A statement by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11 declaring the lack of wisdom in the atheistic outlook has generated heated debates within the theistic and atheistic communities. Widely reported in the local media, this remark is an invitation to re-examine an allusion that Christians and other believers often make to justify their faith in the the various deities. At a Christian event over the weekend, Oba Adewusi acknowledged that Jesus Christ was "the Lord of Lords and a wonderful god who turned his shame into celebrations". He noted that it was a good thing to praise the Christian god, Jesus, and to appreciate him. Then he stated: “I observed where I started, hitherto, the Lord has helped me. It is clearly stated to me that the Lord is Alive. Fool is anyone that says there’s no God". Fool?
The statement has elicited reactions from atheists. Many atheists regard believers in the existence of god, like Oba Adewusi as deluded and mistaken. Many view theism as an exercise in transcendental temptation, illusion, and imaginaries. Some think that as a royal father, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi should not have uttered such words. Some atheists are of the idea that the Ooni of Ife is a father of all, and such remarks were irresponsible and unexpected of a man and his office because such utterances would only alienate some members, the atheist, irreligious, freethinking, and nonbelieving members of his community.
No doubt that remark epitomizes royal rascality and recklessness. Someone who presides over a diverse community of god believers and nonbelievers should not make such declarations. But truth be told, the notion that those who do not believe in god, the christian god, are fools is widely shared in religious and theistic communities, and codified in sacred texts and traditions. Many Christians routinely make similar references to stress the wisdom in their christian God belief and the lack thereof in nonbelief. It is important to note that the statement is not original to the Ooni of Ife. It is an adaptation of a verse in the Christian holy book, the Bible. Various versions exist in other sacred texts and formations. Psalm 14:1 says "The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good". Christian believe this declaration to be the word of god. Thus, as a matter of faith, lack of belief in God is equated with corruption, evil and abominable actions.
Now if one takes a critical look at the statement, a fool is merely a relative term that applies, and could apply to all humans, to all believers and nonbelievers in a deity. Look, in this case, Oba Adewusi referred to those who said the Christian god did not exist as fools. And those who do not believe in the existence of the Christian god include other theists and atheists. Traditionalists do not believe in the existence of the Christ God. Christians do not believe in the existence of the traditionalist god. So to traditionalists, Christians are fools. And to Christians, traditionalists are fools. Hindus do not believe in the existence of the Christ God. Buddhists do not believe in the existence of the Christ God. Muslims do not believe in the existence of the Christ God. So, to Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, Christians are fools; they are corrupt and evil.
Given the panoply of gods that people believe exist, worship, and venerate, all humans including the Ooni of Ife, who does not believe in the existence of traditionalist, Hindu, and muslims gods are fools.
So, in reference to god belief and unbelief, nobody is wise. Everybody is a fool. We are all fools.
Leo Igwe is a board member of the Humanist Association of Nigeria