Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How momentous is the occasion of ASN registration?
Calistus Igwilo: Well, the day the news broke that we have been incorporated, it was in the evening, I was just speechless, I couldn’t describe what I felt, and it was the same for other 9 members of the board of trustees. But very quickly, it dawned on me that we have achieved something very great something capable of making a positive lasting change to Nigeria and I could see the enormous task ahead of us. I still don’t have words to describe the feeling that night, but that sense of accomplishment drove us to this present day.
Igwilo: First it has given the Atheists, Secularists, Humanists and Freethinkers a sense of community backed by the law, where they can actualize their common goals, it has given them a voice which hitherto was non-existent, many never believed that this day will come. ASN wants to engage with the Nigerian community to raise awareness on why public policies, scientific inquiries and education policies should not be based on religious beliefs but rather on sound reason, rationality and evidence. This will help liberate people from superstitions and myths and promote science and technology, it will also make Nigeria a saner, safer, more sustainable place for reason and freethought.
Jacobsen: What are some initiatives underway to normalize atheism, reduce superstition, and secularize public life in Nigeria more?
Igwilo: We have started campaigning against qualified professionals that use their authority to promote superstitious practices among vulnerable Nigerians which could lead to loss of lives. A case study is our petition against the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria about some medical doctors and healthcare professionals that refer patients to “faith healing homes” and some that support phantom miraculous healing testimonies in their places of worship giving credence to superstitious beliefs.
We also want to promote religious tolerance in Nigeria because Nigeria is grossly divided along religious lines which breeds suspicion and mistrust among the divide. Our solution is to educate the youths on various religions in Nigeria, this can be achieved by campaigning for the merging of all religious studies under a single subject of learning in secondary schools. We are making the case that Traditional Religious Knowledge, Islamic Religious Knowledge, Christian Religious Knowledge be taught as a single comparative subject of study, it will enable the students to critique religions and have an academic knowledge of various religions and help them develop critical thinking and reasoning. When they become adults, they will vote in people with rational and critical thinking into governance who will in turn make public policies that are not based on religious beliefs but on sound reason, rationality and evidence. It will be a very long drawn out campaign, we will lay the foundation now and sustain it.
Nigerian national assembly has passed some laws that breed hate and victimization against some minority citizens, we intend to mount campaign in due cause to call for repeal of those obnoxious laws that infringes on citizens fundamental human rights.
Igwilo: People can get involved with us by registering as members of Atheist Society of Nigeria though our membership registration portal on our website at www.atheist.org.ng.
We are a not-for-profit organisation and depend on donations and goodwill to carry out our programs and local development projects. We are open to donations and volunteering of time and skills to help implement our projects. For monetary donations, we have a bank account where we can receive donations, it can also be done online using credit or debit card. We also have a portal for volunteers registration on our website.
Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Calistus.