The rise of atheism in modern Kenya


Africa, and to a lesser degree Asia, are the last real hopes for the survival of catholicism and christian evangelicals. To truly seal their fates, groups like the one described in this piece will need to grow and proliferate. And FAST. 




Posted  Wednesday, July 3  2013 at  01:00


  • The Free Thinkers Initiative in Kenya (Fika) runs a web page in which over 1,000 atheists congregate to share their experiences. Through the page, the group has organised various forums and one is scheduled for August this year in Nairobi
  • Non-believers will have to struggle for a long time to find acceptance at the marketplace because religion is still a very important part of the lives of Kenyans
  • Pew Forum, an American research firm, records the median age of most atheists and agnostics in sub-Saharan Africa at 20, compared to 34 in nations such as Japan and Europe

In the deeply religious society that is Kenya, Ssemakula Mukiibi stands out like a sore thumb over his beliefs… or, more appropriately, lack thereof.

The 45-year-old computer scientist says he does not believe in the existence of God, even though he would like to have a supernatural being to revere. He has gone through various holy scriptures, read acres of print regarding religion, and listened to thousands of sermons about life and the hereafter, but he is still not convinced that a supreme being exists.

Ssemakula is part of a growing group of Kenyans who are atheistic and who, unlike before, are not doing anything to hide that fact. 2010 statistics show that 2.5 per cent of Kenyans, about one million, were religiously “unaffiliated”, a slight increase from 2009, when 922,128 reported themselves as belonging to “no religion”.

The unaffiliated comprise atheists — who do not believe in any supreme or divine being or deity — and agnostics — who claim that no man has gathered enough knowledge to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, whether such deities or beings exist or not.

What is striking, however, is not the numbers, but the fact that these “dissenters” were brought up in very religious homes and environments. Ssemakula, for instance, was once a staunch Catholic who “slowly drifted away from the faith”.

“It was a gradual process,” he says.

For Damaris Muga, however, the shift was abrupt. Born to an ordained minister, one would expect her to have had her mind warring with her conscience at the time she decided to shift gears. But no, she just “felt” it and jumped ship. “There was no transition period,” says the web developer. “I just knew it. There were no drum rolls because it was that simple, like the day you know one and one make two.”

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