Atheists in Zimbabwe are sheep in wolves’ clothing; they face a great deal of prejudice from the religious community and are afraid to come out as who they are.
This is a challenge for the secular community as it has to face a lot of hostility from the fundamental religious community in Zimbabwe. I remember how I invested a lot of emotional energy into Christianity when I was religious.
I believed God was the end of every explanation and the idea of divine retribution made me hostile against anyone whose beliefs differed from my faith. It took me to know about actual Atheists and Agnostics to understand secular concerns and why they are important and it took me 5 years to lose my faith because it was not easy letting go of the grip religion had on my life because of childhood indoctrination.
Losing your religion at first feels like losing a loved one and I know there are a lot of apostates out there in Zimbabwe who need emotional support but do not have anyone to talk to because Atheism is stigmatized/ The Zimbabwe Secular Alliance seeks to spread awareness about secular values and inform the misinformed hatred a lot of Zimbabweans have against the secular society.
Alton Mungani, another secular activist in Zimbabwe told me how the hatred is rooted in ignorance about the secular community. He was sensitizing a community about the need for discussions about secular concerns and the hostility he got was primarily because of religious convictions, but mainly because people had a lot to say about something they did not know about. An illusion of knowledge is an even greater enemy to knowledge than ignorance itself and so my team and I will do our best to educate the public about the Secular Community. I received an email today from an Atheist in the closet living in Zimbabwe, he was bitter about the religious prejudice he faces every day and I am sure his experiences relate to a lot more people in Zimbabwe living without religion. He gave me the pseudonym Nqobizitha:
My religion/lack thereof has always been my own (until social media and sometimes unspecified gallons of alcohol). I had to learn early on how to politely decline invites to the church by my peers. Damn, I had to feign illness, craft incessant lies and perform obnoxious stunts to just avoid being the part of my mum’s trailer as she sifted through churches – in search of spiritual satiation – from spiritual to orthodox denominations. Glad she never donned the white gowns and a bald head, my huge head would look ludicrous in a bald haircut. She has the fear that her son is tampering with the dark world as described in the testimonies given in church. A fear that I understand boarders on the mother’s instinct to protect her own offspring. Some of it is just inspired by fear arousing testimonies that hijack the believer’s mind breeding an unhealthy dependency on the clergyman. My father gets it, glad he is liberal enough in those aspects. The only thing that bothers me is the lack of a platform to discuss religion without being flagged for disrespect. How could you disregard the religion of your authoritarian parents without suffering the full wrath of the almighty guardians?
After some epic WhatsApp fail at ranting, it got known among my classmates that I was atheist. It didn’t matter then but after a while, my name and Satanist started to appear in the same sentence. How could one mistake the two absolutely different words? Was this the result of the false dichotomies generated by the guy behind the pulpit? Or that the demon in me was screaming where it came from? What really did they know about non-Christian beliefs? I don’t know much neither but I would have invested effort to gather some proper information about it before I could classify.
I don’t think that I am any special as raised a countless times in some generic bandwagon fallacy infested argument. “If billions of the people are doing it, what makes you so special to not also do it?” Wait a moment!!! We are simply not on the same philosophical page. My source of concern being your patronizing nature that makes you hijack dreams, death, life and everything else that needs a good ol’ hijacking. I am not special in any way nor am I seeking for any special place or treatment. I am just a human with a different framework for life and hoping to exist in a world where rationality comes before belief systems.
ON A RUNAWAY TRAIN OF THOUGHT AND READINGS
The publicly expressed hostility and prejudice towards both non-religious and ATR members by the actively dominant Christian faith seem to stem from roots better forgotten; An extension of the ‘civilising mission’ of the early missionaries who worked tirelessly to obliterate the practices and symbols of traditional African religions. But what about the influence of personality (Adorno, 1950) on the development of prejudices.
The African child (me at least) is raised into a system where the only acceptable behavior or norms are those held by adults. I am glad that my father is liberal, a diluting force to my mother’s authoritarian urges. But this is not the liberty that welcomes you once you step out of your parents’ lair. As a word of advice: To have a peaceful day, keep your secular views to the self and accept any generous amount of religious intrusion of all sorts. In family settings, witch hunts are still the norm after a relative died. People just want a scapegoat to help them deal with grief, and there you are with your unpopular beliefs. The lack of a platform to discuss religious diversity just adds fuel to the already ignited fires of irate hatred and unfound suspicion. The logic being, he who is discouraging or criticizing my church and belief is looking for avenues to attack me spiritually when my guard (God) is down.
For we are nurtured in authoritarian parental care, it is nearly impossible for one to not carry forward the parenting legacy. You want to deviate from the conventional norms and rituals? Not only will you have to suffer at the hands of Authoritarian Aggression (Aggression toward people who do not conform to authority or conventional norms) but also battle platoons of Conventionalists and advocates of Authoritarian Submission.
Under the spell of Authoritarian Submission, one uncritically accepts the holy particles of an insecticide spray’s particle. Better them than you! Not only will they expect your choice to mirror theirs, as far as bowing down to ‘forces’ is concerned.
I am sure many Atheists, Agnostics and Free thinkers have similar experiences and are in the same dilemma. If you are in a similar situation feel free to share your story. You can email meat email@example.com and join the campaign to raise awareness of problems faced by the secular community in the “Christian nation.”
Thank you for reading!