On Friday 23 Nov 2012, the first ever humanist conference takes place in Ghana. The organizer is the newly founded Ghana Humanists, a group I keenly follow on Facebook as I most definitely am a humanist or a freethinker. I also agree with one of the key speakers at the event, Nigerian skeptic Leo Igwe, that certain beliefs in Ghana – like witchcraft – are hurting people and need to be questioned.
I remember moving to Ghana and suddenly being under an immense pressure to go to church, praise God and believe! Quickly, I adopted a strategy that involved never speaking about my non-faith, throwing in some “Thank God!”, “By the grace” and “Insh’Allah!” in my daily speech and agreeing to visiting people’s places of worship (also I was curious, like most humanists!). If asked directly, I’d say I was a Lutheran – as The Church of Sweden is Lutheran – and I felt I wasn’t exactly lying, even though strictly speaking church and state were separated in year 2000.
It was such a relief, when I decided to speak up. It started when I began teaching and a student one day asked me about my faith. I just couldn’t say I was a Lutheran to someone I was going to teach. It didn’t feel right to hide who I was when I was telling my students to be proud of who they were. Although reluctantly at first, I now take the debate on issues relating to faith, especially with my students and particularly when it comes to dogmatic instructions of not asking, not questioning, not even for a second doubting.
One on one, I have talked about in depth why I can’t “give it to God”. In larger groups, I have initiated debate by for instance showing the film the Witches of Gambaga at the university where I teach and moderated the ensuing discussion. A freethinker’s club has recently been formed on campus and even though it is a small group and the Christian and Muslim groups have many more members, I still think its a great step to illustrate the diversity: Not everyone in Ghana is religious.
If you are interested in attending the conference follow the instructions here.