Articles

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The Necessity of Atheism: A New Agenda for Nigerian Youth

Apr 5th, 2013 | By Gilbert Alabi Diche

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to (a) stress the need for the development of a more freethinking society, particularly among the Nigerian youth, so as to arrest the increasing intellectual aridity crippling our society; (b) offer some personal reflections on the nature of skepticism; (c) examine religious phenomenon in Nigeria and suggest a more robust secularist agenda for the country.

From 5-7 January 2007, the Sixth World Atheist Conference took place in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India. It attracted over 600 participants – atheists, freethinkers, humanists, rationalists, anti-superstition activists, and the like – from all over the world. The theme of the conference was: “The Necessity of Atheism”, which I have chosen as the title of my article. In … Read the rest



Women’s Day versus Islam

Mar 12th, 2013 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

Women’s Day on March 8 was declared by the International Socialists. In a conference in Copenhagen in 1910, it was declared an International Working Women’s Day (IWD). The idea was proposed by Clara Zetkin, a Marxist woman of the then Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

The battle for equal rights of women to hold public offices, their right to vocational training, and an end to inequity in other conditions was the goal. Therefore as a historical day, Women’s Day is since commemorated and is a national holiday in many countries. It symbolises an age-old struggle of women of all ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds against the long existing gender discriminations further expanded by the Abrahamic religions from which Islam … Read the rest



Shunning

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

Shunning Part I

There’s been a lot of talk lately in the blogosphere corners I frequent on shunning. It has prompted me to write a few thoughts on what shunning means to me personally. 
The very thought of the word absolutely sends shivers down my spine. Shunning is indicative of pure ruthless social rejection, a thing I grew up with in Goldenbridge. I also associate it with children who were very friendly with each other in the institution, who, alas, were severely mocked and jeered and separated from each other by staff. The latter called them ‘love birds’ then castigated and shunned them. There were also children who were different from others, and they too were deliberately avoided by other … Read the rest



A Hostile Farewell to the Catholic Church

Feb 20th, 2013 | By Lauryn Oates

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has prompted, naturally enough, assessment of his time at the helm of the Holy See, with some consensus that it was not a particularly fruitful period for the Church. There’s an abundance of recommendations on how the Catholic Church can get back on track. These include calls to get more serious about the need for reforms, to buckle down and stay true to orthodoxy no matter what, to focus on recruitment, or to work much harder at cleaning up its image.

New York Times columnist Bill Keller, for instance, compares the Catholic Church to a giant corporation facing a prolonged public relations crisis, and advises:

          The first major task facing Benedict’s successor will

Read the rest


Cruelty Toward “Nejis” Animals

Feb 12th, 2013 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

The strollers on this photo* unconcernedly watch the scene of cruelty while the kids beat the poor dog to death. They do not seem to be willing to prevent the sadistic act; after all, the dog is “nejis/ najes”, impure in Islam, let it be!

For non-Muslims, it is impossible to find a suitable word to describe such a cruel act, unless one is familiar with the cultures where such animal abuses are practised. As divine purpose, killing or torturing animals is a vicious ritual still practised in some tribal cultures, but this is not the case in Islam. Animals like pigs and dogs are considered as “nejis” or impure. The Islamic legal tradition has developed several injunctions that warn … Read the rest



Witch Hunts in Papua New Guinea

Feb 10th, 2013 | By Leo Igwe

The news of the murder of a 20 year old woman from Papua New Guinea, Kepari Leniata,  for witchcraft has made headlines across the world.

Leniata’s relatives accused her of killing a boy through sorcery. They ‘tortured her with a hot iron, stripped her naked, tied up her hands and legs and threw her into the fire in front of hundreds of people’. Police and firefighters were at the scene but couldn’t save her life. They were outnumbered by the lynch mob.

In its reaction, the UN human rights office in Geneva said it was deeply disturbed by the killing of Leniata, which it said “adds to the growing pattern of vigilante attacks and killings of persons accused of sorcery … Read the rest



Child Witch Hunting and Our Justice System

Feb 3rd, 2013 | By Leo Igwe
Child Witch Hunting and Our Justice System

The belief that evil magic and witchcraft can possess infants is largely behind the wave of exorcism-related abuse of children ravaging many parts of Nigeria and Africa.

Many families and communities make scapegoats of their kids.

They blame and hold them responsible for the ills they suffer. Children who are believed to be possessed by the demon of witchcraft are then subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by pastors, prophets or any other self-styled man or woman of god.

Many of these children suffer severe health damage in the process of exorcism. Some actually die as a result of the torture and abuse inflicted on them by the exorcisers. In August, a 5 year old girl named Goodness Offiong reportedly … Read the rest



A New Wave of Reason in Africa

Feb 3rd, 2013 | By Leo Igwe
A New Wave of Reason in Africa

At least 55 persons attended the international freethought conference recently held in November in Accra. This meeting hosted by the newly formed local humanist group was the first of its kind in the history of Ghana – a country recently polled to be the world’s most religious nation. The conference generated both local and international media attention, with reports carried by Reuters and the BBC. Humanist and skeptical activists from other west African countries – including Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone – attended the program. Many foreigners living in Ghana were also at the event. To many local participants, the event was a great opportunity to meet physically with people of like mind. It was a great boost to the … Read the rest



To tell the world his daughter’s name

Jan 18th, 2013 | By Lauryn Oates

Two weeks after being gang raped and penetrated with an iron rod in Delhi, India, a 23-year-old student died of massive organ failure resulting from her injuries.

The brutal nature of the attack, the prevalence of rape in India (and especially in its capital city), and the inadequate police response triggered an unprecedented outpouring of public rage. The case has received widespread media coverage.

The photos of Indian women, and some men, passionately demanding justice in public demonstrations have become ubiquitous, powerful images of a nation dissenting against a crime too often written off as, at best, the fate of women, and at worse, their own fault.

Part of the anger stems from the reality that the Delhi bus rape … Read the rest



Kukuo: Inside a ‘Witch Camp’ in Ghana

Jan 12th, 2013 | By Leo Igwe
Kukuo: Inside a ‘Witch Camp’ in Ghana

Kukuo is a small community located off Bimbilla, near Oti river in the Northern Region of Ghana. It is one of those communities where banished ‘witches’ take refuge. In December, I visited Kukuo village as part of a pilot study. Like other villages in Northern Ghana, Kukuo has a chief, but currently the chief is dead and a regent is overseeing the affairs of the village till a new chief is appointed. There is also a traditional priest. One of the duties of the priest is to carry out a ritual of ‘purification’ on any alleged witch that arrives in the village before the person is allowed to live in the community.

Kukuo hosts one of Ghana’s ‘witch camps’, but Read the rest



The Necessity of Humanism in Africa

Dec 13th, 2012 | By Leo Igwe

According to Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, “Fear created the gods, and fear preserves them, fear in bygone ages of wars, pestilence, earthquakes and nature gone berserk, fear of acts of God. Fear today of the equally blind forces of backwardness and rapacious capital.”

Sadly this saying was true of Africa of Nkrumah days and true of Africa of today. Millions of Africans are suffering and dying due to fear and ignorance. Many people across the region are languishing under the tryranny of objects and schemes created by fear – fear of the unknown and of their own mortality. And this underscores the imperative of humanism; the urgent need for an outlook based on reason and compassion that enhances humanity. … Read the rest



Polk County Sheriff Investigating Cyberstalker of Atheist Activist

Dec 7th, 2012 | By John Kieffer

Lakeland, Fla. – Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd does not take internet bullying of its residents lightly, even if it involves EllenBeth Wachs, the former Vice-President and Legal Affairs Coordinator for Atheists of Florida and current President of Humanists of Florida Association, who recently asked the sheriff to investigate a relentless case of cyberstalking aimed against her.

Judd assigned a Special Investigations detective to investigate a North Carolina man who has, for almost two years, employed an arsenal of social media such as Facebook, Youtube, Google+ and Twitter, to conduct a relentless campaign to harass and abuse Wachs.

According to Florida statutes the term “cyberstalk” means “to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be … Read the rest



Mummy bloggers – the retail industry’s secret weapon?

Nov 27th, 2012 | By Aisha Isabel Ashraf

They’re just like you and me aren’t they? Down-to-earth, honest-to-goodness parents giving us the inside scoop on child rearing. But access to family email inboxes nationwide makes the mummy blogger a marketing man’s dream. What if some of them embrace the Dark Side?

The other week a group of mummy bloggers got a little flustered when I suggested a link between the commercialization and sexualisation of children, and child abuse. They pooh-poohed the whole idea and suggested I’d had too many sherbets (followed by some self-congratulatory backslapping at their own wit).

The two faces of mummy blogging

Parenting’s a tough gig; you learn most of it on the job and mummy bloggers can offer friendly information on anything from chemical-free … Read the rest



Paul Kurtz: A Tribute from Africa

Nov 12th, 2012 | By Leo Igwe

I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of American philosopher Paul Kurtz, the father of secular humanism, on October 20, 2012. Kurtz was my friend and mentor. I came to know him when I was a seminarian in the 1990s. A colleague of mine used to receive copies of his magazine, Free Inquiry, and other publications. I found Kurtz’s thoughts and writings to be quite fascinating. His publications and initiatives inspired me to found the Nigerian Humanist Movement in 1996. I formally contacted Kurtz in 1997, as I was building local and international partnerships with likeminded groups. Since then, we partners have been in touch working together to promote humanism, skepticism and freethought in Nigeria and other … Read the rest



Day of Agreement

Oct 7th, 2012 | By Maryam Namazie

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All are calling on everyone to join the Day of Agreement.

It’s quite easy to do.

On 10 October, upload the day’s logo as your avatar on social media, Tweet #dayofagreement or try it with your colleagues, family and friends.

You can also join our five minute flash-mob at 12 noon in central London. (Email for more details).

Just remember, you can’t disagree with anyone – your colleagues, spouse, lover(s), mates, neighbours, children, bosses, or even politicians…

You are not allowed to dissent, ‘offend’ or question.

And before anyone gets too excited, they have to remember that they must also agree with everything you say. It’s only fair…

Seems impossible?

But … Read the rest



Stamping out FGM

Oct 4th, 2012 | By Will Bordell

In the time it takes you to read this article, over 50 young girls will have their clitoris hacked out. What are you going to do about it?

Each girl will be pinned down, with no anaesthetic, whilst 8,000 nerve endings cringe at the touch of an unclean scalpel. Each girl will scream and writhe and howl – but you won’t hear any of them. Each girl will be irreversibly, unbearably, agonisingly mutilated.

“I heard it,” described Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs”. Skin rips, blood pours, cries screech. But it wasn’t over for her just yet: next “came the sewing… the long, blunt … Read the rest



Combating Exorcism-related Abuses

Oct 1st, 2012 | By Leo Igwe
Four family members in the UK have been jailed for life for murdering a pregnant woman, Naila Mumtaz, 21. They believed she was possessed by a Djinn or evil spirit. Muhammed Mumtaz, 25, husband, was sentenced by a British court along with his parents, Zia Ul-Haq and Salma, both 51, and brother-in-law Hammad Hassan. Mrs Mumtaz’s in-laws thought she was possessed by a Djinn and killed her in the course of driving out the harmful spirit. The ‘Djinn spirit’was believed to have been sent from Pakistan. This ruling should serve as a wake-up call to authorities across the world to ‘evil spirit’-related abuses in our communities. The belief in demonic forces -the devil and Satan – is very strong and… Read the rest


Spare a thought for philosophy: An interview with A.C. Grayling

Sep 25th, 2012 | By Will Bordell

“As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think; most people do’,” quips A.C. Grayling, leaning forward as though offering me a truffle of wisdom for my delectation.  Philosophy is a rather strange business in the modern world of consumerism and commerce, I suppose.  We’re so used to being force-fed ideas these days that we rarely, if ever, dare to stop and think for ourselves.  And that’s where Grayling bucks the trend.

Author of over twenty books including a secular bible (‘The Good Book’) as well as countless newspaper and magazine columns, Grayling has been a paradigm of humanism for many years: Vice President of the British Humanist Association, patron of Dignity in Dying, Honorary Associate of the … Read the rest



Religion versus Atheism in Nigeria

Sep 12th, 2012 | By Leo Igwe

According to a recent worldwide poll called The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism, Africa is the world’s most devout region. Even with a global decline in religiosity, the black continent has the smallest number of self-proclaimed atheists in the world. I think this poll clearly mirrors the state of religion and atheism in the region. Nigeria trails behind Ghana in terms of religiosity with 93 percent of the respondents saying they were religious. I guess fewer Nigerians would identify themselves as religious if there were assurances of safety and no victimization if they proclaimed and declared themselves atheists. In Nigeria, people who do not profess any religion or belief in god find themselves in a perilous predicament. They … Read the rest



…assuming the mantle

Sep 8th, 2012 | By Bruce Everett

I didn’t get it, and I haven’t got it for most of the time. I’m only just getting it – the faux-masculine shibboleths that I’m expected to observe, in order to be ‘one of the guys’.

Especially the degradation of women as rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong…

I’m nobody’s knight in shining armour (I think this will be the last time I repeat this for some time), and I don’t believe in chivalry towards women – chivalry, as opposed to decency, assumes that women are frail objects to be protected like delicate porcelain in a world they’re not equipped to deal with. Women are no such thing.

I’ve got an interest in this. If pseudo- and actual … Read the rest