Secularist of PCC: Mpagi Kiramura
Secularism is the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element. As of November 6, 2018, PCC has officially recognized Secular PCC, a student group headed by Mpagi Kiramura, whose mission is to normalize secularism and to foster conversations between groups with differing opinions.
Secular PCC held its inaugural meeting on October 19 at PCC Cascade and Club Coordinator Mpagi Kiramura would like to keep the conversation going weekly, if possible. The nascent student club will host regular, bi-monthly meetings in which guest speakers discuss a wide variety of pre-selected topics regarding secularism in society. Students can email email@example.com for club information or to join. The Bridge caught up with Kiramura and discussed the intersection between religion and secularism and what that means for PCC students.
What kinds of changes do you intend to make at PCC by hosting this club?
First, I envision a future where students feel that it’s ok to be a secularist, it’s ok to be atheist, it’s ok to be agnostic, it’s ok to be religious; its ok to be whatever you want to be. But at the same time taking responsibility of the wider community that as you live your life or whatever you believe in there are other people who don’t believe like you, and we are all the same. To me that’s the only reason that I have. I don’t want to see anybody being hijacked on campus and be preached on. To me, that’s [the] problem. If you want to preach to me or anybody find a way of inviting and give that person a chance to accept that invitation or reject it. Don’t hijack anybody and tell them about your Jesus or your Allah or whatever your God you believe in […]
Do you know if [club members] come from religious backgrounds or if they are currently religious?
The people who attended our previous meeting, a good number of them have religious backgrounds, including me. My dad was a priest. I was a missionary, personally, [with] the Southern Baptists. When I was there, I used to translate the [Southern Baptist] documents into my native languages. So, religion is not really very far away from me. By the time I made a decision that enough was enough with religion I knew what it was. And even most atheists I’ve met, most nonreligious people I’ve met, usually have been highly involved in religious activities and the time came when they say, ‘enough is enough’ and ‘I have to be free’ and they are free now.
That’s why we are not angry with religious people. That’s why when this friend of mine invited me, I accepted because I know that that’s just the way of life and there are times when we are being manipulated into believing that Jesus is coming back tomorrow, so I have to do more for Him. They call it ‘Preparing the way for Him,’ but people have been preparing the way for Jesus for almost 2,018 years and Jesus is not coming back.
So many people after praying for many years and contributing and God not contributing back, they grow weary and say ‘enough is enough’ so they leave [the church] and that was my case. Because I saw God not answering prayers, I felt like God was unfair to me because I did so much for God and my purpose was to be happy here and now and indeed many religious people their primary goal is to flourish here and now. Going to Heaven or Hell is a secondary goal. Many people are like that and the moment they [realize] that ‘I’ve spent a lot of money in the church, I’ve spent a lot of time, we may only talk about money, but people spend a lot of time in the church and if you add all the time you can find you’ve spent half of the time you’ve lived in the church and what do you have to show [for] it? Nothing! Those kinds of feelings are making people leave religion and to me that was the starting point.”
Have you noticed a rise in religious imposition upon public spaces?
Religious groups are trying to occupy the space; they are claiming these spaces. Yeah, actually there is an [increase] of that. So now it’s more important to stand up and tell our friends that religion is good, but there are people who live without it and they are still good.
The idea of [religious people] demonstrating their religion publicly is indirectly telling you that you are not welcome here. […] That’s a way of telling me indirectly that ‘you don’t belong here [and] you are free to leave.’ I feel that public places should be places for all people and […] students should leave their religions inside of them. Besides PCC has a special room for religious activities so if I want to practice my religion, I can go into that room [and] nobody will feel intimidated; nobody will feel frustrated. We just feel that we need a society which is harmonious.
So, if religion is causing disharmony then why does anybody think that its proper to bring it into public space? For us, it’s all about harmony and believe me if secularism is causing disharmony, I will abandon it I will keep it to myself I will not go on flaunting my secularism if that secularism causes disharmony […] and that’s what we want religious people to do.
The problem with that is that in the US you have the right to religious expression; you have the right to free speech as well. And many people combine these rights which means that people do have a right to occupy public spaces and to express their religion or nonreligion. How could you overcome such an obstacle [to your mission]?
We are not opposing anybody’s right to practice their religion. We really do respect that and defend it in anyway possible. But like any rights there are rules in place to help us live in harmony. There are rules and those rules should be observed.
Those rules are: as you practice your faith or [exercise] other rights make sure that you are not infringing on any other’s rights. So, people’s right to have religion is also my right to not have religion. That’s why we need secularism in between. Meaning that I can be your friend even if you are religious; [just] don’t convert me. It doesn’t mean that we’re enemies.
That’s why we are saying ‘keep your religion to yourself […] and we will keep our secularism to ourselves. We are not here to convert anybody. Don’t convert anyone, that’s our policy.
It sounds like a main platform is: You have your rights and we have our rights and we’re not trying to impose our rights onto you, so don’t impose your rights onto us.
Yes. That’s the feeling I have and also you must understand that with all these opinions I have, other secularists may disagree with them. And that’s still fine. So my opinion is, even though I am the Coordinator of Secular PCC, I still have my personal opinions. One thing we have in common, we believe in secularism. Other people who are secularists say, ‘OK if other people want to pray, what’s the problem with that?’ and they will accept that. That’s still fine and other people like me will say ‘OK if you want to pray, if you want to preach, go to the community room which PCC provides and preach there. Invite me there. Don’t hijack me on the campus of PCC and try to tell me about Jesus. […] if you invite me in your reading room and you tell me that ‘we invited you to preach, to tell you about Jesus, then that’s a different matter because I have the opportunity to say no to your invitation or to accept it.
By hijacking me on the way to class you are taking away my right to consent and accept your invitation, and we are trying to organize now and tell students that this is not OK.
That people do have lives they live without religion and they are happy that way.