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What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers

November 8, 2018

Author: Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa (Nsajigwa Nsa’Sam)

Numbering: Issue 1.B, Idea: African Freethinking

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: African Freethinker

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: November 8, 2018

Issue Publication Date: TBD

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,460

ISSN 2369-6885

Keywords: identity, name, nonbelievers, Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa, Nsajigwa Nsa’sam.

What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers[1],[2],[3]

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I am writing this in response to Levi Fragell’s call for the Humanist movement to strive for the common identity the world over. Elder Levi is the current leader, President (2002) of the International Humanist Ethical Union, an organization uniting “nonbelievers” of the world.

What are they? These are individuals who have a naturalistic worldview/life-stance, instead of (most often having rejected) a supernatural metaphysical one. While I agree with his call, I also have found it timely to inform of what is in a name that we have chosen to identify with, for our nascent Humanist organization in Tanzania.

Having evolved to be an Ethical Humanist Nontheist, to me today the question of existence or none of God comes down to evidence of who created him/her/it. This is the gist of the equation. While Theists would say God is self – created, that he/she/it was there from the beginning of time (yet they would deny totally any possibility of nature by itself being there from the beginning) I see it that, it is human beings, MAN who has created God, so much in Ludwig Feuerbach’s line of thinking..!
That I am aware there is three distinctions of Humanism: – Secular, Religious and Ethical humanism, each having certain IMPLICATION. It is important to pay attention to the public implication of the words used, especially so to a movement seeking to appeal and inspire the given populace…

What’s in a name? Each name has a meaning or portrays one. That is so much with many cultures in Africa. Names are given because of events associated. Though of course there has also been blind copying, imitating of western names, likewise Arabic…

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Nevertheless, within the African “triple heritage” line, some parents and Nations thought it worthwhile to give two names. One traditional, the other western alias Christian/biblical or Islamic – Arabic. I wish to continue with this tradition, yet footing it on the Humanistic heritage of each “monad” aspect of triple heritage…thus an African name Abapaanja (or Obierika), the Islamic/Arabic  heritage of the Mutazilites and the western (here classic Greece to Renaissance heritage replacing Christianity)
Enters the reality of marketability…the name must be inspiring, appealing, attracting, easy to identify with and positively provocative…That Humanist tradition has several brand names of its identity…Humanism itself, Skepticism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Rationalism, Materialism, Deism, Epicureanism, Nontheism, Unitarianism, Nonbeliever, Non-religious, Freethinking etc.

Freethinking, the last one qualifies best in Tanzania…why…throughout our modern history; we have been a people in search of FREEDOM…Collectively and now as individuals. Freedom from many chains & several bondages. Then came the realization that freedom starts with that of the mind…free mind, and fearless one. Many calls have been made for Africans to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery and colonial mentality. Thus comes the concept of “independent thinking”. This had far-reaching consequences but had limited itself in the hermeneutical reinterpretation of the scriptures and history, replacement of icons (from white ones to black) etc. The next stage in the line ought to be critical questioning of the Gods themselves altogether! Let come freethinking…making a complete breakaway from religion or rather Gods that in fact have never existed in the first place..!

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The word “Freethinker” has a strong appeal, provocative whatever it has been used here. People would ask what’s your religion? You would answer I am a freethinker gone beyond religion..! This provokes as it amazes. It means you think, think freely! You reflect, analyze, use your brain and don’t mere believe..!

This has the immediate effect of making them re-examine what you say/what you argue, at least for the moment. They take you seriously, and if you are known to be Ethical, that makes them interested even further…

“A freethinker has gone beyond religion and is living by a golden rule”..!

Then the tradition….Aba-paanja…these were the non-believers “the outsiders” in Ngonde – Nyakyusa culture/tradition. It is the evidence that in every age, generation and culture, there are always individuals who are part of that culture but becomes rationalistic to challenge some aspects of that very culture, rebels within. So it was with traditional African too, not everyone was a conformist..!

Nigerian great writer one Chinua Achebe had one such character (named Obierika) in his great book, Things fall apart. Obierika symbolized nonconformist within African traditions itself..!

Conclusion: which is the appropriate term? Humanism has both sides of coin by its implication to the populace. The positive side, it implies treating each other humanely. This has a strong appeal. Yet it could be interpreted as “MAN worship”. But man is imperfect, unworthy of worship; people would wish to submit to something infallible (Allah)..!

Again Humanism was a social philosophical ideology in nearby Zambia, pursued by its founder father there. Its experimentation failed. So people might assume you are a “die-hard” follower of Kenneth Kaunda’s failed ideology.

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Atheism, likewise Secularism here would be associated with “Godless Communism”…equally a failed system that was tyrannical…forcing people to abandon religions. It was undemocratic, more so lacking in individual liberty. Unfortunately, it substituted the worship of God to worship of Ideology, as propagated one way (only way!) by the s/elect few of the Kremlin.

The term “Philosophy” is a likely candidate. It is a respectable one, looked with reverence. It implies someone who thinks so deep and become wise in arguments. Its problem is it being associated with being a highly educated – Academic – to the level of Ph.D. This excludes the naturally born self-taught thinkers without degrees. Think this way that Socrates, David Hume and J J Rousseau could have been excluded..!

In between, late Philosopher Prof Paul Kurtz – an eminent thinker & Leader & Activist for Freethinking and Skepticism, introduced the term “Eupraxsophy” to rescue philosophy back to its original meaning – the theory that goes with praxis. However, it hasn’t caught fire thus far. It awaits the future..!

“Freethinking” stand out the best. It is a process…to think…freely…and fearlessly…
It has strong appeal because it connotes freedom of the mind, something that Africans yearns for, collectively and more so as Individuals.

Thanks, …it’s an unpublished work of 2002, published now the first time in 2018.
PS: While the central argument of the article stands, however things have changed since. Nowadays, markedly from 2012 with the rise of a new generation of nonbelievers, the terms “Atheism” and “Secular Humanism” have become the preferred ones. So be it..!

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Jichojipya/ThinkAnew.

[2] Individual Publication Date: November 8, 2018:

[3] Image Credits: Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa (Nsajigwa Nsa’sam).

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Mwasokwa N. What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers [Online].November 2018; 1(B). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Mwasokwa, N. (2018, November 8). What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of NonbelieversRetrieved from

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): MWASOKWA, N. What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers African Freethinker. 1.B, November. 2018. <>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Mwasokwa, Nsajigwa. 2018. “What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers.African Freethinker. 1.B.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Mwasokwa, Nsajigwa “What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers.African Freethinker. 1.B (November 2018).

Harvard: Mwasokwa, N. 2018, ‘What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers, African Freethinker, vol. 1.B. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Mwasokwa, N. 2018, ‘What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers, African Freethinker, vol. 1.B.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Nsajigwa I Mwasokwa. “What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers.” African Freethinker 1.B (2018):November. 2018. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Mwasokwa N. What is in a Name? Towards Common Identity Within Diversity of Nonbelievers [Internet]. (2018, November; 1(B). Available from:

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