Chiedozie Uwakwe on lack of faith in Nigerian youth
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: I want to explore the youth irreligious culture. How is it where you live? Is it lively? Or is it more repressed by the state authorities and the parental culture?
Chiedozie Uwakwe: I would say the irreligious culture in Nigeria is not lively at all. Nigeria is a very religious country, including the traditional religions before the arrival of Christianity and Islam, The concept of someone being irreligious is foreign to them, it’s a taboo. Because of this, the irreligious are treated badly with a lot of discrimination by family members and friends, leading to so many irreligious people hiding their lack of belief or “staying in the closet”. Being irreligious in Nigeria has been compared to being gay in Saudi Arabia. It is that bad. But due to increased social campaigns, the future looks bright for us.
Jacobsen: What is it like there for youth who lack a formal religion? Are there support networks and communities for them?
Uwakwe: It can get lonely for the irreligious youth in Nigeria because, you dont know how tolerant your immediate neighbours are to your views, so a lot of of opinions aren’t voiced for fear pf verbal or physical attacks. Recently, support networks have been springing up, on twitter, whatsapp and Telegram groups, internet forums. We also have organizations like the Atheist Society of Nigeria and Humanist Assemblies. They help out when they can to support the growing number of the irreligious.
Jacobsen: If a youth leaves the religion of their family, how does the family and also the wider society see them?
Uwakwe: It depends on how religious the family is and if the youth is financially dependent on the family. Largely, it leads to a lot of angry words and emotional blackmail. The family and the society see them as rascals and good-for-nothing individuals. Dredges of the society as it were. They can disown the youth because the family wouldn’t want to have anything to do with a social outcast.
Jacobsen: What are the broader implications for the society of the erosion of religion, even on the fringes of youth culture?
Uwakwe: I think the erosion of religion would lead to people finally taking responsibility for their lives, knowing that they alone are largely responsible for whatever they make out of their lives and not giving themselves a sense of false hope that religion offers.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Chiedozie.