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Having made the bed, we must lie on it

ALEXANDER CHAGEMA
By Alexander Chagema | May 12th 2016

They gave me a name and a number; fundie number107474. In an opinion I wrote in the last week of March 2015 titled ‘Atheists must stop imposing their beliefs on society’, they came for me hammer and tongs.

These fine fellows run a website; www.fstdt.com where they defend their actions and some of them had choice epithets for me, but I could tell they really had nothing to say for themselves except perfunctorily rail at someone intruding into their little, as I wrote then, forlorn world. Fundie is atheists’ parlance for fundamentalist.

Atheists did not start practicing their belief yesterday. They have for decades kept a low profile fearing stigmatisation by the predominantly religious majority and went about their businesses unobtrusively.

That they chose to operate behind the scenes for so long is an unconscious admission they really do not believe in the path they have committed to. The Bill of Rights in the Kenyan Constitution 2010 must have emboldened them to seek attention and recognition through the causation of controversy.

Whether they succeed or not remains to be seen, but it is not in doubt, given the religiosity of the Kenyan society, it will be a daunting task.Atheists tested the waters by applying for registration and hit pay dirt, but their exultation was short lived because pressure exerted on the government by society and the churches made Attorney General Githu Muigai suspend their registration a few days back.

The inference drawn from that turnaround is that the rule of law counts for little in this country. Government institutions and select individuals are guided by political expediency to stay on the right side of the government.

There are times decisions are made based on a vision of numbers; voter numbers that those in authority can have on their side directly from their actions, irrespective of the attendant consequences.

Attorney General Githu Muigai is an interesting man whose vim in defending the establishment I find intriguing. He is the type of functionary who would weave a convincing narrative around anything and make it look like it was always the truth. Yet there are times one would wonder whether he had left his legal mind someplace. His reversal of the atheist’s association registration illustrates this.

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In as much as I may not agree with what atheists profess, in seeking registration, they followed laid down procedure. All things considered, atheists have broken no law. They are not a danger to either national security or individuals going about their daily chores.

They have only consciously chosen to go against the grain and not believe in the religious norms that guide us today; a hand-down for millennia, reinforced by modern day Christian values. Their choices make them stand out like a sixth finger, but denying them registration is going against the constitution; a document to which Mr Muigai gave immense contribution.

Doesn’t the Constitution recognise minority groups to which the atheists belong? Isn’t the right to one’s belief enshrined in the Constitution? Wouldn’t denying someone something or certain benefits or rights because he or she doesn’t subscribe to a certain school of thought, yet stays within the confines of the law, amount to discrimination, which the Constitution explicitly bars?

The least the Government can do, given the very progressive nature of the Constitution that guides us, is to register the atheists association and let the religious faction appeal to its conscience and belief in an everlasting God and ignore them.

Perhaps the futility of their existence in an environment that is not conducive to their wellbeing would lead to their eventual withering. In comparison, atheists are a better proposition than gays, yet the latter are alarmingly gaining official recognition all over the world.

African states, given their perpetual pauper status, are increasingly finding themselves being arm-twisted to play along or bid conditional foreign aid goodbye. For us, there is a lesson in this. Under the guise of improving governance and bestowing human rights, the West gently nudged us into adopting a Constitution that would ultimately make it easy to push its agenda, and we obliged.

We are proud to proclaim that our Constitution is a near replica of the great American model, yet are not ready to face the realities of our impulsiveness. As the Americans themselves would say, ‘we walked into this one with our eyes wide open’.

Sections of the Bill of Rights, as noble as it may be, negate some of our indigenous social values. It is largely responsible for the breakdown in social order, indiscipline in homes, at work and in schools.

It’s a boost and shield for the corrupt and the single most disabler of the judicial system. Handling excessive freedoms is not in our DNA; a little at a time would have gotten us there.

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