Chiedozie Uwakwe is from southern Nigeria. Ukwakwe and I talk about irreligiosity in Nigeria.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Regarding family of origin, what are its language, culture, and religious background?
Chiedozie Uwakwe: I’m Nigerian, from the Southern part of Nigeria. The first language of my tribe is called the Igbo Language. The name of the tribe is Igbo. So, I’m basically am Igbo guy. Traditionally, we practiced a religion that is grouped under African Traditional Religion, it is a form of Animism, until the British Colonized Nigeria and brought with them Christianity. The Igbos embraced it, so they are more or less a Christian culture now. I was born and brought up a Christian. The traditional culture of the Igbos still reflects the animistic religion of their forebearers. With the land, bodies of water, animals, sky, and sun considered sacred.
Jacobsen: Was this religious upbringing a benefit for you? If so, how? Also if in some ways not, how?
Uwakwe: I would say the religious upbringing had a few benefits, for example, even though the bible is a poor book on the subject of morality, it gave me my first lessons on morality and I developed from there.
The disadvantage of religious upbringing for me that readily comes to mind is that it made me think that I wasn’t at fault for my problems, instead of me taking charge of my problems, it made shift the blame to some nonexistent entity, thereby robbing me of the opportunity to take charge of my life and assume responsibility for my actions and failures. After all, you can always blame it on the devil.
Jacobsen: What seems like some pivotal moments in movements towards the reduction in religious belief for you? Why those moments?
Uwakwe: Firstly, when I stumbled on books and articles on the history of religions, especially Christianity and Islam, it was nothing like what was written in their holy books, the metamorphosis of religious gods like Yahweh and Allah. How they went from obscure deities to huge forces. That was my first step towards doubt. Secondly, the issue of evil in within the concept of a benevolent and all-powerful god. I couldn’t wrap my head around that fact. It just didn’t make sense. Thirdly, watching people around me pray for things that didn’t come to pass, which is a direct contraindication to what is written in the holy books.
Jacobsen: Canadians can live in a cultural bubble. We hold internationalist values often, enshrined in things like the UN Charter, but we live lives high in life quality that can exacerbate our bubble. What should Canadians know about your own society’s dabbling in religion, faith, and superstition, and their impacts politics, law, and social interactions in daily life?
Uwakwe: I would say my society is largely religious because of the failure of the government and social structures. Religion and superstitions offer a kind of hope and succor that is not forthcoming from our political structure. So, this has greatly influenced our social relationships and interactions as they are all laced with religion as that is they only system they believe that can’t fail us. Since the political structure has made life unbearable for us on earth, there must be some sort of compensation in the afterlife. This has led to so many religious leaders feeding fat off of this false hope.
Jacobsen: What seem to have been effective methods in combatting religious superstition?
Uwakwe: Awareness campaigns, with increased penetration of the internet, there has been an insane increase in social awareness campaigns on social media especially. Irreligious people have been writing articles, debating on social media and forums, challenging religious superstitions and dogma, debunking and ridiculing them. Those honest enough to recognize a superior argument have been welcoming and they’ve been supportive.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Chiedozie.