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Atheism And Six Other Matters By 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.

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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 industrialized societies – societies dominated by science and technology and reason and evidence and rationality. 

Moving on to other matters…

First, amongst the younger generations, Accent Substitution is very common. This social disease is more evident within the entertainment industry. Upon their return from the USA or the UK, they automatically develop and exhibit this strange accent. Somehow, this does not happen when they visit, say, Brazil, Ghana, China, Japan, Germany, Canada, France, South Africa or Spain. Listen to many TV and radio personalities speak. Damn, they sound incoherent and awful.

How do you visit the US or the UK for 2-8 weeks and then come up with substitute accent? How? The Indians, Lebanese, Chinese, Canadians, Americans and Britons who reside in Nigeria never develop the “Nigerian accent.” Many have lived in Nigeria for upward of a decade or more, yet, there is no hint of a local accent (except perhaps when imitating locals).

Second, I don’t understand this mostly Nigerian logic: If you win an election, you praise and credit Almighty God. But if you lose, you blame INEC and also accuse your opponent of rigging. It seems there is never an acknowledgement of loftier effort and talent, the role and choice of the electorate or an admission of failure and shortcomings. There is always something or somebody to blame.

Third, on three occasions last year, I noticed this: when our plane landed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, many Nigerians began clapping and singing and praying. Singing and praying and clapping as if in a Church. But this was not the case when we landed at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. What was that for? Thanking God, I suppose, for journey mercies. Why not thank the pilots and flight attendants who made the journey safe, memorable and enjoyable.

Fourth, when most of us think of domestic violence, we mainly think in terms of the man being the perpetrator -- and the woman the victim. But really, it can be the other way round: the woman physically and mentally abusing the man. Unfortunately, society does not pay attention to women abusing their men. And too many men are too ashamed and embarrassed to call attention to their plight.

Fifth, I feel sorry for Bill Cosby. Even if the accusations relating to sexual improprieties tuned out to be 100% false, his reputation and legacy is forever shattered, ruined. Even if the courts pronounce him innocent, a sizable number of Americans will continue to doubt him. As it is, public opinion is stacked against him. Personally, I do not think he drugged or raped any of the women. Fornication and or adultery, perhaps? Perhaps! The celebrity culture is such that some women – some women – throw themselves at celebrities. Consenting sex, within that culture, is not a big deal.

And finally, the social media is humming with trivialities and inconsequential chatter about the wristwatch Mrs. Aisha Buhari wore on inauguration day. What is wrong with some Nigerians? Are they so idle and bored they have nothing important to talk about? And is this the kind of things the opposition party should encourage? What’s next on their agenda?  Aren’t these the same Nigerians who refused to bat an eye when the former First Lady engaged in economic excesses and political perversions?

Sabella Abidde can be reached at: [email protected] He is also on Facebook.