In world's most religious country, humanists rally for secular space
A group of humanists is looking to find its niche in Ghana, recently ranked most religious in a survey of 57 nations.
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Even before Christianity reached the continent, religion in much of sub-Saharan Africa was practiced in public, Mr. Asamoah-Gyadu said.Skip to next paragraph
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“We live in a country where, unlike the Western world, even financial institutions open business daily with prayer. Parliament opens daily with prayer,” Asamoah-Gyadu says. “If you are a humanist and you are in such a society, it’s very difficult.”
Atheists are a tiny minority in Ghana; so tiny, in fact, that the WIN-Gallup survey said zero percent of Ghanaians identified as such.
Amanor Apenkro, a member of the association who identifies as atheist, says he’s lost a girlfriend and had insults yelled at him on the street because of his nonbelief.
“I don’t try to hide it, but I don’t tell people either,” Mr. Apenkro says. “Because you tell people and they think you are evil. They can’t even believe that you don’t believe.”
But not believing is becoming prevalent worldwide.
The number of religious people dropped globally by 9 percent since 2005, according to the survey, while the number of atheists rose by 3 percent.
The poll also showed that less-prosperous countries tended to be more religious, while the ranks of the faithful were thinner in countries with more money.
Still a poor nation
Though Ghana has recently posted impressive growth rates based on exports of cocoa, gold, and oil, much of the country is still impoverished and underdeveloped.
“We pray for everything, and if there’s a god out there that’s listening to us, we should be the most developed,” Apenkro says. “The people who don’t pray at all, or pray the least… seem to be far ahead of us.”
James Yamoah, dean of faculty at Ghana Christian University College and a commentator on religion, says he sees nothing wrong with engaging Ghana’s humanist population. But he says a backlash could occur if the humanists become too forthright with their beliefs.
“Of course, we can’t doubt the fact that the devil is sometimes behind these things,” Mr. Yamoah says. “But there is always the possibility of engaging some people and winning them back. And it won’t come back from any kind of argument, it will come from a reasonable discussion.”
Ms. Mould says she thinks there is room for humanists in Ghana’s religious landscape, regardless of the odds.
“I know a lot of people who are religious, but have their doubts about religion, [and] can understand the value [of] critical thinking,” Mould says. “As long as you arrive at whatever decision you take though rational thinking, then you’re on the right track.”