Non-Belief and Enlightenment in Black Communities: Looking Ahead

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Islam and Christianity
Nonbelief is a growing phenomenon in black communities because a growing number of black people are going open and public with their nonbelief and irreligiosity.
Many people in black communities are making it clear that one can be black but not religious, one can be black but not a Baptist, and one can be black but not a Christian or a Muslim. One can be black and godless. Nontheism is motivating various campaign initiatives for positive and progressive change in black communities. The work of black nonbelievers is going on on different fronts and forms. The first is at the level of humanism. Black nonbelievers are campaigning to make humanism happen in their communities. They are working to provide an alternative to supernatural religions and dogmatic faiths.
More importantly, the humanist association is pressuring the authorities to release Mubarak Bala. Bala is a Nigerian humanist imprisoned since 2020 after he made some Facebook posts that some Islamists claimed insulted the prophet of Islam. Humanists are campaigning against blasphemy and apostasy allegations, and the persecution of humanists, atheists, and other religious, and belief minorities. The arrest of Bala plunged the humanist organization in Nigeria into an unprecedented crisis. It tested and stretched the movement to the limit. The arrest orchestrated a crisis that saw many humanists go underground or disaffiliate due to fear of being picked up, attacked, arrested, or killed by Muslim jihadists and their state allies. Thanks to local and international support, what many projected has not materialized. The humanist movement has not disappeared. Humanists have not cowered away in fear as many envisaged. Instead, many humanists have stood tall and firm in the face of threats and adversity. Humanists have refused to be silenced. Humanists have defended Bala, and are gradually turning the crisis into an opportunity for growth and development of humanism in the country. It may interest you to know, that we organized in 2021, an interfaith and belief dialogue. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, nay Africa, people and leaders from faith and no faith traditions came together. They discussed how to improve relations, trust, communication, and cooperation. Believers and nonbelievers met under a roof, sat side by side, and explored ways to foster peace, harmony, and understanding. We hope to build on the gains from the dialogues in the months and years to come.
It is pertinent to note that black nonbelievers have not only gone after their interests, or catered only to the needs, safety, and protection of those who think, believe, or not believe like them. Humanists and atheists have also deployed the facility of nonbelief to do good, to intervene and help in areas where faith and dogma are deployed to perpetrate or sanctify harm. Black folks who are nonreligious have used nonbelief to address social problems linked to superstition, such as witchcraft accusations, witch persecution, and ritual killing. The continent of Africa is still one of the few places in the world where alleged witches are brutally attacked and killed, as in early modern Europe or 17th century America.
Witch hunting is a dent in our black culture, conscience, and civilization. Black humanists, atheists, and freethinkers must do whatever they can to make witch-hunting history in their communities, especially in Africa. That was why in 2020, I launched the Advocacy for Alleged Witches to address this problem and end this vicious phenomenon that has too long been ignored, and too long been superficially addressed. We launched a decade of activism aimed at making witch-hunting history by 2030. And in the last three years, we have made significant progress. We have drawn from the compassionate well of nonbelief to provide succor to victims and their families. Using the informaction theory of change, humanists have mobilized and rallied in defense of those afflicted and persecuted in the name of witchcraft in Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, and Seychelles. Black nonbelievers are leading the campaign to educate, enlighten, and re-orientate witchcraft believers and accusers. In black communities, humanism is being deployed against the barbarism of witch hunts and ritual attacks, against the peddlers of misconceptions that enable or justify these abuses. Freethought is occasioning some cognitive dissonance and intellectual awakening of Africans from their superstitious slumber. Although this awakening is a daunting task, we will not relent. We will not give up. We will not retreat from this struggle until witch-hunting ends in black communities.
But we cannot tackle problems linked to superstitions, dogma, and religious extremism without improving the quality of our education. We cannot end abuses linked to unreason without transforming our schools, the learning, intellectual, and thinking culture. We cannot mentally emancipate people without nurturing and fostering certain mental habits. That was why in 2021, I launched the critical thinking project. The project aims to inculcate critical thinking skills in schools. Through this project, we are trying to introduce the subject of critical thinking in primary and secondary schools, and encourage skeptical inquiry on African campuses. The Critical Thinking Social Empowerment Foundation exists to fulfill this goal. At the moment, we sponsor teacher and pupil training. We organize workshops and lectures in schools, colleges, and universities. We are developing critical thinking learning materials for school pupils. So far, we have trained over 1400 primary school teachers, and over 2000 pupils have benefited from the program. In addition, we organized the first skeptical Africa lecture at the University of Lagos in November. More skeptical Africa lectures are being planned. We encourage the formation of skeptics clubs in tertiary institutions. To realize a critical-thinking society, we need a robust culture of skepticism and rational inquiry. And to foster this culture of enlightenment, we need to start with our children. We need to catch them young. We have to start with our youths. We have to start with our teachers. We have to start with our schools.
So many black nonbelievers are waking up to their duty and responsibility to tackle superstitions and blind faith that have for too long destroyed and darkened our societies. Today, more than ever, black nonbelievers are working and campaigning to achieve a better and brighter future, a better and brighter world. The momentum of nonbelief is growing and glowing with possibilities and hopes. The facility of nonbelief is being deployed to do good and achieve enlightenment in black communities. We hope to sustain the momentum, the campaigns, and the progress we have made in the coming year.
And we look forward to your support in 2024.
Igwe is a black non believer and sent this piece from Ibadan, 
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