Atheism feeds off Christian failings
The standoff between the Attorney General and Atheists in Kenya (AIK) has - not surprisingly - generated quite some animated public debate.
According to a feature penned by Gabe Bullard published on April 22, 2016 on the National Geographic website, atheism is now the world’s new major ‘religion’.
Gabe notes that more people are now identifying as atheist, nonreligious, with potentially world-changing effects. He adds that as secularism grows, atheists are trying to expand and diversify their ranks.
According to the Pew Research Centre, there is now a new global phenomenon called the Privilege of Not Believing. Other demographers have attributed this phenomenon to financial security, which would explain why European countries with a stronger social safety net are more secular than African countries where poverty is more common.
In Kenya, atheism has gained rapid growth and expansion thanks to existing gaps amongst religious people. The presentation of the Christian faith particularly has remained as one that is more for the down-trodden, poor and disadvantaged in the society than a rich faith for all.
Consequently, Christians who have advanced in the various social strata of society, especially through education and acquisition of wealth, view their elevation as independence from God.
This is because they were socialised with a gospel about a god of provision when in need, comforter in times of pain, which essentially is not all that God is about. An absence of these issues due to abundance and success leaves the believer with a gap for a higher calling, hence breeding a very fertile ground for scepticism and then atheism.
Atheism is also tied to academic achievement. Atheists in many places tend to have college degrees and are highly educated, many of them coming from the sciences world like IT experts, engineers and medical practitioners, among others.
That is why the membership of AIK is predominantly young and highly educated people. They have very compelling arguments.
But, let us consider the possible reasons why atheists are aggressively showing up publicly in Kenya yet they have been around. Even in some far-flung villages of this country, there exists a barefoot, illiterate member of AIK.
First, Christians in Kenya have had a sense of entitlement in this nation. Let us be candid here. This was heightened during the Kanu regime. Christianity was treated as the State religion. Come the 2005 and 2010 referendums, the church endeavoured to pursue this cause but with little success. Again that is a story for another day.
It seems that official state religions now drive people away from faith entirely. This could help explain what has happened even in the US, which was very Christian. In the US now are a number of cults such as Scientology, Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses. These cults have scooped up those who are disenchanted with older faiths and have brewed the kind of atheism now being embraced in Kenya.
In addition, frequent infighting for leadership, resources and other earthly worthies amongst mainstream Christian faith leaders and members has over time produced great disillusionment among the congregation.
Yet the God of the Bible is expected to be worshipped devoid of overt and injurious internal strife. When these become frequent, there is room for other beliefs or non-beliefs to plant their alternative to it. Atheism is only exploiting an opportunity well provided by the church herself.
From their website, AIK has the following objectives: a) to promote and practice the open, rational, and scientific examination of the universe and our place in it ;b) to advocate that ethics and morality be meaningfully based on rational and humanistic ideals and values ;c) to promote skeptical inquiry and ;d) to provide community for atheists among others.
That is indicative that AIK will start going round the country spreading their ideas. Their main target will be learning institutions where ‘critical thinking’ takes place.
And on this there is every possibility that this can excite young minds. Who does not want to be a critical thinker? Who does not want their questioning skills sharpened? What appeals more to millennials now than questioning and defying anything traditional?
For the church in Kenya, a solid inward reflection of itself is of essence. Refusal and denial to be dynamic and pragmatic in presenting its claims, including the inability to tap into the huge pool of intellectuals in the congregation will continue to expose the Christian faith to being vulnerable and hence edged out by such new entrants as atheism.
Also, this will deepen if Christians in the marketplace remain wanting in their appeal to reason and evidence, or even just displaying a Christ-like lifestyle.
In a nutshell, the problem is within the church, not outside of it.
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Atheists in Kenya (AIK)Attorney General Githu Muigaiatheism