What is it like being an atheist or agnostic in Nigeria?



It is very hard to say the least. I am agnostic, not atheist as I believe that there is a possibility for God to exist. No one understands , and one is looked at as devil worshipper by many ; as most see not being religious as worshipping satan.

The average Nigerian is very religious and is either a Christian, Muslim or practicing a traditional religion (very few). I went to an all girls secondary school and I was a boarder there. On Sundays, it was compulsory for all students to be at a religious service in the school or face punishment. You have to either go to the Catholic church, Protestant church or mosque. All of which are located in the school. All the dorms are locked and students are chased out for this. There is no other choice for students.

With my mother, it is another thing entirely. My mother was originally from a muslim family and had an Imam for a father. She is now catholic after cutting ties form her family before I was born. So, you would think she understands but she does not. As a child, I remember my mother dragging me off to so many churches as she was looking for salvation: Mountain of fire ministries, Deeper life, Celestial churches and many others.

I hated this so much. I remember as a child questioning so many things in the bible as well as the religious things. I was then looked at as a child of satan. In some of the churches, worshippers would pray that their enemies would die by fire. Many religious people are so condescending and judgemental.

‘Why is your dress not covering your knees?’

‘Tell your daughter to stop frowning in church.’

‘Cover your head, you are a woman’

‘Oh, you did go to church today, you do know you are going to hell, right?’ etc

They never mind their own business, it’s like they want to convince themselves that they are the most religious, and are better than everyone else. My mother just complicates matters. She would wake me up at random times in the night because she had a dream or something. Then she would force me to pray, sometimes for over 5 hours.

I remember once at age 13, not waking up for random prayers as I stayed up all night watching movies. My mother called me the antichrist. She told me to pack up all my things and leave the house. I was not bothered but neighbours intervened on my behalf. Otherwise, I would have been thrown out. All I could think was that I was doing well in school, I never went out, I never drank or smoked, I never dated or got pregnant, I never committed any ‘vices’ but my mother wanted to throw me out for not praying.

My mother is still like this till date. If I got sick, it was because I did not pray. To cure aforementioned sickness, my mom says all I need is prayer, not a doctor. I tell her, I need surgery and she tells me about some prayer to pray and that I do not need surgery. If I did not do well in a test, it is because I did not pray and on it goes.

You know the worst part about all this, is seeing how so many Nigerians worship God. They do not even worship God, they blindly worship the ministers and pastors. These same pastors are just profiting off the people. The richest pastors in the world are from Nigeria. They are so rich that they own private jets. Some have gotten so clever that they have convinced some Nigerians to leave their homes and lands for the church. I have seen so many well-off families left destitute by the church. This church-business sickens me.

These churches then build expensive schools with tithe money, where the majority of the congregation cannot afford to send their children to. So many people, rather than fixing their problems would rather pray for them to go away.

In summary, being agnostic is frowned upon and people do not understand it. You just have to pretend to fit in.






Alexandra Goldhar, studied at University of New South Wales

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