From International Humanist
Wole Soyinka’s International Humanist Award acceptance speech…
From Chibok with Love
Perhaps Humanists should pause from time to time and ask themselves a simple, straightforward, even neighbourly question: what do religionists really want? Not what they worship – that is beyond rational comprehension for many but – what do they really seek? After all, society is built on the practical, unavoidable principle of co-existence. If this proposed exercise appears strange, it is perhaps because society is very much in denial, afraid to confront such a focused question lest it receive an answer that imposes unwanted responsibilities on the rest of its members. We prefer to take refuge in the narratives of ancient wrongs and even, sometimes legitimately, wallow in present contradictions. However, if society appears to be foundering, and along lines that clearly indicate religious factors – the world being in no shortage of current exemplars – then it becomes a duty, even for self-preservation, to understand what the various constituent parts seek for their self-fulfilment.
And so, to the question once again, what do religionists really want? For most, the answer is simple: “to serve God”, by whatever name. That, for the larger humanity should remain unexceptionable – the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Unfortunately, not all religionists are content with that aspiration or else – even more critically! – raise issues of how they propose to fulfill such a supposedly harmless mission. We are speaking here of a resolute, but proliferating minority who declare their objective as the right to intervene dictatorially in the rights, mores and undertakings of others – all in the name of their presiding deity. This claim to the privileged exercise of Control is what plagues the world in ever expanding arenas of conflict, a belief that absolute authority is invested in them by a supreme, though invisible entity, to meddle in the lives of others, not even in an advisory role, not even as provider of optional guidelines, but with an absolutism that brooks no dissent. The ambition of such religionists is nothing less than to place all of humanity under their jurisdiction. That declaration is stark, undisguised. Its brutal efforts at actualization presently infest global existence, some parts more lethally than others but, with increasing assertiveness, including the insertion of ‘sleeper’ warriors in seemingly insulated societies.