n Africa, where religion and believing in God is an unwritten rule and is widely viewed as opium of the masses, Harrison Mumia stands out because of his unorthodox beliefs.
To Mumia, God is dead. Actually he never existed. The 38-year-old is a practicing atheist and also the President of the Atheists in Kenya, an oganisation formed in 2013. Atheists believe that God or other forms of deity do not exist.
As for the malevolent being that is the source of all evil – the devil –, atheists also hold the view that he is a figment of a wild imagination. In conservative Kenya, this kind of movement is not only frowned upon, but its ideologies are seen as perverted and evil.
Mumia is of the opinion that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is secular and, therefore, society should respect their stand. “We have every right to practise our belief since as per the constitution, it is stated that there is freedom of assembly and worship,’’ says the second-born child in a family of five.
The organisation still operates under the shadows with about 300 local members registered and around 8,000 active followers on social media platforms.
“Following my interactions, I am inclined to believe that about 0.2 per cent of the population (two million) are active atheists, but not on the frontline because of fear of victimisation,’’ adds Mumia, who refers to himself as a secular humanist. Incidentally, the body was deregistered on February 17, last year following an outcry from the mainstream religious institutions.
Indeed, there is a case in the High Court, filed in April last year to challenge the decision to deregister them. “We will continue to fight for our rights, we believe in justice and have faith in the instruments at our disposal,’’ he says. His journey has been an interesting one.
Mumia was brought up in a Christian home and went to church just like any child. “My parents took me for baptism at Friends Church and I was inducted into Christianity fully. With religion, I was meant to believe issues without as much as asking so many questions,’’ he recalls.
His entire family has religious connections and only his brother practices a different faith, Islam. His view of Christianity changed when he went to college, where he began to question everything he had been taught. Mumia wondered why people would be made to believe in someone they had not seen.
“I realised that religion was conmanship and in fact the story of creation is a myth. The Bible itself is contradictory in so many instances. This is the part where I realised that there is no God.
We are all driven to believe assumptions, which have no truths or evidence whatsoever,’’ he alleges. His theory has earned him rebuke, hate and quizzical stares, but that does not move him an inch. “I am not giving up my quest to tell people that they live in a world of lies. Religion is used to divide us, which is unfortunate,’’ says Mumia.
When his family first got wind of his views on God they were stunned. They thought he had lost it completely. With time Mumia says they have learnt to accept his decision, albeit with certain difficulties.
“My mother still prays that I change while my father has opted to live with it. This was my decision, so nothing can change it. Even at my workplace, it was tricky, but my colleagues accepted my move and nowadays they even call me President,” he says. He even confirms that his current girlfriend is a Christian.
“I am human and, therefore, my partner needs to look at that first. Luckily, I have a liberal partner who does not judge me,” he says. For somebody who reads and researches a lot, he gets consolation from the fact that he is not alone in championing for the rights of atheists.
In any event as he attests, the movement had already started sprouting as early as the 16th century. “Ancient great minds such as Galileo and Corpenicus challenged religious doctrines.
Communist leaders such as Chairman Mao Tse Tung and Lenin were atheists in their own right. Widely read texts and books like God is not Great and The God Delusion by Daniel Dennett (Philosopher) and Christopher Hitchens (Essayist) are proof enough that people are deluded,’’ he adds.
Mumia is adamant that the followers of atheism are normal people who socialise and contribute to the positive growth of any society. “We are open-minded, but have critical belief systems.
We are humanists with good thoughts for everyone. Our problem is with the religious concept, period. “The ideology that we are devil worshipers is far from the truth,” he said.