openly challenged widely held local beliefs and superstitions, as well as biblical and Islamic versions (infact one Ob/Gyn professor I know has an interesting view of Islam and it’s prophet that I’d rather not repeat here for fear of lending fuel to a smouldering ember) of life issues, but now no section of academic, business and other fields have been spared the presence of atheists. Elsewhere, in the West this would’ve been a stupid subject, but definitely not here where this shocking revelation have led to estrangements between and amongst those who have differing views, especially on social media, where for instance I’ve seen two of my friends on Facebook (one a former catholic and now atheist, and another a practicing catholic) unfriend each other after pelting themselves with insults, following a disagreement of a religious nature, over a religious issue. Infact, one of the reasons it came to me to write this was the penchant for this atheist friend to have become uninterested in any other issue (even feminism which she had before now propagated) except for those bothering on attack of religious thoughts which seem antithetical to today’s civilization.
I will illustrate the views of atheists in this simple story about a boy whose mother asked what he learnt in Sunday school, and he responding told his mother the story of Moses and how he led the children of Israel through the Red Sea, by constructing a bridge (laced with Improvised Explosive Devices, IED’s) which Moses quickly destroyed as soon as all the Israelites had crossed and the Egyptians had gone on. The bewildered mother on inquiring from the son, if that was truly what was taught in Sunday school, was shocked when her son told her she wouldn’t believe it, if he told her the real story as narrated by his Sunday school teacher. This is usually the crux of the matter with religion from the perspective of the atheist, as it appears that most of the stories in the “Holy Books” sound ridiculous and superfluously impossible to the rational thinker, and that is exactly where the problem is, and the key word is “RATIONAL”, because the wordings and writings of many religious books aren’t meant really to be queried but accepted with faith, except in areas of contention brought about by mistranslations or other errors, hence based on this the bible and it’s adherents for instance aren’t required to provide proof in defence of beliefs inherent in the book, unlike would’ve been with a scientific work, observations, hypothesis and theorems.
The truth is that if one looked for proof for the presence of someone or something that controls all things and indeed all life, one wouldn’t find it, as even the one who thinks he’s found it can be convinced otherwise when he comes face to face with more compelling evidence to the contrary, “rationally speaking”. But then must we query all things? Haven’t the fact that all that’s currently known still pales considerable to the much that’s unknown point to the fact that we can never know all, and thereby never stop knowing? Couldn’t this possibly be the design of the ALL KNOWING ONE, who at the end of the day numbs even the one that seeks to know all into submission, to realize that all can’t be known, and that all wasn’t meant to be known in the first place?
Nigerian atheists seem to have become particularly disgusted with the activities of the Men (and women) acting on behalf of the Christian God especially as regards their ostentatious way of life, in the face of mind numbing poverty even of their zombie-like followers who are quick to quote their pastors offhand than the shortest verse in the bible (some even go as far as speaking, dressing or even making their hair like their pastors’), while they find disgusting and uncivilized the way of Muslims, especially with the minority espousing radical fundamentalism while the moderate majority remain quiet, or covertly supporting any activity that will bring about an Islamic State, in the philosophy of the end justifying the means. At the back of their mind is also the fact that at one time or the other in the development of man and his civilization, religion has been and continues to be a tool and a justification for genocide, even for most of the religions that have embraced peace today, infact Frederick Anderson posited in his comment to – THE ISLAMISTS | madukovich’s cogitations https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/the-islamists/ that, “Islam is still growing up, and like all teenagers it is subject to fits of angst and unreasonable obstinacy”, as older religions before it (I might add) had careered through such a path much earlier. It is a historical fact that the golden age of Judaism when Moses Maimonides made his name was under the rule of the Moors in Spain when the Torah and Talmud were translated and even taught in Arabic, before the conquering Christians overran Spain and instituted the INQUISITION! For Judaism’s stain, I will refer you to the Old Testament section of your Bible.
Apart from Nigerians who became atheists out of reason of so much education and enlightenment, many were those who’d been religious, fell on hard times or witnessed personal tragedies (that tested their faith) then prayed to “God” and did not get the “YES” response their pastors promised they’d get, became disillusioned and jettisoned the idea that there is a God, this is not much seen with Muslims especially of Northerm Nigeria extraction whose DNA appear to be ingrained with the belief that God wills good in the same measure with which he wills evil, hence tragedies are more likely to draw them closer to their God than it is with the Christian God who appears not to have the capacity to do evil (which they see as the sole prerogative of the devil).
Atheists in Nigeria point to everything wrong in Nigeria as relating to religion. Indeed, a recent study suggests that although a belief in God, as well as heaven and hell, impacted the economy positively, the same cannot be said of church attendance (and by inference attendance in the mosque, or synagogue and indeed any other place of worship), for which Nigeria is well known for, even some major roads are cordoned off on Fridays to allow teeming worshipers to observe their Juma’at Prayers. Most atheists look upon the ways of those who claim they are guided by the laws and ways of a God with scorn, pointing to their own righteousness as worthy of emulation, even without guidance of any Being in heaven, earth, under the earth or sea. For them the law of the land is superior to any other, unlike with Muslims in Nigeria who hold the Shari’a in higher regard compared to the constitution, even when such laws (eg. child marriage) negates the accepted norm of today’s civilization.
One thing you cannot take away from atheists is their penchant to probe everything. Their desire not to swallow all they hear hook, line and sinker without reservations appeals to me. I wish I could be an atheist but I’m held back by the belief that the fact that one doesn’t see a thing, doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and that is one truism that is incontrovertible for me.