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Interview with Abdurrahman Aliyu — Critical Thinking Teacher, Brighter Brains Institute


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/11/06

Abdurrahman Aliyu is a Critical Thinking Teacher for the Brighter Brains Institute and a Freethinker. Here we learn about his life, work, and views.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Was religion a big part of your early life?

Abdurrahman Aliyu:
 Yes, religion was a very big and vital part of my early life, I don’t see how it couldn’t have been, having been born into an Islamic scholar’s home.

Jacobsen: How were family and community influenced by religion?

 The community I grew up is strongly influenced by religion, mostly because of the religious preaching center’s campaign that is increasingly and rapidly growing by the day.

Nigerians are very religious, you either see a Muslim or a Christian. You hardly ever come across a nonreligious person here.

Jacobsen: When you work with the nonbelieving community, the freethinking groups, what is consistent with the religious ones, insofar as you have observed?

 Wow, that’s a difficult question, I must say. If I understand you correctly, you want to know what is common between religion and freethinking groups?

As far as I can tell, curiosity. Let me explain what I mean by curiosity; I think part of the reason why primitive humans came up with the concept of God is that they had many questions.

By trying to analyze and answer the mysteries of the cosmos and origins, these early civilizations came up with a very primitive and naive explanation of a supernatural power, a supernatural being, designing it all.

Since the questions at hand are very complicated and difficult to solve, most especially considering that science as we know it would not exist for thousands of years.

On the other hand, free thinking and nonreligious groups are very curious entities; they are trying to understand the world, humans place in it, their well being, and then striving to make it a better place using the most advanced scientific methods, proven by research.

So you see, in a nutshell, religion is born out of the curiosity of a very primitive, ignorant and ancient society. While freethinking groups are born out of the curiosity of an advanced society, a society that has knowledgeable elements and access to science.

Jacobsen: What are the differences between the religious and the nonreligious groups?

 That’s very simple. There are many differences but I will mention some of the more important ones.

1. Logic, reason and rationality; nonreligious people don’t require you to have faith without evidence or to unquestioningly follow some supreme power. They only care about scientific facts about the universe, logical arguments on issues and above all, they back up claims with evidence and insist that others do so too.

In contrast, religious groups tell you about imaginary, mythical, or immaterial things and expect you to believe them without question because a book says so.

2. Unity; Religious groups only campaign for unity inasmuch as you are in line with their belief system and accept all of their dogma unquestioningly. But nonreligious groups, see all of us as human and as one single entity.

For instance, gays are being persecuted, even killed by some religious groups. But we freethinkers understand that gays do not determine their sexuality themselves, hence we see them as our equals, deserving of the same respect as anyone else.

Jacobsen: Does science tend to erode magical and supernatural thinking?

 It most assuredly does. Very well too. Science is arguably the most elegant and useful concept ever devised by humanity.

It is simply a system, a method of thinking, rather than a body of knowledge, gained by systematic research and organized into general disciplines, or branches such as physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, etc.

It gives you facts, evidence, proofs, and theories. A significant difference with religious thinking is that it is inherently antiauthoritarian. It is based upon skepticism and welcomes challenges and questions.

Unlike religious/supernaturalist thinking, which is authoritarian and if you dare question God, dogma, and authority you are seen as a sinner, you are seen to be doomed.

Jacobsen: How did you become involved with the Brighter Brains stitute?

 If I remember correctly, I made a post on a Facebook page, and the founder of Brighter Brains Institute Hank Pellissier saw it and reached out to me.

At first, I just wrote a few articles about the danger of Islam and they have been published in either Brighter Brains Institute site or the Nigerian Human Policy Center site, which regrettably hasn’t worked out. From then on I started representing the Brighter Brains Institute here in Nigeria.

Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities were given to you from the Brighter Brains Institute?

 I handle quite a few tasks:

1. Reached out to Almajiri (kids abandoned by parents in the name of a quest to search for Islamic knowledge). Gave clothes, soap, and food items to them.

2. Gave blankets to Almajiris during cold weather.

3. I taught critical thinking to multiple of schools in the Kaduna state Nigeria.

4. Oversaw lots of projects in Maiduguri, coordinating with our representative there. Projects like building toilets to the refugees displaced by Boko Haram, empowering their women with capital, and providing them with access to drinking water and much more.

5. Also, I plan to raise funds for Brighter Brains.

Jacobsen: Now, what are you working on for 2018/19?

Aliyu: Now I am working on founding my own local charitable foundation, that may rely solely on donations. The foundation will be working with any interested organization, either local or foreign. Also, I am working on trying to help some 20 women that have fistula disease, to cover their medical expenses. Brighter Brain Institute may help in that regard as well, but because of the security situation in Kaduna, everything is now at a standstill.

Jacobsen: How can individuals become involved with the critical thinking movement?

Aliyu: The most effective way to get involved in the critical thinking movement is by helping to fund the project. We have the manpower; we lack financing. I used to teach, we have someone teaching in Maiduguri, and my brother teaches it too in Zaria, and other areas outside kaduna.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Abdurrahman.


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


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