Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.1A, 93-100
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 93
Atheism and Humanism in a Globalized World:
The Igbo Experience
Chizaram Onyekwere, Oliver Uche
Department of Religion and Human Relations, Faculty of Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
Received January 10th, 2013; re vise d February 13th, 2013; accept ed February 22nd, 2013
Obnoxious labels are derogatory terms which speak extensively on the ignorant dispositions of scholars
who either rush into faulty conclusions, or have prior decisions to promote class distinction through the
uncomplimentary colours they paint of what others hold as divine, spiritual, and transcendental. For such
derogatory terms to gain wide audience in a globalized age explains the frame of mind of discordant
voices which have been based on arm-chair scholarship. The thrust of this article therefore, is to use Igbo
experience to explore the problems of atheism and humanism in a globalized world. The exploratory re-
search will help adopt a cultural centred approach in analyzing the dichotomy between the various phi-
losophical view points on God, spirits and man’s religious belief system in Igbo land in particular and Af-
rica in general. It is hoped that the analyses of the challenges posed by atheism and humanism in a glob-
alized world will balance ideas, views, attitudes and behaviour that will reposition Igbo religious beliefs,
values and practices in line with the proposed theistic humanism associated with Igbo culture in particular
and African culture in general. This will breach the persisted conflict between the sacred and the secular
pointing to a dynamic and progressive Igbo culture.
Keywords: Atheism; Humanism; Globalised World; Igbo; Igbo Experience
The need to distillate a balanced view that is fundamental
enough for the renewal of social life in a globalized world has
been very high. Accepting an invitation to contribute to
Maduabuchi Dukor’s “four great works on African Philosophy”
constitutes a fresh challenge. There is a need to use Igbo ex-
perience to explore fresh and improved insight to atheism from
humanism in a globalized world. This has become necessary
because of lots of misconceptions, ignorance, arm-chair schol-
arship, and derogatory labels promoting class distinctions be-
tween Africa and the rest of the world. Similarly, there are dis-
cordant voices on types and relationships between atheism,
humanism, secularism, agnosticism, theism an theistic human-
ism. Despite the diverse relationships in the above types of
concepts of God, humanism has Christian, secular, philosophi-
cal, scientific and theistic humanism. The danger in the above
classification of the above major intellectual modifications of
humanism is their views about the supernatural aspects of man.
However, these scholarly view points seem to have found unity
in temporal welfare, dignity and equality of all men.
Atheism and humanism are not the same. They have different
cultural background and as they are used and applied to differ-
ent philosophies, their philosophical movements differ over
time situations and institutions. Why must people, especially in
the western world refuse to acknowledge or profess any of the
world main religions? Mairi (1998) defines atheism as the be-
lief that there is no god. He did not seem to distinguish between
god and God. Could they mean the same thing? What is de-
scribed as god is not so described by the Igbo, rather, they call
them divinities or messengers in the theocratic government of
God. The critique and denial of belief in God have raised a
number of variables such as beliefs, rejection of the idea of God,
spirit or life force altogether.
Opinion on atheism remains a subject to different interpreta-
tions. It indicates a strong decline in religious belief. Conse-
quent upon different interpretations, Haralambos, Holborn and
Heald (2008) say “they could be seen as providing on whether a
narrow or broad definition of religion is employed” (p. 434).
Humanism on the other hand goes beyond a cultural movement
of the classical period which promoted classical studies.
Conceptual Clarification
A number of concepts deserve a touch of explanation of their
meaning in the light of this paper. Notable among these themes
are atheism, humanism, globalized world and Igboland. Others
are by implication order, ethical life and experience. The in-
sight offered by these terms will offer a deeper understanding
of the discussion of the Igbo experience of atheism and human-
ism in a globalized world.
Doniger (1999) says atheism refers to “the critique and de-
nial of belief in God, as such, it is the opposite of theism, which
affirms the reality of God and seeks to demonstrate his exis-
tence” (p. 87). Atheism is associated with a number of variables
such as beliefs, rejection of the idea of a God, spirit or life force
Atheism indicates a strong decline in religious belief. Opin-
ion on atheism has been a subject to different interpretations.
Consequently, Haralambos, Holborn and Heald (2008) say
“they could be seen as providing on whether a narrow or broad
definition of religion is employed” (p. 434). Hamilton (1998)
says that one to say he believes in God:
Does not mean that it has any consequence for behaviour, is
held with any conviction, or has any real meaning. What is
surveys show is not that people are religious but that they have
a propensity to say yes to this sort of survey questions.
Humanism goes beyond a cultural movement of the classical
period which promoted classical study. This concept refers to a
body of philosophies and ethical perspectives that emphasize
the value of human beings, individually, collectively, and gen-
erally place more importance on rational thought than on strict
faith or adherence to principle.
It could mean non-religious beliefs in philosophy and social
science. Humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some
notion of a human nature. Humanism describes the secular
ideology that espouses reason, ethics and justice, while specifi-
cally rejecting supernatural and religious ideas as a basis of
morality and decision making. Esptein (2010) states that “Hu-
manism today can be categorized as a movement, a philosophy
of life or world view, or life stance” (p. 169).
Mairi (1998) feels that humanism refers to “a system of
thought which rejects the supernatural, any belief in a god etc.,
but holds human interest and the human mind paramount; that
humans are capable of solving the problems of the world and
deciding what is or is not correct moral behaviour” (p. 655).
The implication of the rejection of the supernatural does not
remove the different aspects of the human being such as being
spiritual, moral
Globalized World
Globalized world in this paper is articulated as the various
ways and means the universe is made a village through the
instrumentality of Information Communication Technology
Igbo Land
Igbo land will refer to a geographical expression of the south
eastern states and some parts of Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom,
Benue and Kogi States in Nigeria.
Atheism: An Academic Engagement
Belief system illustrates the tendency to which man irrespec-
tive of creed, philosophies of life, status and world views, is
predisposed to religious philosophy. Atheism is a norm, a mark,
disbelief, opposition, non-existence, prejudice and denial or
non-acknowledgement of God which is the object of worship in
religion. The inability to portray any of the world main relig-
ions could be as a result of holding God responsible for the ills
of the world. Man is not seen as a corruption of good, corrupt
and wicked.
It is not impossible that people identify with atheism. They,
on moral or intellectual grounds, find that they cannot believe
in God. They are those Idowu (1978) describes as “for some
inexplicable reason, are just in capable of believing” (p. 28).
Atheists are one of the four categories or thinkers that have
attacked or criticized religion. However, he sees atheist as the
same as secularists. It is difficult to accept the groups as the
same or referring to those who are reacting against religion in
consequence of priest craft and the abuses and evils promoted
or perpetrated in connection with religion.
Such disbelief could not affect God’s nature or deity. How-
ever, atheists have no demonstrable existence of God and they
could not find functional occasion to bring God into the practi-
cal business of everyday life. Could it be established that the
material world which is visible, tangible and dynamic holds
such reality that had to do with life in general or with them-
selves in their existential situations.
It is evident that the universe in which man finds himself
does not seem to make sense. Thus, man’s powers at best are
limited and cannot avoid making sense of it. For a steady de-
velopment of purpose, gradual unfolding of plans is necessary.
Man’s conquest of nature is to a great extent achieved by a wise
submission, as a clever wrestler uses jujitsu. It is only the sur-
vivors in the evolutionary process that display such abilities.
MacGregor states that “man, however, is in everywhere con-
spicuously advanced in such mortals. Yet the abilities he posses
cannot be said to have grown. On the contrary, they have cre-
ated in a process in which only those in whom such abilities
were developed could survive. All these seem to suggest a crea-
tive mind rest mind to undertake and accomplish such pur-
poses” (p. 92).
Is there anything that can be called good without qualifica-
tion? It is evident also that nothing is good without qualifica-
tion, but the image may be and is sadly distorted. Nothing is
good except God. I can be what is intrinsically good, namely,
what God intended me to be.
Humanism in a Globalized World
Humanism is from the Latin noun humanus understood as
human or belonging to Homo sapiens which explains the atti-
tude of the human mind, which attaches importance to man and
his faculties mundane state of affairs temporal aspirations and
well-being. Dukor (2010) sees humanism as “a way of life, to
give meaning to life and to find an outstanding of our place in
society and, indeed, the universe: Humanism stands for the
open mind in the open society” (p. 71). Humanism is very cur-
rent in philosophical field and this probably explains why vari-
ous thinkers have used it in different view points. Thus, hu-
manism remai ns any system whic h puts human interest utmost.
However, human interest in this context means different things
to different people. Consequent upon this, Dukor (2010) main-
tains that it is suspicious to assert that whatever is human must
necessarily be opposed to what is called divine or supernatural.
The same suspicion could be raised concerning holding that
humanism describes philosophies and those streams of thought
which Onwuanibe avers that they are aimed at fostering the full
development of man and protecting his dignity, loving and
caring for him. The conditions that gave room for humanism
may be different. However, man is central as an adherent of
religion, whose commitment, to religious belief and practices
stands him out in the ascribed little reference to God as a hall-
mark of humanism.
Humanism in a globalized world has notable features such as
having intrinsic anthropocentricism. It remains a project in
which man is the supreme question for man. Edward (1989)
says humanism is any outlook or the way of life centred on
human need and interest such as human means for compre-
hending reality, regarding human values as making sense only
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
in the context of human life rather than in the promise of a
suppose after death. Humanism is a philosophy for those in
love with life.
On the other hand, humanism says nothing about the very
innate nature of man, rather its philosophical and literary
movements colour its outlook and as a way of life, it constitutes
one of the factors of modern cultures. Humanism is characteris-
tic in exposing some of the clearly secular stance (as antitheti-
cal to religion and transcendental realities that many humanists
have come to assume).
Humanism presents a posture of the misguided as a protest
against religion, transcendental realities and ontology. The ad-
vocates of humanism are viewed always as atheistic or a theis-
tic, or agonistic secular or apotheosists i.e. equating man with
God. Richard (1983) says humanism “focuses on the unmiti-
gated potentialities and achievement of man, especially as
manifest in the classical era led them to seek revival of the
educational model of this era” (p. 1).
Dukor (2010) explains the ambiguity among scholars who
have either written on humanism but it also extends to thought
and the belief of many others who had faith in humanism
without being conscious of the word humanism to designate
their belief. The influence from ancient Greek philosophy to
contemporary view point created room for discordant voices.
Man is unique in religion, revelation and in humanism. Man is
the centre point and ends in man. The reference point is not
God but the material. Dukor (2010) explains that “humanists
have consistently used scientific advances to justify their claims
because scientific discoveries explain more and more about the
natural world. So living less and less for supernatural explana-
tions to get away with (p. 68). This man-centered philosophy
has been queried for not recognizing God as transcending the
universe, God’s immanence, created order and nearness to man
than life itself. It is a philosophical fact that God expresses
Himself in values that are discoverable by man in experience.
In a globalized world, with different philosophies of life, ide-
ologies and systems, God is at least personal and at least con-
scious mind and he is both beyond the universe and immanent
in it. The inability to accept this reality explains the rigidity of
the humanists especially of scientific class to other forms of
humanism such as Christian humanism and African humanism.
Humanism according to Umezinwa (2009) recognizes and
venerates the existence and powers of humans. It’s extreme
form goes without a consideration for the supernatural. As a
consequence, the idea of a creator God and the spirit of man are
not considered real. On the other hand, if God exists, He is too
weak to make impact on man and society in a globalized world.
Humanism is understood to stand for any man-centred phi-
losophy. According to Abbaganno (1967), it is thus:
Humanism is any philosophy which recognizes the value or
dignity of man and makes him the measure of all things or
somehow takes human nature, its limits, or its interests as its
theme (pp. 66-67).
This above view may not have recognized that the value and
dignity of man may be enhanced or promoted through divine
mandate. It could therefore, be observed that the view of any
philosophy could be misleading since there are different ver-
sions of humanism. Philosophical, theistic, religious, Christian
and scientific humanism do not mean the same but may ac-
cording to Edward (1989) have “any outlook or way of life
centred on human need and interest” (p. 1). Okoye (2007) says
in fact, the vast gamut of philosophers and philosophies that
have been identified with humanism lack homogeneity of un-
derstanding of the concept … However, at the epicenter of
Humanism is an intrinsic anthropocentrism. Mondin (1985)
states that humanism is “project” in which “man is the supreme
question of man” (p. 1). Human values are implied as making
sense only in the context of human life, dignity and human
person as its raison d’etre with a view towards understanding
man in order to enhance and better the situation as well as pro-
tect his God given dignity.
The Igbo Experience
The challenges of global times will be understood when we
gain insight into Igbo experience of the globalized world. This
has become necessary in view of the dichotomy between the
east and the west on certain cultural issues. The way the Igbo
perceive their world according to Metuh (1987) is the complex
of their beliefs and attitudes concerning the nature, structure
and interaction of the being in the universe with particular ref-
erence to man. The said complex is further referred to as the
people’s teogony and cosmogony which invariably is con-
densed in their belief in the Deity and in stories and myths
about the origin and development of the universe.
The scope of Igbo world view includes the Creator, all cre-
ated things, divinities, spirits and ancestors. A clear perception
of Igbo philosophy of life according to Kalu (1978) is made
when Igbo communities vary assiduously preserve Igbo myths
of origin as an explanation of why things are the way they are.
The Igbo myths go a long way in expressing the Supreme Be-
ing in different names and attributes such as Chineke (Creator),
Chukwu (Supreme God), Obasi (God), Obinigwe (Heavenly
father), Olisaebuluwa (Ruler of the earth). These names of God
and their attributes such as the controller of the universe, King,
Judge, sustainer among others are as old as Igbo as a people
and a nation. The same applies to other ethnic extractions in
Momoh (1996) is weakened by African Traditional Religious
structure which has a broad based structure on belief in God,
ancestors, spirits and magic. God is the creator is unique as the
ruler, king, controller, judge and sustainer of the universe. It
may not be true having Godlessness in ancient African meta-
physics as portrayed by Momoh. Similarly, the abode of God in
Africa is not the same as what is termed “god”. There is a great
difference between God and “god” in metaphysical structure of
African world view. The abode of “god” is not locatable and
cannot be destroyed. What is described as “god” is not so con-
ceived by Africans in words of Uche (2009) they are messen-
gers or ministers in the theocratic government of God. Notable
among them are Ala (earth goddess), Amadioha (thunder and
lightening divinity) and Agwu (divinity for divination). They do
not have their abode or dwell in the physical realm but theirs
are spiritual. In what constitutes the psychology of religious
worship, they have like other religions of mankind, a place of
worship and sacrifice. They constitute things of the mind or of
the spirit. When adherents feel they have outgrown belief in
them, the removal of physical structures does not affect the
psychological aspect of their ex is t ence.
Uche (2009) sees divinities in Igbo religious world view as
one of the sources of traditional religious ethics. In a related
case, Uche (2009) identifies divinities as enforcing the socio-
religious significance of taboos in Igboland. The Igbo believe in
social functions of religion. Uche (2006) extols the dynamics of
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 95
religion as a matrix of culture. The articulation of Igbo religious
beliefs, norms and values show functional role of Igbo religion
in promoting what Uche (2011) calls sustainable development
in Igboland in particular and Africa in general.
There is an integration of the physical existence with the
spiritual sphere of life. The physical depends heavily on the
spiritual for its well being. God, spirits and man interact for the
sustainable development of the Igbo world. Man strives in obe-
dience to the divine rules and regulations in order to attract
divine favour and blessings from the spirit world. The ancestors
also known as the living dead mirror the life of the Igbo fami-
lies. They guide and direct the affairs of members of their fami-
lies. They guard against incurring the wrath of God by dis-
couraging their members from abominable acts.
The notion of life (Ndu) or existence in Igbo experience is
meaningful in relation to God, spirit, universe and man. The
heavy accent which the Igbo place on human life, its enhance-
ment and continuity has according to Nwala (1985) been
dubbed “heavily anthropocentric” (p. 144). Human life is
therefore the prime value and everything is expected to serve its
realization. This highest value is made manifest in their per-
sonal names such as Ndubuisi (Life is greater than wealth).
Nduka (Life is greater), Ndukaku (Life is greater than wealth or
riches), Nduamaka (Life is good). Madu (2004) supports the
Nwala’s view that the supremacy of life (Ndu) in both cosmo-
logical order and in daily life and activities of the people is
reflected in dynamic quality of material and human existence.
Atheism is a misplaced label which does not hold based on
Igbo religious experience. Ndu (Life) is the existence which
takes various forms in material and spiritual existence. At death
which is said to be the dissolution of the flesh, the spirit enters
a separate existence maintaining the life of the individual in
another sphere of existence.
It could be inferred from the above that life encompasses
both material and spiritual existence. Existence is dynamic
because the people’s material and spiritual well-being are con-
trolled by God. Anything that threatens the material and spiri-
tual well being of the Igbo is feared by the people because this
would diminish the dynamic quality of life. Onunwa (1990)
identifies one of such unfriendly agents that threatens life in
Igbo land as illness and death. They do not occur by accident in
traditional Igbo society which Uchendu (1965) says is divided
into two namely, the visible (uwa) and the invisible (Ala
mmuo). These two worlds overlap. The invisible world is made
up of the Eligwe and Ala-mmuo while the visible Ala madu are
inhabited by beings. Ejizu (1986) notes that Eligwe (the sky
above) is the abode of Supreme Being (Chineke) and such ma-
jor divinities like Amadioha (thunder divinity) and Anyanwu
(light divinity). The earth is the home of the earth goddess,
minor divinities, nature deities and man. The ancestors, and
spirit-forces (good and evil) are believed to inhabit the under-
The import of the above classification of Igbo cosmological
order is to establish a strong relationship between the physical
or material Igbo world and the spiritual or invisible world of
reality. They are inseparable in promoting the prime value
which ensures its realization. This is achieved by introducing
measure aimed at putting rebellious proned man in check. They
include Igba-ndu (covenant), Idu-isi (oath taking), Isa-aka (plea
of innocence), inu-iyi (swearing or taking an oath). Meaningful
life or existence (Ezi-ndu) remains an inter-play and integrative
role of the spiritual forces in ensuring justice, equity and fair
play in Igboland. Igbo names such as Onyemaechi (no one
knows tomorrow), Maduabuchukwu (no one is like God) and
Chizaram (God answered me) point to the spiritual realm in-
fluencing positively the physical existence of the Igbo.
Problems and Prospects of Atheism
and Humanism
Human salvation is not made possible to atheists. This is be-
cause they have created and sustained or preserved the gulf
between the Creator and man since creation of the universe
does not accept man’s salvation. Similarly, the cosmic chaos
which has characterized every creation story could not be re-
solved by human efforts and the cosmic forces were brought to
order and divine control by God. This made the light to prevail
over the power of darkness, chaos, anarchy and confusion.
MacGregor is of the view that “even in heaven, where man’s
individuality is perfectly and fully developed, man never be-
comes God. That man should become ‘as God’ was satan’s
deceitful promise, a means of tempting man to indulge in delu-
sions of self-grandeur that would be his undoing, leading him to
misery and ruin” (p. 88).
The strength of the above argument shows that atheism is
weakened by the reality of the elaborate provisions hitherto
expressed to the fullest extent both the remoteness and inacces-
sibility of God, on the one hand, and on the other, His intimate
nearness and abiding presence. The religious feelings associ-
ated with Igbo traditional religion is presented in its most star-
tling, provocative and dramatic form.
It is easier to reach an honest conclusion that a supreme mind
is in benevolent control of the universe than to conclude there is
no God. Similarly, wherever you find evidence of disorder and
lack of purpose, you find evidence against God, or the strong
feeling remains that we must not forget, how deeply ingrained
are our habits of self-deception, especially in matters that in-
volves important choices.
Careful observation of Igbo world views shows that we are
confronted with human experience that is apparently baffling.
Consequent upon this predicament, some subscribe to atheism
and think no more of the matter. Atheists have been sorely de-
scribed and criticized over the centuries in varying terms be-
cause they did not believe that nothing is good except God.
Camus (1961) came up with “the absurd man”. “The absurd
man lives outside God and therefore prefers his courage and his
reasoning. The first teaches him to live without appeal and gets
along with what he has; the second informs him of his lim-
its …” In preference to God he chooses an absorbing pas-
sion … as man he is his own end … whatever comes to him or
upon him he accepts as fate without grumbling for a fate is not
a punishment … To him, nothing is vanity except the hope of
another life for “what comes after death is futile; … Therefore,
between history and the eternal, he chooses history because he
likes certainties … his mind is made up that he will live out his
adventure within the span of his life time … ‘T he wise man …
lives on what he has without speculating on what he has not’.
He has no concern with ideas or with the eternal. The truths that
came within his scope can be touched with the hand-he cannot
separate from them … It is ‘royal power’ to ‘know how to live
in harmony with a universe without future and without weak-
ness’, to think clearly and cease to hope”. Thus, “the absurd
man” refuses to take a leap, “rushing into the divine or the
eternal”, or to afford himself of any screens which may hide the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
true facts of life from him (p. 49).
Idowu (1978) observes that those who are represented in ‘the
absurd man’, religion, and God have no existential or pragmatic
meaning; no useful, desirable purpose. The universe with its
challenges such as the problem of evil exemplified in death at
the prime of life, accidents, volcanic and epidemic outbreak
with disastrous consequences make man helpless. Man is after
all disposed to try to find order whether it is there or not. Man
is endowed with remarkable abilities for doing so, cannot but
admits that on all sides there is ample testimony to aimlessness,
futility, waste and chance. Scholars have concluded that the
universe is purposeless and therefore in itself meaningless.
Atheism remains one of those inappropriate labels used in
describing religious belief system and which has posed a fresh
challenge to scholars of Igbo culture. It has called for an inward
collaborative study in order to distinguish classical or original
meaning from the realities of the day. Igbo cultural scholarship
will remain on the defensive if the biased conclusion of schol-
ars even of African identity is not addressed.
Momoh (1996) avers that “originally Africans had no con-
ception of God, the Supreme Being, in the Judeo-Christian
senses of the world but that point by itself should not be con-
strued to mean that Africans were thereby immoral … it cannot
be automatically assumed that a religious man is a moral man,
or that a moral man is a religious person. Even though Africans,
before the advent of Christianity, and Islam, had no conception
of the Supreme Being. God, they had and still have conception
of gods whose moral predicates are similar to those of the
monotheistic God” (p. 20). The monotheistic God in Igboland
is higher and above Momoh’s identified “gods”. Chineke,
Nyame, Olorun, Olodumare and other monotheistic conceptions
of the Supreme Being in Africa were in place and referred be-
fore the advent of Christianity and Islam. These two religions,
in fact borrowed these names of God and their attributes. They
are not mere philosophical speculations but are real, unique and
impart lives practically in daily living. Any contrary view im-
plies blindness to the cultural realities on the group.
Shading mere light on the deserved realities of intellectual
cross-fertilization, in Igbo culture, it is the labels mere applied
to Igbo cultural life not because they were meant for concentra-
tion or revere empty objects but because they believed that
behind every being or object, there is a vital force, power or
spirit. Dukor (2010) clarifies some of the Igbo religious issues
when he asserts that “Africans personify nature because they
believe that there is a spiritual force residing in every object of
nature. African religious practices, feasts and ceremonies can-
not precisely be equated to magical and idolatory practices or
fetishism” (p. 88).
The Supreme Being is identified with the universe in Igbo
culture. Dukor (2010) maintains that the possible common cul-
tural heritage of the Africans of which the Igbo are one, there-
fore their belief in the multiplicity of divinities as messengers
of God, means to an end and ministers of God were either cre-
ated or governed by an ultimate being or principle or they were
part of it. It is for this reason that it is possible that African
culture in general and the Igbo culture in particular may not be
atheistic as some people think. It is theistic as well as humanis-
tic. The relationship between atheism and humanism could be
seen in denial of the existence of God, gods and spirits on one
hand and none inclusion, recognition and incorporation of God
or religious sentiments.
Dukor (2010) formulated the principle of doctrine of Theistic
Humanism as possible Afro-Asian common cultural heritage. In
African ethics, an action is not bad because God said it is not
bad and good because He said it is good. Things are good or
bad independent of the will of God. In the realm of spiritualism,
both cultures are also humanistic. Uche (2007) sees divinities,
spirits and ancestors in Africa as guardians of morality. They
were ever-ready to ensure the continued existence of society.
Igbo attitude to life is through diligence provided it does not
jeopardize one’s life. The intellectual and spiritual self-control
of man are extolled.
Atheism has brought to lime-light the quest to establish phi-
losophical import of religious world-view, myths and symbols
in Igbo culture as well as their meaning and cultural relevance
to the intellectual emancipation of Igbo culture from Eurocen-
tric intellectual traditional. Similarly, it is believed that meta-
physical knowledge statements and problems are both charac-
terized by the misuse of language. This misuse of language
could be broken if scholars accept myths, folklore, proverbs
and religious beliefs as sources of Igbo philosophy show casing
Igbo traditional kn ow led ge to t he globalized world.
Humanism seems to virtually identify with all people by in-
fluencing them with their ideas, views, attitudes and teaching.
They have a long time effects on people, institutions and rela-
tionships. Touching on lives could be positive as well as nega-
tion in a generation which Okoye (2006) sees as increasingly
secular and freedom seeking in which authority figures is seen
as misnomers and enemies to human aspirations.
Any genuine humanist is supposed to be working for the
welfare of the human person as in his true nature (that is as a
being with dignity and autonomy-a person). Many humanists
tended to over exaggerate human capacity and ended up giving
man such centrality that placed him in the protagoran sense as
“the measure of all things”. This encouraged the anti-religious
perception of humanism among many people in history.
Humanism assigns to the human person an absolute, inviola-
ble, non-instrumental value, worthy of the greatest respect and
consideration. Mondin (1985: p. 257) avers that “it is evident
that man is not an absolute, not a Supreme Being, nor is he
omnipotent, infinite, or immortal” (p. 257). Humanism em-
braces more properly any attitude that exalted man’s relation-
ship with God, his free will and his superiority over nature.
Humanism makes man the measure of all things. Humanism
regards human reason as the best guide in facing life’s prob-
lems; humanists want to see society from the stranglehold of
religious beliefs. Humanists are free thinkers because they
never hand over their minds irrevocably to any church, but
remain free to think for themselves.
Humanism explains that every responsible human being
should be free to make choices and live in their own life style,
as long as they do not violate the freedom of others. The hu-
manists’ virtues are a regard for what is true, personal responsi-
bility, tolerance, consideration, breath of sympathy, public
spirit co-operative endeavour, and concern for the future. Hu-
manists although not religious, will arguably live beside the
religious, believing in freedom for religion and freedom from
religion. Its emphasis is on the human, here-and-now, its not a
religion and it has no formal creed, yet, humanist s have belief.
Humanists are atheists or agnostics and do not expect an after
life. It is essential to humanism that it brings values and mean-
ing into life. But these virtues and values are expressed in Igbo
culture. God centred philosophical value and virtues such as
kindness, love, patience, humility, diligence and honesty will
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 97
meet human aspirations in the globalized world if they are an-
chored on God which is of prime value. Man is limited in
knowledge, power and spirit and would need a divine spark,
essence and link to remains focused and less distracted by the
desires of the flesh.
Christian humanists such as William Wilberforce and John
Macpherson made a strong case against slave trade in British
Parliament. They appeal to the conscience and true humanity of
fellow Britons to think less of the profit they made from the
trade on human beings. Promoting equality of human beings
was practically demonstrated. In this way, humanism remains a
radical breakthrough into economics for the liberation of man, a
scientific revolution against forced labour of the economic in-
dustrial countries over the poor African nations including Igbo
extraction. Humanism holds that culture as a way of life exists
in all the communities. It allows for dignity and self-esteem that
is fundamental to cultural development. Cultural development
therefore, implies learning and education as aspect of culture
being promoted by humanism.
In a related level, he sees humanism as any system which
puts human interest paramount. Dukor sees African culture as
an example of a culture that is humanistic while at the same
time holding the belief in transcendental beings like spirits,
gods and so on. It is shown by this idea that though Humanism
and Theism appear as contraries yet both can be true in African
and Asian cultures. They are existentially pragmatic in their
philosophies which are a medley of pantheism, polytheism and
theism. Also, polytheism, theism and pantheism are features of
African civilization. African civilization is preoccupied with
not only the interest and welfare of man, but also with spiritu-
alism. Here spiritualism is for man and not man for spiritualism.
This is the basis of agrarian and egalitarian cultures in Africa in
general and Igbo land in particular. There is a common belief in
the plurality of divinities. Most of these divinities have specific
functions in their relationship with man. For example, Ilo Uwa
is associated with reincarnation in Igboland. It is interesting to
note that in Igbo mythologies, the chi which is interpreted “the
lesser gods” Dukor (2010) were either created by God or they
were part of Him. In Igbo Religion, God, called Chineke (crea-
tor) is the Supreme Being, God is conceived as a Transcenden-
tal and Immanent Being. The lesser beings were created by
Him or emanated from Him. They are symbols of Divine reality,
source of African Traditional Religious Ethics. The worship
and sacrifices to God were not useless. Where deification oc-
curs, the followers recognize and raise the status of the deity
from ordinary to divine level.
Humanism could be only in a very lopsided and unscientific
philosophical manner since it says nothing of the very innate
nature of man, rather, devilled only on the peripheral area that
can be covered by even political science or civil education or
other. Humanism presents the posture of misguided as a prot-
estation against religion, transcendental realities and ontology.
This explains why many humanists are viewed always as athe-
istic, or atheistic, or agnostic, secular or apostheosistic (equat-
ing man with God).
Ignorance is a factor responsible for the error of judgment
expressed concerning African world view. The African phi-
losophy of life according to Dukor (2010) states that “the world
is inhered with ultimate invisible spiritual powers which is both
a form of matter and motion as could be seen in Marxian and
Einsteinian conceptions of matter, motion and space times. It is
therefore wrong to argue that the African people culturally lack
the scientific spirit” (p. 62). There is substance in holding that
the sweeping confusion could have been averted if we appreci-
ate that the form and sophistication may not be the same level
with that of the west.
It involves human effort to recover something in human life
connected to having kindness, sympathy and being benevolent.
Its emphasis is on human interests rather than on religion. But
how far could human interest go in a world of greed, corruption
and wickedness. In its pure form, humanism is anti-religion and
is regarded as “pagan”. It is a kind of revolt against Christian
religion. Humanists are caricatured as dry rationalists worship-
ping pure reason. But its unreasonable to extend the use of rea-
son to all areas.
It would be impossible for humanists to force humanisms
other people or to persecute non-humanists for if they do, they
will no longer be humanists. Humanists see no virtue in faith,
blind obedience, meekness, unworldliness, chastity, or pointless
self denial. They do not believe in miracles, though, they can
ironically comprehend the senses of the miraculous.
Implications of Atheism and Humanism in a
Globalized Igbo World
In addition to the problems and prospects of atheism and
humanism analyzed above, a critical look at their implications
in a globalized Igbo world will help champion the way forward.
Igbo is the Jew of Nigeria and by implication the cradle of
mankind and civilization. Therefore, the Igbo cultural decay,
under development and downfall to the evolutionary ladder
must have been due to the accidents of history caused by radi-
cal conflicts and the survival of the fittest. It is the contention of
this paper that the Igbo experience in the globalized world must
not only discard a dead culture but must also embrace those of
our past for posterity, those of her primeval or pristine culture
which was responsible for the early development in science and
technology. In order to exploit the Igbo universe which is a
dynamic, progressive and purposeful for the development in
every sphere of operations, Dukor (2010) suggests “Theistic
humanism which is African philosophy of God, man and uni-
verse as well as African personality and self could invent, dis-
cover, cognize, construct and deconstruct” (pp. 62-63). This
position seems to explore the relevance of African philosophy
of God which is deeply rooted in Igbo culture in particular and
African culture in general. A deep rooted search for Igbo iden-
tity is a synergy for collaborative partnership for sustainable
There is need to establish a case of Theistic humanism
against thread bare humanism; a critique of humanism in de-
fence of Igbo and African Theistic humanistic cultures. Hu-
manistic tendencies are not lacking in traditional and modern
Igbo thought because man is the core of Igbo thought. Man is
the beginning and end in expressing God’s thought.
The Igbo attitude is that theism or conception of God is a
necessary denomination in all human affairs. Igbo cosmology
and ontology are world affirming with men at the centre of the
cosmos in Igboland. God created man in his image and put his
breath for substance, growth and development. Dukor (2010)
avers that in African philosophy, we find that in a particular
sense, these philosophies are humanistic but their humanism is
combined with theism. Ignoring this fact does not promote the
richness in Igbo world views in a globalized world.
One of such riches is embedded in Igbo proverbs. Proverbs
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
express exoteric knowledge of the mysteries of Igbo culture.
The wisdom manifested in Igbo proverbs needs deep insight
before a meaningful understanding could be made. Myths and
folklores are not left out. Scholars researching on them ought to
be versed in Igbo language and philosophy in order not to read
in and read out of the realities of these traditional forms of phi-
losophical expositions. The above riches are made possible
with the divine manifestation empowering and sustaining Igbo
proverbs, myths and folklore as sources of Igbo traditional eth-
ics and religion.
Similarly, Igbo names mentioned earlier in this paper have
no place in atheism and humanism except perhaps for the di-
vine of spiritual force inherent in them. The prefix chi is no-
ticeable in most Igbo names. Chi implies God or spirit and
therefore God centred. The belief that God or religious beliefs
and practices have no influence on or connection with the run-
ning of a country has no bearing in the globalized Igbo world.
Igbo communalism is celebrated for a number of reasons.
Unity is strength and the spiritual forces are brought in to solid-
ify this communalism. Uche (2007) avers that Ofor holders in
conjunction with medicine men and other religious functionar-
ies bring their spiritual experience to bear on the spiritual life in
a globalized Igbo world. The promotion of Igbo land is said to
lie in our hands. Efforts are complimented by a set of taboos
which produce a repulsive effect on rebellious prone Igbo.
Divination according to Ukaegbu (2005) is a practice of dili-
gently inquiring into a matter through inquisitorial and consul-
tation. The troubled will seek for a clue by enquiring or con-
sulting the diviner. The Igbo adaptation of inquisitorial system
enables the adaptation of the earth and the heaven ecologically.
Curses and religious symbols compliment the enforcement of
the spiritual force that brings about spiritualism which notifies
atheism and weakens humanism.
Another dimension to promoting unity in Igbo land is
through presentation and eating of kola. Kola serves a divine
purpose. Ukaegbu (2005) traces the origin of kola to our fore-
fathers whom God revealed kola in order to bring men together.
Whenever it is presented, men must be thankful to God. The
symbolic purpose of being used to unity love, trust and good
relations among brothers. Kola glues together other aspects of
Igbo customs such as marriage, festivals, and burials. Kola is
heart-like and it is blessed through prayer before it is eaten.
Kola reveals what is in the heart. The purpose of the kola nut is
said to be reconciling and uniting people in a covenant of trust.
Other qualities of kola include a Supreme role of securing peo-
ple’s trust to deal freely with one another, strengthen faith,
create awareness, secure commitment to custom and strengthen
The Igbo are known for hardwork. Ikenga in Igbo philosophy
remains the Igbo symbol for hard work. Ekwuru (2009) sees
ikenga as the epitome of existence which symbolizes a force in
motion; reflect the status of a man and a status symbol. Ikenga
as a symbol for hard work is realizable only within the spiritual
enforcement. Ikechukwu as the Igbo personal name which ex-
plains that it is by God’s power one has achieved great things,
success and progress in life. This explains the reason for dili-
gence, patience and commitment. Uche (2009) identifies filial
bond and devotion as the basis for development. In a related
development, Uche (2010) sees filial piety which is undying
devotion to duty as a synergy for national development in a
globalized economy. These two references are relevant in ex-
plaining God as the hub upon which the waves of change, pro-
gress and development are established.
The transformation brought about by the ingenuity and crea-
tivity of the Igbo weakens the undue attention placed on the
role of science and technology in improving the lot of man in a
globalized world. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Man’s
inhumanity to man, avarice and corruption seem to be on the
increase despite technological advancement. The spirit of God
in the life after has turned many away from wickedness and
The Way Forward
Theistic humanism is recommended as a metaphysical prin-
ciple deduced from the African world of divinities, ancestors
and spirits. Igbo religion promotes spirituality which permeates
every facet of human existence in Igbo world. Virtually, Igbo
religion from its rites and rituals to its ethical detects, it pre-
sented as something that can protect his prosperity and good
fortune, bring rain, heal the sick and in general ensure good
fortune in Igbo in particular and Africa in general. In Igboland,
most diviners are believed to possess esoteric power and
knowledge. These make them under possession of spirits or
supernatural powers when engaged in divination, and doctors
claim that they are chosen by spirits, taught medicine by spirits
and guided in their profession of diagnosis and healing divine
They have set taboos as ethics of profession which constrain
them spiritually to refrain from doing things that are inimical to
man. Any violation of these taboos brings about divine sanction
and punishment. In the Igbo world of divinities, spirits and
ancestors, there is the metaphysical instrument of checking and
punishing moral or civil or criminal offences. In Igbo culture,
the spiritual order visits retribution to those who were greedy,
corrupt and wicked in indulging in abominable acts, actions,
attitudes and behaviours.
Theistic humanism underlines Igbo egalitarian, fair-play and
justice. Hence, Isa-Aka, Iju ogu remain instrumental to social
justice in Igboland. Dukor (2010) says “theistic Humanism is,
therefore, the philosophy, in the belief in God, gods, spirits,
ancestors, objects, myths, symbols and of the interest of man”
(p. 103). These philosophical objects play functional and vital
roles as scientific objects and variables. Man as a philosophical
subject exercises authority, control and function over philoso-
phical objects.
Examining the notions about God which are prevalent across
the world made it possible to consider or understand whether
these notions match the stature and nature of the Divine Being
they wish to commit their lives. The cumulative force of diver-
gent views especially the misconceptions of these concepts
arose out of ignorance, confusion and mischief aimed at mis-
leading people in reading in and out of what is not in place. The
intensity of global times called for a systematic review of athe-
ism and humanism as they impinge on Igbo experience. This
has become necessary in order not to resist the wind of change
cutting across the globe. A balanced understanding of Igbo
experience of atheism in a globalized world indicates that the
concept does not hold. The Igbo do not query the existence of
God. Whatever predicament man faces is consequent upon
man’s acts of rebellion and disobedience to divine instructions.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 99
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
In the face of the identified challenges, this paper joins hand
with Dukor (2007, 2010) in making a strong case for and advo-
cating theistic humanism. Theistic humanism holds that “cul-
tural values have transcendental and theistic origin” (p. 3). It is
observed therefore, that the Igbo belief system, religious struc-
ture, personal names, religious symbols and religious values
make the Igbo to think, sing and dance religiously. There is no
aspect of Igbo life God is not central. Chineke (Creator) is the
hub of Igbo world view. He is different from the divinities rec-
ognized as God’s messengers, ministers and the link between
God and man. The ancestors occupy the spiritual realm with
God. This clarified view makes for mutual respect and
socio-religious development in a globalized Igbo world.
In its pure form, atheism and humanism are anti-religion. As
a product of renaissance, they have revolted against Christian
religion which was characterized according to Uche (2007) by
poverty, injustice and remained stumbling blocks to reform.
The church not only led to state bankruptcy but also to eco-
nomic depression of the masses. They were products of radical
opposition to too much of intellectualism of scholastic theology
and philosophy. They concerned themselves with the impor-
tance of man, his affairs, temporal aspirations and well being.
Christian humanists consider man as a being that has no mean-
ing without his ontological anchor with God. Thus, man’s unity,
dignity and equality of all men are temporal outside God. There
is a substance in holding that man is a being with a purpose. To
the Igbo, atheism and humanism do not provide adequate bond
of cooperative citizenship in a globalized Igbo world.
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