Kenyan Atheist Demands That Quakers Revoke His Membership

Harrison Mumia, president of Atheists in Kenya, in Nairobi. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

As a Christian, he went to church and participated in Bible studies, but after becoming an atheist, Harrison Mumia is now demanding that the Quakers remove him from their rolls.

Mumia, president of the 5-year-old Atheists in Kenya Society, applied to the church to cancel his membership and remove any records associated with him, since he no longer considers himself a Christian.

“I want to adopt a Luhya name,” the 41-year-old information technology expert told Religion News Service, referring to his ethnic tribe. “I don’t see why I should hold on to something that I don’t believe in.”

Kenya, in red, located in eastern Africa.
Map courtesy of Creative Commons

In his an Oct. 17 letter to the Religious Society of Friends, as the Quakers are officially known, Mumia wrote, “I request for an official certificate of renunciation signed by a senior member of the Quakers Church in Kenya to be issued to me as a confirmation that my request has been accepted.”

Though most Quakers don’t practice water baptism, Mumia recalls being sprinkled with water as a young teen, and in his letter he specifically renounced its effect. “As an atheist,” he wrote, “I no longer accept the implications of the rite of baptism.”

Baptism, he told RNS, “is a religious rite of passage for most children. When my mother took me for baptism, she believed this was the right thing to do, but I was not a grown-up.” 

Mumia said he stopped believing in God when he was a 24-year-old university student. He had failed to find sufficient and convincing answers to his questions about morality, creation and faith in the holy texts. When science provided more convincing answers, he made the shift.

Quakerism reached Kenya in 1902 via two American missionaries, and while its numbers have declined elsewhere in the world, the church has been growing here. According to Religion Watch, a third (146,000) of the denomination’s 377,000 members worldwide lived in Kenya as of 2012. 

Overall, some 83% of Kenyans are Christians, with 45% saying they are Protestants and 33% being Catholic, according to a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics study in 2013. Muslims make up about 10% of the population.

But atheism is gaining ground. In 2016, in part at Mumia’s instigation, the government registered the Atheists in Kenya Society, bringing an outcry from Christian leaders.

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Source: Religion News Service