What is your story as a youth growing up in a religious household?
I attended Catholic schools, St. Theresa’s School in Accra from primary, junior high school and in Holy Child School I got my Senior high school education. Obedience, discipline, and morality were the core teachings there with religion and especially Catholicism at its core. It was compulsory for all students to attend Mass at least 3 times a week and observe ‘The Angelus’ prayer’ 3 times a day. Most of the students were Catholic, but we had Anglicans and Protestants of various denominations as well. I became more exposed to Christian Charismatic teachings, joined nondenominational prayer groups and underwent a period of ‘being born-again’, which cemented my belief on God. It was there I had my ‘Confirmation of the Holy Spirit’.
You de-converted and became an atheist in 2007. What were the major reasons, arguments, evidence, and experiences for the de-conversion?
I had finished University where I acquired my BA and I had made lots of friends in the expat community. At the time, I had come to realize that I had certain views such as feminism that a lot of Ghanaian men were not interested in due to cultural and religious reasons so I seemed to connect well with foreigners.
I came to realize that most of them were non-religious as most people from Europe tend to be including my partner although they were baptized in the Orthodox Church. I also started to notice that whenever I made religious statements, there would be a short awkward silence and a change in topic. I felt then that I was not doing my job properly as a Christian if I could not teach them about the Word of God and pass on the teachings of Christ. It was at this juncture that I set on a personal course to do objective research on the origins and importance of religion, especially Christianity, in order to properly inform my friends about it. We had Satellite TV then as well so I gave more attention to programs on channels like the HISTORY channel, which at the time showed objective documentaries on the life and times of Jesus Christ and the origins of the Bible.
This was eye-opening because all my life, I had watched the same type of movies and documentaries which were shown every Sunday and especially on Christian Holidays, but those ones had certain relevant information left out of it and they also did not give archaeologically documented information so came my first ‘shocks’. I also watched the Discovery and National Geographic channels for scientific documentaries on evolution the possibilities of life on other planets and these baffled me further because I had been taught to believe in only Creationism and I did not know there was another way of explaining how humans exist. At that point, I had not gotten any information to preach with and I had no one to talk to about my findings.
I went through stages of grief, disappointment, sadness, anger, and finally stopped going to church. Even when I stopped going to church I felt that God would strike me with lightning for disobeying him or ‘betraying’ him, but as time went by and nothing bad seemed to happen, my fear lessened. I did not know how to explain it to my family and friends. So for years, I kept my non-belief to myself and gave excuses for not attending church and sometimes hoped that I could be proven wrong with my non-belief so I could go back to worshipping God but that time never came.
What is the greatest anti-scientific and anti-humanistic movements within Ghana?
Ghana’s greatest enemy in the progress of science and technological advancement is religion. It is the only and greatest barrier because it allows for so much wrong to go on with little or no opposition. From faith healing, false prophecies, work ethics, illogical theories, women’s oppression, authoritarianism, human rights abuse, bribery and corruption, etc. Ghana is highly religious in the sense that everything that happens is attributed to a deity or superstition or both! If something good happens, it is “By His (God’s) grace”, if something bad happens, it is “God’s will” or “the devil’s work” or “a bad spirit” or “angry ancestors”. It is almost impossible to argue with people no matter how educated because of this train of thought.
Religion is not a private matter as most religious countries practice. Here, it is allowed everywhere and anyone who stands in the way of their ideology or spiritual leader is an enemy of progress to them. Most homes force relatives to pray at odd hours loudly and some go on the streets at midnight to pray or preach. In the public buses, herbal medicine traders who also double as Christian pastors are allowed to stand and preach for hours during the journey. At work, highly religious entrepreneurs and Managers force employees to sing and pray before and after work. All official meetings and occasions, private or public begin and end with a prayer. Our entire lives are circulated around prayer and worship of one deity or another. There is little space for intellectual conversations and critical thinking.
What is the status of women regarding empowerment, equality, and rights in Ghana?
I am very happy to be born at a time when women empowerment is starting to benefit the masses. However, there are several factors that are hampering empowerment and gender equality in Ghana, which include Cultural and religious beliefs.
Can humanism improve the status of women in Ghana more than traditional religious structures, doctrines, and beliefs?
Most definitely it can! This is because, humanism emphasizes the value of all human beings regardless of gender and promotes wellbeing of people whereas religion and superstition creates an illusion of differences between the gender making men feel superior than women. Humanism also brings about a sense of selflessness and working to better the lives of the deprived in society which are mostly women.
Interview by Scott Douglas Jacobsen