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Conversation with Michael Osei-Assibey — President, Humanist Association of Ghana (Part 1)

2022-12-13

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/08

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Did you start off a humanist? What’s your story into irreligion in general and humanism in particular?

Michael Osei-Assibey: I will like to believe so, but honestly I doubt that is possible in the settings I found myself. I have always enjoyed myths and fairy-tales. I grew up in a very religious household but my mother encouraged my love for reading. I will spend hours with my face in a story — chasing endings. It also helped that I was moved around a lot as a kid and each household I found myself in practised their faith differently. So, from age 6 to about 13, I went through about 6 different denominations of Christianity and, courtesy of my grandmother (a Muslim), practised Islam for a few months.

I was intrigued by the traditions and practices of all these beliefs but I always held them in the same regard as Greek mythology or the Legends told to me in my Akan and Ga traditional folk-tales. However, in moments of crisis or when overcome by fear, I will always have a strong urge to believe and hoped that I could say a few words and all will be well.

In senior high school, I started performing some thought experiments and had, for instance, one of my shoes as my god for a while to see how belief affects my life. I was surprised when I found out I seemed to be happier and had more luck in general. I realized having a belief may give one a positive outlook on life but it had no consequence on reality or the facts of life. This I will say was the pivotal moment in my journey to irreligion. I disassociated myself from organized religion right after senior high, preferring to apply reason and logic to everything.

Studying engineering in the university also helped to hone my analytical skills and made me want to perform a root cause analysis on any subject. I believe in trying to find the solution to living an ethical faithless life is how I stumbled on humanism. I may have been a humanist a long while before I even put a name to it but doing that 8 years ago was able to help me focus more on what I wanted from this journey.

Jacobsen: What kind of work did you do before the humanist positions?

Osei-Assibey: I am a building service engineer with a speciality in mechanical and plumbing systems. It is what I do to put food on the table so I can concentrate on humanism. Being a part of the built environment industry and running my own design firm affords me the time to do the things I am also passionate about.

Jacobsen: What is your formal position title now? What tasks as responsibilities come with it?

Osei-Assibey: I am currently the elected President of the Humanist Association of Ghana (HAG). I was the Organizing Secretary of the same organization in the previous cycle. I am also a board member of the Humanist Service Corps. I remember in thanking my colleagues and friends for giving me the opportunity to serve them as president, I told them my position will be in name only. To me “president” sounds too ominous so I prefer to see myself as a project manager and group cheerleader. My main job is to keep the association together and our projects running smoothly, together with my executive committee. In order to get all the members involved in as many of the activities as possible, we try to break activities into teams with every team member being a stakeholder in ensuring the success of that activity. One of the most difficult tasks that comes with the job is being the face and voice of the association. I plan however, to make my presidency about showcasing the outstanding individuals in the organization.

Jacobsen: Who inspires you?

Osei-Assibey: Remarkably, I am most inspired by the stories of the individuals in my organization, and the many humanists, feminists and freethinking youth I have met in person and online. Given how religious and antagonistic our society is towards new ideas, it takes intrepidity to be a freethinker and to be open about it. Even more so, whenever I hear the passion with which ideas and solutions are discussed and the depths of intellectualism involved, as well as the zeal to go out there and get things done, it gives me hope for Ghana and Africa.

Jacobsen: What book continually enlightens you — worth the re-reads?

Osei-Assibey: This is a good question. It’s not going to be any of the usual suspects, I promise. I spent my teenage years performing so many thought experiments about the human condition, reading on the subject feels like being in an echo chamber. One book however that I can read over and over again is Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It doesn’t read like your normal sci-fi and you can start reading from any chapter and somehow, it makes sense! Within are so many commentaries on the human condition but they are presented in a humorous and subtle manner that makes for an excellent read. Most importantly, there are no endings to chase. For those who like to over analyse everything, it’s the perfect book to write numerous thesis on. To those who just want to relax, it will have you smiling and shaking your head at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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