Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How is atheism perceived in Zimbabwe?
Takudzwa Mazwienduna: Atheism or secularism is something many people in Zimbabwe are not familiar with. The constitution in Zimbabwe is very secular but the people are not. Most people in Zimbabwe do not approve of it and consequently, very few people dare to come out as Atheists. Anything that is not Christianity is frowned upon, Zimbabweans made an uproar in 2016 when the government proposed teaching other religions in the religious studies syllabus as opposed to just Christianity because it is unconstitutional, Atheism would be regarded worse
Jacobsen: Do you have any advice for fellow non-believers in Zimbabwe for being publicly out as nonbelievers?
Mazwienduna: I personally know a lot of non-religious people in Zimbabwe and we have been fighting a good fight defending our secular constitution. We recently got one of our own on the National Censorship Board and I would advise my fellow nones to join in the efforts. I would however not recommend Nones who are dependent on their parents or guardians to be open secularists since this would result in them being cut off from their guardians’ financial support which is typical of many Zimbabwean families
Jacobsen: What is something that others in countries like Canada should know but don’t about religion in Zimbabwe?
Mazwienduna: Zimbabwe is an exclusively Christian country although the constitution is secular. Religion influences most aspects of public opinion and some sects do witch hunts or deny children medical care or vaccinations.
Jacobsen: Who is the biggest religious charlatan in the country?
Mazwienduna: It is not easy to tell because we have so many successful “Men of God” coming up preaching the gospel of prosperity to the struggling Zimbabweans. They make millions of American dollars in tithes and seed money and they sponsor national sports teams. The big three, however, are Prophet Makandiwa, Prophet Magaya, and Dr. Ezekiel Guti. They have their own TV channels, are politically connected and their followers see them as gods.
Jacobsen: What is the good of religion?
Mazwienduna: Maybe charity with traditional churches like the Catholic Church that has numerous children homes who they unfortunately indoctrinate, the best schools in the country are also mission schools, but they downplay scientific literacy since topics like evolution are taught with a disclaimer.
Jacobsen: What is the bad of religion in Zimbabwe?
Mazwienduna: It popularises bigotry and undermines scientific medicine. It has also produced citizens who are more concerned about prayer rather than working.
Jacobsen: What do you think is the trajectory of irreligion in the country for the next 10 years?
Mazwienduna: Not so different from now if secularists do not voice their opinions and concerns. We have been on Christian sponsored radio but we were kicked off. The secular community doesn’t have the funding or proper channels to advocate for secularism and as long as the Christians have power and resources they will control the future.