Lindsey: becoming an atheist in Uganda

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Video about a courageous young woman, who, thanks to interacting with local freethinkers in Uganda, realised that there were no good reasons for being religious. 

As a journalist Lindsey Kukunda had been sent to investigate a local group of freethinkers. Eventually she joined them. This is her deconversion story.


 

 


continue to source article at youtube.com

24 COMMENTS

  1. It was very interesting to see a number of white Westerners in the freethinking group on this video. I’m a Christian missionary working in Kampala and receive a lot of flak from atheist friends for ‘propagating’ my beliefs on a poor defenceless people (their words, not mine). I think it is interesting that ‘religious’ Westerners are seemingly not the only ones doing this. 

  2. Inspiring lady, coming out in that culture. Interesting that she says that The God Delusion is a very hard book to read. I wonder if she means she found it tricky to follow some of the concepts or whether she found the challenge to her faith was difficult to process.

  3. chrishowles 10- you mean defenseless ( not defenceless)- yup, that’s a shameless ad hominem attack :)

    Your charge is wrong- of course!

    Atheists don’t have beliefs, they lack belief. We have confidence and accept the knowledge that is current.

    Also, we don’t convert through a childish punishment/reward system.

    Also, we don’t convert, but deconvert.
    AND- we specialize (if we choose to propagate our stance) in helping people learn how to think and not what to think.

    We present them with the accepted body of scientific consensus. If they don’t wish to change their minds, we don’t tell them that when they die they will be tortured forever.
    Nor do we tell them that if they do deconvert that when they die they will go to a happy wonderland.

    It’s all very simple- we are not like you.

  4. At which point in the video do you see more than one white person in the group and is there anything to suggest it is a Western-led group (as opposed to merely having Western members)? I think you are perhaps doing a bit of a disservice to the self-determination of the non-white members. There are a few other differences to consider. Christian missionary work often involves providing charity while spreading the word, i.e. using the bait of free food/healthcare etc as means to address a captive (metaphorically-speaking)  audience. This atheist group seems more akin to a book club or a knitting circle. I don’t know what your work consists of precisely and I cannot comment on exactly what your atheist friends have said without hearing their side of the story, but it would appear on the surface you are making an unfair comparison.

  5.  “chrishowles 10- you mean defenseless ( not defenceless)- yup, that’s a shameless ad hominem attack :)”

    Both defence and defense are equally valid, though in the unsimplified spellings of UK English the former is more commonly used. The same goes for offence and offense…

    Not ad hominem but, I would suggest, a straw dictionary assertion.

  6. Thanks you KRKBAB and Mister T for the comments – fair and interesting,
    although allow me to disagree with some things…(hopefully without spelling
    mistakes KRKBAB!!)

    A
    couple of smaller points…you’re absolutely right that there is NO suggestion that
    the Westerners have set up the group or even are leading it, but neither have I
    set up or ever led the Bible College where I teach in Kampala. And yet I still regularly
    get accused of unfairly seeking to convert people here just by being invited to
    be part of a faculty. Also, I think it is unfair to be so stereotypical of Christians
    by accusing them of either using food/health to produce a captive audience, or
    indeed being hellfire preachers in its most gruesome form. Of course that can
    happen, and yet taking excesses and using them as part of an argument doesn’t
    seem a particularly logical way to proceed…a tactic much employed by Prof.
    Dawkins himself, it must be said.

     

    However
    the main point I want to make briefly is to challenge the assertion that
    somehow atheism/humanism etc. is somehow ‘freethinking’, as if holding some sort
    of epistemologically neutral free space. Of course atheism seeks to convert –
    it frequently uses intellectually bullying (“if you don’t join us, you’re
    backwards and stupid”…just follow Richard Dawkins on Twitter to see this
    everyday)  to convert people to a certain
    worldview. One that may be right or may be wrong, but is still a worldview.
    Furthermore the idea that atheism/humanism teaches people not what to think but
    how to think is, if you’ll forgive the strong language, a little ludicrous. Atheists
    hold to their own moral, ethical, metaphysical doctrines just as strongly as
    any Christians, and to disagree with them results frequently in scorn. It
    teaches people how to think as long as they come to the same conclusions as
    they. Obviously neither you nor I know exactly what goes on in his group in
    Kampala, but if its tone is anything like that of much ‘freethinking’ in the
    UK, then I really don’t think it’s much different from the Christian caricature
    you describe in your posts.

     

    There’s
    much more I’d love to write but, alas, for me and no doubt for you time is
    limited. Would be interested to hear any further thoughts though,

     

    Chris 

  7. Very interesting and educating video. Personally, I really enjoy hearing people say how much they enjoy the power that being an atheist has brought to their lives, the power of deciding your life and living YOUR life. I’m extremely happy for her :-)

  8. Thanks for the correction of my correction, Goeff 21. Being corrected is the same as learning, so I approve!

    Plus, I learned the name of a new debating technique- “straw dictionary assertion”!

  9. Yes, but in all fairness, calling someone backwards and stupid is not analogous of trying to convert to a belief through a reward/punishment system.
    And you say: “Atheists hold to their own moral, ethical, metaphysical doctrines..”- well if they do, then they’re per individual. If you mean the collective stance on the moral zeitgeist, then that doesn’t really hold either. The Zeitgeist changes as we progress (or regress!).

  10. ” metaphysical doctrines” Chris? Sounds like the silly old chestnut “atheism is a religion” propounded by so many Christian “thinkers”. No, sir! 
    Scorn or ridicule is logically justified for those who believe without evidence (and I don’t mean biblical ‘evidence’). Freethinking is more accurately the employment of reason and rationality over emotional wish fulfilment. 

  11. Chris – you shouldn’t think that because you see “white Westerners”, that they have in any way brought rational thinking and atheism to Kampala. I’m sure you can see the problem with that view.

    I am in the sister group, Freethought Ghana, and I did not bring these ideas here. Freethought and atheism are very much indigenous African movements from what I have observed. People often come to this position, very much in isolation, from reading their bible or qur’an on their own, and realising they are false. They feel totally cut off, alone, and think they are the only ones in their country that have arrived at this position. It is later that many of them go to the internet and find people like Ingersoll, Bertrand Russell, Dawkins, etc. Later, they tend to come across atheist thinkers in their own countries – often later due to the problem of transmitting information. When they join groups such as Freethought Kampala it is with a sense of relief that finally they can relate to other African atheists, have the chance of forming relationships and romances, have a space to express their views and develop the confidence to be open about their views.
    Those of us who are white within these African groups realise the potentially difficult position we have due to people’s perceptions – similar to what you have expressed – that we have brought atheism here! Nothing can be further from the truth. I have to remind myself that if I was a white missionary, I would be praised by Ghanaian society. But like my fellow African brothers and sisters, I too am perceived as demonic and immoral. We have a long struggle for dignity ahead of us and look forward to open-minded Christians working with us to change perceptions.

  12.  “Of course atheism seeks to convert –it frequently uses intellectually bullying (“if you don’t join us, you’re
    backwards and stupid”)”

    I don’t know, I’ve always been an atheist and am still backwards and stupid.

  13. Hi Chris,

    Just thought I’d welcome you to the site if this is your first go. We don’t get many here nowadays putting the opposition case, so I hope you stick around especially to give us a perspective on Africa and missionary work in general. My nephew is a missionary in the Ukraine, and whilst I can’t agree with anything he says or does religion-wise, I have to credit him (and you) for having the guts to move to another country to do what you think is the right thing. So good wishes to you personally, though you will understand I can’t wish you any luck for your mission.

  14. Thanks for your response Chris, it’s good to have a dissenting voice now and again to keep things fresh. I have to disagree with one statement you made in particular though:

    “Of course atheism seeks to convert…”

    I think you are conflating the concept of atheism with the motivation of some atheists. Atheism in itself is a simple statement of unbelief, it has no base source material (other than the most fundamental units of logic). The fact that people such as Dawkins have written popular works which may seek to convert is not relevant, atheism in isolation has no intent to do anything.

    You may well say that Christianity is the same thing, people just believe in God/Jesus and those who choose to evangelize are simply individuals with that particular motivation. However, where it differs is that there is a base reference, the Bible which contains several instructions to go out and spread the word of Jesus. There is no such equivalent doctrine in atheism. Whether a Christian chooses to go out and witness or worship in private may be a personal preference, however the Bible actively promotes such an activity.

    I understand that your point was that you think it is unfair to be criticized for simply evangelizing when there are atheists who also attempt to persuade people. Perhaps it is. However there are elements of Christianity which (among other things) seek to disparage equal rights, stifle the use of contraception and promote the concept of eternal punishment. Things like this cause real, measurable suffering. I realise that not all Christians think alike on these issues and that you personally may not support them. However, going back to source material they are clearly promoted.

  15. Hi Chris,  I just wanted to add my 2 cents…

    When i first got my Blackberry years ago, i was showing off to all my friends with such enthusiasm, that they believed i wanted to convert them to Blackberry phones.

    Years later, i got myself an android phone, and the same happened, and they though i had shares in the company.

    My point is, it is human for us to want to share good things that we find beneficial to the community (a bit Darwinian if you like) but the only difference between atheism an organized religion is the following:

    Christianity have a “budget” that goes towards spreading Christianity worldwide via missionaries.

    Islam have a  haphazard “money pot” that goes towards spreading Islam worldwide (mainly spent on weapons and bribes)

    You See…. We people are little weird, and do crazy things and not admit them, just like the many people on this site that are haters one way or the other, and are no different than religious people apart from they claim to be atheist.  It reminds me of a very good westerner friend of mine, who is open minded in every aspect, and who would be a model citizen in freethinking, but when it comes to Black People, he goes mental… Why??? Go figure.

    So my point is.. yeah, we all would like others to embrace what we believe is good for the community… but organized religion spends money making it happens.. Just travel to Asia and Africa and you will see missionaries being paid to do that.

    Peace  (i have barrowed this signature from Stephen from Wimbledon, who must be a Muslim as it literally translates to “Salam”)… or he could be Jewish i guess!!  ;-)

  16. Thank you all for
    your fascinating responses – really interesting to hear your thoughts, although
    no doubt you won’t be too surprised to hear I disagree
    with many (albeit I’m very appreciative of the tone with
    which most are expressed)

     

    II’ll keep my eye on
    the site, as I do Prof Dawkins Twitter feed, and perhaps pop in every
    with questions or comments.

     

    One thing that does
    confuse me is the apparent anger many people have here for the idea of talk of
    eternal afterlife in heaven/hell. Although I would of course deny that such
    concepts are against reason, rationality, and logic at all (although
    I appreciate that is a long debate for another day), even if that is
    a given I still perceive there to be a great degree of hypocrisy in the
    athiesm/humanist movement. Why is that seen to be such a ‘dirty tactic’ in this
    war of worldviews, and yet the continual ridiculing and bullying of believers
    that goes on with Prof Dawkins, Ricky Gervais etc. is seen as perfectly
    legitimate method of drawing people into the camp? Is that not a certain form
    of hypocrisy? I see less and less ‘reason, rationality, and logic’ with much atheistic rhetoric these days, and more and more anger, bullying, and intolerance. Although not with the replies above, I admit!

     

    Furthermore, although
    I think it’s an admirable use of rhetoric to call such groups ‘freethinking’
    (after all, who doesn’t ant to be freethinking…certainly I do) as a long-term
    resident in Uganda I can assure you that most freethinkers here come to the
    opposite conclusion to Lindsey in the video (who certainly does come across as
    a delightful lady) and find their way into Bible-teaching churches. Nodhimmi, to
    day that “Freethinking
    is more accurately the employment of reason and rationality over emotional
    wish fulfilment” with the presumption that of course reason leads
    away from God or the church is very much against the common trend here in
    Uganda. It’s unfair to deny that many here find that there emotional wish fulfilments lead them straight into athiesm, where their free thinking leads them to God-belief. Although I doubt those people will be interviewed and displayed on this website (which I perfectly understand of course!)

    Again, would be interested to hear your thoughts if anyone has time,

    Chris

     

  17. One thing that does
    confuse me is the apparent anger many people have here for the idea of talk of
    eternal afterlife in heaven/hell. Although I would of course deny that such
    concepts are against reason, rationality, and logic at all (although
    I appreciate that is a long debate for another day), even if that is
    a given I still perceive there to be a great degree of hypocrisy in the
    athiesm/humanist movement.

    There are many rational and moral reasons discussing the ‘pervert’ concepts of Heaven and Hell. If anything, Hitchens has the classic points covered : ‘Divine North Korea’,  the carrot-or-the-stick mentality, subservience and surrendering your moral judgement to an absolute moral arbiter, the concepts of eternity, being born in sin, condemning non-believers or other religions to eternal damnation, the concept of redemption and the absolution of sins, Faith as the ultimate free pass to heaven, and on and on… 

    And if you thought R.Dawkins is forceful, wait until you hear Hitch.

    Why is that seen to be such a ‘dirty tactic’ in this
    war of worldviews, and yet the continual ridiculing and bullying of believers
    that goes on with Prof Dawkins, Ricky Gervais etc. is seen as perfectly
    legitimate method of drawing people into the camp? Is that not a certain form
    of hypocrisy? I see less and less ‘reason, rationality, and logic’ with much atheistic rhetoric these days, and more and more anger, bullying, and intolerance.

    Because in a way it is. And what’s wrong with ridicule and satire. Ricky Gervais is a comedian, that’s his job. And yeah, talking about bullying… We’re argumentative, we call bullshit when we see it, we’ll laugh at your expense, but that’s pretty much the worse you’ll get from us.

    Being ‘nicer’ may not always be a great solution. What we have for ourselves are logic, rational discourse, and that implies the need for moral integrity. When you start bending your views to make your arguments more palatable, in a way, you are lying, and doing yourself and your interlocutor a disservice. Name calling, and various other rhetorical devices are usually not advisable. Except for Ricky Gervais.

  18. @rdfrs-853de048693ebcdbd1299be3f462e9e2:disqus

    Well, Chris, where to begin? I’ll make a point of my own first and agree with one of yours after.

    We can tie ourselves up in knots with arguments getting ever more subtle, but what you have to ask yourself (as we all have) is “Does God really exist” – and not just any old god, but your God, ie the God of the Bible which inevitably means all other gods and religions are false. Or has Christianity grown up in response to the human frailties of fear of the unknown and ultimately fear of death? The answer is obvious to atheists, and we get a little frustrated when people don’t agree! Especially as you seem to have no problem in not believing in about 2000 other gods and we simply differ in not believing in 2001.

    You have persuaded me that atheists should not go on about us being free-thinkers and religious people somehow dimwitted. None of us really know much about anything and partial knowledge is never enough. “Freethinking” is always only up to a point and it usually starts and finishes in a club or on a website that already agrees with one’s point of view! However nearly all atheists (including RD, Hitchens etc etc) accept that we do not know for certain that god does not exist – and probably never will or can know. That’s a very different attitude from most religious people who claim to know for certain that their God does exist. I would argue, ours is a more humble position.

    Geoff

    PS By the way, never mind “free thinking”, it would be nice if a few more religious people actually did any sort of thinking about their religion. Do you know how little those who called themselves “Christian” in the UK’s 2011 Census actually know about their religion? Only 35% could name the first chapter of the New Testament, out of a choice of 4! Presumably just selecting at random would have produced a score of 25%. For more info, see another post here http://richarddawkins.net/news….

  19. @chrishowles10 – However the main point I want to make briefly is to challenge the assertion that somehow atheism/humanism etc. is somehow ‘freethinking’, as if holding some sort of epistemologically neutral free space.

    Free thinking is thinking for yourself, looking at evidence and situations and arriving at your own conclusions  – something dogmatists do not understand.

    Of course atheism seeks to convert –
    it frequently uses intellectually bullying (“if you don’t join us, you’re backwards and stupid”…just follow Richard Dawkins on Twitter to see this everyday)  to convert people to a certain worldview.

    It does not occur to you  that some of the fundamentalist ideas being challenged actually are backward and stupid?
    - But that would involve actually evaluating objective EVIDENCE, rather than cheering from confirmation bias!  Challenging scientific methodology and well evidenced information, from an assertive viewpoint of ignorance – is stupid!

    One that may be right or may be wrong, but is still a worldview.

    False dichotomy – there are more than two world-views, – and those who can see more than their own view and a strawman opposite, know that!

    Furthermore the idea that atheism/humanism teaches people not what to think but how to think is, if you’ll forgive the strong language, a little ludicrous.

    Well you would think that , having demonstrated your own inability to master these skills on an other thread! – http://richarddawkins.net/news… it of course science, rather than atheism, which teaches people how to think.  Humanists simply value such rational methods of thinking on the basis of their proven reliability.

    Atheists hold to their own moral, ethical, metaphysical doctrines just as strongly as any Christians,

    Still stawmanning and making up reverse psychological projections!!!?  Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Individual atheists certainly have personal views on morality, but there is no such thing as an “atheist doctrine!” – because most atheists are free thinkers.

    and to disagree with them results frequently in scorn.

    Of course it does – just like flat-Earthers and Moon-landing denialists attract scorn. 
    Ludicrous unevidenced asserted claims deserve no respect.

    It teaches people how to think as long as they come to the same conclusions as they.

    Err no! – That is you with your psychological projections from evangelism, which is noted for choosing conclusions, and then cherry picking information to construct supporting circular arguments.

    Geoff 21  Not ad hominem but, I would suggest, a straw dictionary assertion.

    It must be from the same “straw-dictionary” as this one! -
     http://richarddawkins.net/news

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