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Against Sainthood for Benedict Daswa : Why Replace Sangoma Witchcraft with Catholic Witchcraft?

Sep 18th, 2015 | By Leo Igwe

I am against the ongoing efforts and campaign by the Catholic Church to make the late South African schoolteacher, Benedict Daswa, a saint. While I acknowledge the heroic struggle waged by Daswa against witchcraft based violence and exploitation of his Venda people, a struggle that eventually led to his brutal murder; while I understand the need to celebrate and commemorate his life, legacy and achievement, this initiative to make him an object of ‘worship’ or reverence by the catholic establishment is a self-serving scheme and is literally an insult on the memory of this critical and courageous mind.

Why do I think so? First of all, making Benedict Daswa a saint sends a wrong message and confusing signals to people … Read the rest

A Milestone in International Freethought

Aug 31st, 2015 | By Center for Inquiry

A press release from CFI

The Center for Inquiry is delighted to announce the formation of its first branch in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. CFI-Pakistan will be operated by “Emanuel Enoch,” and work to promote science, reason, and secular humanism in a country beset by religious extremism and sectarian violence.

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Pakistan is a flashpoint for almost all of the core issues of concern to the Center for Inquiry. In Pakistan, blasphemy is a crime, and a charge regularly invoked to persecute atheists, secularists, and political and religious dissidents. It is a deeply religious country, with extremist forms of Islam holding enormous sway over the public and the government. At the same time, … Read the rest

African Atheist Woman Reveals Why She is in the Closet

Aug 22nd, 2015 | By Leo Igwe

She is from one of the countries in Southern Africa and is in her 20s. She asked me not to reveal her true identity so I will call her Sara. Sara comes from a strong Catholic background and knows a lot about Catholic faith and rituals. Recently she told me why she is a closeted atheist and may remain so for some time.

“I was very religious and almost became a nun… I come from a staunch Catholic home. I used help out at the church and when people asked for some assistance. I was that good that the bishop heard about me and invited me for a lunch,” she told me during an online chat.

Unfortunately the lunch did … Read the rest

Humanism and Anti-Intellectualism in Nigeria

Aug 17th, 2015 | By Leo Igwe

A lot has been said about militant Islam and extreme Christian traditional religious practices in Nigeria. There has been much focus on violent attacks by the jihadist group Boko Haram, on the abuses perpetrated by sharia policing agencies, and the nefarious activities of homophobic Pentecostal churches and witch hunting pastors in the country. Unfortunately not much attention has been paid to the efforts of humanists, atheists, skeptics and agnostics in the country to address these problems. Not many Nigerians know about the campaigns by humanists against witch hunting, blasphemy law and harmful traditional practices. In fact not many Nigerians know that humanists and humanist groups exist in the country.

Thanks to the internet, things are beginning to change. There is … Read the rest

Save the Kano Nine: An Open Letter to Buhari, Ganduje and Sanusi

Jul 2nd, 2015 | By Andrew Copson and Leo Igwe

To President Buhari
To Governor Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje
To Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II

We are writing from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a human rights advocacy organisation accredited as an NGO at the United Nations Human Rights Council. We write to express our distress and deepest concerns over the death sentences reportedly handed down to nine individuals in Kano state this week. Our concerns include the following:

We are appalled that a death sentence should be considered a legally enforceable punishment in any circumstance. In this case where the “offence” committed appears to be little more than the expression of a minority religious belief, the death sentence is particularly disproportionate and constitutes an egregious violation of the right … Read the rest

Humanism and the New Pessimism

Jun 28th, 2015 | By Bill Cooke

What should humanism stand for in the decades to come? Are the assumptions and values of humanism easily transferable to these new conditions? Many would see even posing such a question as laughable. Is not humanism as a voice of reason, progress and optimism, thoroughly discredited in an age where such things ring hollow?

It’s true that many of the promises of the twentieth century have proved to be illusory. And even when they have been realized, only a relatively few have benefitted. Looking to the future, even if we take the more alarmist forecasts with a pinch of salt, the changes ahead are going to be enormously challenging. Climate change, population growth, peak oil, failed states, rogue states, religious … Read the rest

Kpatinga: Another ‘Witch’ Village in Ghana

Apr 8th, 2014 | By Leo Igwe
Kpatinga: Another ‘Witch’ Village in Ghana I just returned from Kpatinga, another village in northern Ghana where alleged witches take refuge. One unique thing about witchcraft belief in Northern Ghana is that there are safe spaces for ‘witches’. A ‘witch’ must not be suffered to die as the scripture says. There are villages that welcome and rehabilitate victims of witchcraft accusations. Kpatinga is one of them. It is around 75 miles from the regional capital, Tamale. The major challenge to anyone visiting the ‘witch’ camp is access. Kpatinga is remotely located. To visit the village from Tamale one must stop over at Gushegu town. The journey from Tamale to Gushegu town is about 3 hours. Apart from the Metro Mass Buses, other commercial buses ply this Read the rest

Interview with Rebecca Goldstein on Plato at the Googleplex, philosophy for the public, and everything

Mar 20th, 2014 | By Rebecca Goldstein

OB: As a fan of philosophy I’ve been delighted to see the rave reviews for Plato at the Googleplex in major media – the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, Slate, NPR, The Atlantic. This has to be a good thing: a sign that philosophy can be made interesting to the reading public, and itself a step to getting more people interested in philosophy. It’s all the more gratifying because part of your point, as I understand it, is to show readers that philosophy has value and has not been rendered superfluous by science. Can you tell us a little about why philosophy does indeed have value?

RG: I’ve been delighted to see the rave reviews, too.

Okay, why … Read the rest

The Good Juror Pose

Feb 9th, 2014 | By Bruce Everett
The Good Juror Pose

Preamble: This essay focuses on a common source of contention in discussions of accusations of rape. It is understood that for some rape survivors, this article will file under “Too Long – Didn’t Read”, purely for reasons of mental health and self-preservation. An obligatory trigger warning also applies.

It is also understood that for many people, a simple “fuck off!” is the best, and a perfectly justifiable, response to what I am calling ‘The “Good Juror” Pose. I’m tentatively offering my prescription to those best able to help, rather than making expectations of those who have been hurt.

I think there is a need, for those in a position to make a difference, for more reflection on what is actually Read the rest

What to do with all the “Witches”?

Dec 19th, 2013 | By Leo Igwe

There is a great problem brewing in Ghana – What to do with all the witches? The government has decided to eradicate witchcraft. The plan is to close down the safe camps where those accused of witchcraft fled to get away from their accusers. The victims are to be sent back to their accusers who will kill them in all likelihood.

Witchcraft is big business in Ghana. Soothsayers, priests and chiefs wield great power over largely helpless people through the threat of exposing common people as witches. Once accused, the “Witch” is usually killed or expelled from the village. The accused witches that escape with their lives end up in witch camps where they are protected from execution.

Now Nana … Read the rest

CFI combating superstition in Uganda

Nov 9th, 2013 | By Bill Cooke

Fifty or so miles out of Kampala is a small town called Wobulenzi, and here CFI–Uganda runs a clinic devoted to testing the local population for HIV/AIDS and educating them how the disease is contracted. The education program is vital because, as in much of Africa, superstition and misinformation are rife.  So much of what is not understood is attributed to witchcraft and, not infrequently, whoever is identified as the witch ends up dying a horrible death. The churches and the mosques do little or nothing to prevent this superstition, and in many cases are the chief propagators. So, against huge odds, CFI–Uganda is fighting these debilitating superstitions.

CFI–Uganda is also helping an organization called HALEA, or Humanist Association for … Read the rest

Humanists help orphans in Kenya

Nov 9th, 2013 | By Bill Cooke

On the fertile high country in central Kenya, in the shadow of the Nandi Hills, is the Ogwodo Primary School. Five or so buildings, two of them built by the parents out of mud and cow dung. All quite large and bare, with forty or more children to each room, sitting on hard pews and working at long benchtops. Here is where a sizable group of orphans are getting their schooling thanks to the Center for Inquiry, the humanist think-tank based in Amherst, New York.

There are many orphans in Kenya, most the result of their parents having died from HIV/AIDs, being too poor to afford medication, or learning of their disease too late. The churches bear a huge responsibility … Read the rest

Witch Hunting and Adeboye’s Evangelical Tour of the Pacific

Oct 13th, 2013 | By Leo Igwe

This is another reason why you should raise your voice in protest against Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s planned tour of the Pacific in November. We need to end witch hunting around the globe. Witch persecution ended in Europe and most parts of western world centuries ago. But this violent campaign continues in many regions of the world mainly due to the activities of some Christian churches, pastors and other religious actors.. To stop witch hunting, witch hunters must be check mated and stopped. Witch finding initiatives must be nipped in the bud. Witch hunting movement must be exposed. Witchcraft claims must be challenged and critically examined. Any scheme to export witch hunting goods and services to other countries and regions must … Read the rest

Boycott the Pacific tour of a homophobic Nigerian pastor

Oct 12th, 2013 | By Leo Igwe

I am writing to urge you to join as we protest the tour of the Pacific Region in November of the ‘General Overseer’ of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye. Pastor Adeboye is touring Canberra (November 10-11), Melbourne (12-13) New Zealand (14-15), Fiji (16-17), Solomon Islands (18-19), Papua New Guinea (20-21), Sydney (22-23), Perth(24-25).

The aim of the tour is to establish branches of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in these places. Pastor Adeboye is one of the pastors who openly used their sermons and preaching to rally public support for the anti same sex marriage bill which was recently passed by lawmakers in Nigeria.

Earlier this year he told a local Christian gathering that ‘Same … Read the rest

Avenues to the Institutions

Oct 9th, 2013 | By Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

It was such a revelation learning about my documented pre-Goldenbridge past and its culmination leading to a custodial sentence in that reprehensible Dickensian institution on the periphery of the heart of Dublin – that indeed, was to become synonymous with generational, systemic, grim brutishness towards defenceless children in Ireland and globally in 1996.

When I was finally re-united with my mother in Birmingham as an adult, I repeatedly asked her how I came to be in Goldenbridge in the first place. She always became very uncomfortable at me probing her on my past, and nervously shuffled her shoulders and replied that I had been sent there to be educated. Education was a misnomer, especially when the ethos of the… Read the rest

The Invisibility of Gender in the debate on Race and Violence

Jul 26th, 2013 | By Adele Wilde-Blavatsky

‘Just because Shaima Alawadi wasn’t killed by an American racist doesn’t mean that there isn’t cause for activist outrage.’ Blogger comment

Last week, from New York to LA, it was reported that thousands of protesters took to the streets to voice outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was cleared of the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. President Obama described the death of Trayvon Martin as “a tragedy”, but appealed for calm and called on Americans to accept the acquittal of the teenager’s killer, George Zimmerman. It is a tragedy. However, the level of public outrage, frustration and media coverage about the killing of a black man sadly says more about our current current double standards and … Read the rest

A Week in A ‘Witch’ Camp in Ghana

Jun 2nd, 2013 | By Leo Igwe
A Week in A ‘Witch’ Camp in Ghana

I just concluded a week long stay in Gnani ‘witch’ camp as part of my field work in the region. Gnani Tindan, as it is locally known, is one of those safe spaces where alleged witches and wizards fleeing persecution or execution can find refuge. Other ‘witch’camps exist in Kukuo, Gushegu, Nabule, Kpatinga and Gambaga. Witch camp is a traditional mechanism for containing and resolving witchcraft related crises in the region. In local communities, expelling an alleged witch or wizard is still currently observed as a traditional law and practice, as a measure to maintain social peace and order. One special feature of Gnani Tindan is that it has male refugees. Yes, it is a ‘witch’ camp with alleged wizards. … Read the rest

Breaking the Taboo of Atheism in Black Communities

May 4th, 2013 | By Leo Igwe

The black discourse is characteristically presented in polarized – black versus white or in a binary – black and white manner. The white factor is often construed to be the only frame – or better the principal dynamic – that defines, drives or makes the black text or the black talk meaningful. Personally I find this approach to be narrow, unimaginative and unscientific. It leaves so much unexplained about the black world and experience. This approach conflates so many issues including the diversity, dialectics and dynamism, the contrasts and contradictions, peculiarities, particularities and commonalities in black life, history and experience. Hence I find fascinating the possibilities of the emerging dynamic of atheism or the black versus god debate. But these … Read the rest

Skepticism and Freethought in Lagos

May 3rd, 2013 | By Leo Igwe

I would like to salute fellow humanists and skeptics, and other curious and inquisitive friends for honouring our invitation to the meeting of April 28, 2013 and for considering being there the best way to spend their time and observe their Sunday. Their presence was a clear indication that the idea of a skeptical Lagos of doubters, critical thinking and questioning individuals and groups was one whose time had come.

A day before the event, I was out in Sabo area distributing some flyers and inviting the people I met on the streets to attend this event. Interestingly some of the people whom I gave the flyers without looking or reading the content simply said “God Bless you”. Yes, God … Read the rest

Formation of reformatories and industrial schools

Apr 8th, 2013 | By Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

I would like to begin by summarising an overview of parts of a report into the historical background of reformatories and industrial schools in Britain and Ireland. The report laid out by *experts was requested by the commission to inquire into child institutional abuse (CICA), which was set up to deal with allegations of child abuse in Irish reformatories and industrial schools. Prominent survivors had raised their voices to tell Ireland and the world of the secretive systemic inter-generational abuse that occurred behind closed reformatory and industrial school doors. They demanded to be heard. Hence the instigation of the CICA by the then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil-led government. The Commission was thus established on 23 May, 2000, pursuant … Read the rest