Religion has championed its way into seizing the position of African’s leading and cherished preoccupation. Africa, for centuries, has not eminently had real possession over almost anything, not even in the possessions that were already duly in its custody. However, this seems to have changed in the domain of religion; the acceptance and influence of religion, inasmuch as it was a dictated gift from our colonizers, today seems to be one remarkable exploit of Africa. Moreover, Africans pride themselves to preserve and protect the existence and reign of their revered religions. As there’s no denying the taste of power or strategic maneuver, as it happens, and control in the predominating religious bodies in Africa. Perhaps, our desperate desire to claim control may have just caused the scenario to overturn, and instead, we have been consumed by religion or religiousness, provoking some to now abandon it.
In Africa, we are all customarily born into our family’s practiced religion (principally Christianity or Islam), and fulfilling the expectation of carrying on this faith essentially forced down our throats and passing it on, will bring honor to the family. It is ironical that somehow, the religious bodies ground Salvation teachings in the ‘lost and found’ belief, yet some of their members are now quitting their faiths on the account to be free from a double standard life; a disguise pillared by the illusion of religious morality most religious individuals forge to escape their own demons, to escape the “too religious” bondage, and also to find their true selves, purpose and a path treading into evolved spirituality.
We can agree that, to say one is non-religious in Africa does not necessarily equate to atheism since majority of Africans unquestionably believe in the existence of the Supreme Being and spirituality, although atheists rightfully fall into the non-religious bracket. Regardless, whichever position one takes in the non-religious category is close to an abomination in Africa; well, to be atheist is literally a taboo and blasphemous to the dominant practiced faiths in Africa, and to society.
Nonetheless, it would be presumably safe not to go public as ‘non-religious’ in Africa, since it wouldn’t be far from impossible to say that one could be stoned by the “believers”; both metaphorically and regrettably literally. As well, one instantaneously deprives themselves the possibility to attain or even aspire to stand for office in certain political heights or leadership positions and platforms of power that can impact change, by openly identifying as non-religious, regardless of competency and proficiency. In Africa, to be religious in itself could give one a free pass to positions of power that has no connections whatsoever to religion or spirituality.
Even though non-religious individuals may not etch their unwelcomed status on their foreheads, they still however, are enabled by their stance to as a matter of fact, freely express themselves in terms of lifestyle, sex, fashion, politics and general opinions, and sometimes a few who persist unapologetically. Even so, it is discouraging that one must be non-religious to be bold and daring, to be an empowered woman or evolved man, as it is mostly the case among African people.
One must surely feel like an outcast or an actual devil to be non-religious in Africa! One might as well consequently pass the immorality and impure test just because one identifies as non-religious in an African community. As since, the masses in one’s society or family are all uniformly either attending all-week church programs and services or going to worship at the mosque. The non-stop eyebrows they’d raise, burning-hell fire reminders, the altar call traps, and inescapable deliberate rejection by family and friends. And one who identifies as not “too religious” may be lucky to divert this ordeal but might not totally be out of the woods. Simply, embracing any stance outside of being a staunch believer of a popular religious faith would signify, leaving one’s life open to unreasonable scrutiny, discrimination and unfair treatment, and the susceptibility of opinions and submissions to misconstruction.
When an African takes a chance and chooses to be non-religious, they do so, knowingly, at their own peril to lose respect from society. Whereas, some are intimidated out of their religious faith into being non-religious.
Now, what it really feels like to be non-religious for the non-religious African individual. To not be a part of what religion has become or unraveled itself to be, and what it has done to its followers today. Thus, to be non-religious is a statement. A statement delineating non-conformity. Non-conforming to the vicious cycle of pretense and hypocrisy that’s hugely portrayed by the religious fellows. Non-conforming to a nation polarized by the religion one is labeled with or stereotyped into or discriminated by. To be non-religious would proceed to entail one being able to explore their spirituality and connection with a greater existence at their own pace, without being manacled and repressed by religious conventions which a multitude of Africans, religious Africans, seem to be rather okay with.
Today, the poison of religion in Africa is to blindly follow a prophet or God’s “anointed”, faithfully ignoring all the signs. Some may have been compelled to flee their religion for refuge. Hence, they will obtain solace rather existing as non-religious.
It is indeed staggering that in a developing continent, a religious body can easily be an abode for sexual misconduct, the negligent promotion of an abusive culture at the same time harboring the abusers, and gender inequality. For this reason, perhaps, some Africans carry on as non-religious in order to grant themselves the real chance to evolve without ‘religious conditions’ dampening their capabilities. And of course, the religious leaders terrorizing members into raising funds that will only restock their pot-bellied pockets. Furthermore, religious bodies have now completely epitomized institutionalization; leaving it defenseless to the threats of corruption. It is funny how there’s a raging war to eradicate corruption from Africa’s systems, but there seems to be viable thriving spaces for the continuation of corruption in the religious institutions.
Religion in Africa, for so long, has been able to subdue people’s free will and urge to undertake fearless or adventurous choices. The ingrained fear to have conversations religion has taught it followers to outright hate and renounce. This has shaped up especially in the area of sexual freedom. To be non-religious again, means to be a part of a sexual revolution in Africa; advancing the likelihood for Africans to be able to actively explore and unashamedly make sexual choices, to degenderize sexual freedoms, and to destigmatize and embrace sexual evolution.
A daring adventurer of life may be on the verge of facing his/her wildest quest by taking on the status of being non-religious in an African setting. To face up to his or her demons; (s)he chooses not to ignorantly dance with the zealots of the religion (s)he daringly forsook or idled, so as to be unbound to travail the complications and occasions of life and reality, while practicing common sense to discern deception and resolve his or her own truth. Humanity is only a chain of imperfections, yet we relentlessly fancy being at the center; blindly climbing certain heights in hopes to reach glories, and to call all the shots; a bonanza for our African religious leaders.
As long as the human mind maintains to be the Dedalian biological and spiritual existence, and for it to be totally decoyed and controlled by the “directions” and doctrines of a religious leader might be close to playing with fire. Such lingering ploy to control; to control followers’ emotions, their ambitions, basically, to possess control over everything material to them. To break free from this tricky situation and its unimaginable consequences or damaging effects, is what it means to be non-religious in Africa.
Podcast: Documentary Series with Ewusi.