‘People think of religion as a very specific context: I see it as a worldview’.
– Olumide Adetiloye
It is two weeks before Christmas and Olumide Adetiloye has agreed to meet me in a student dorm in Groningen, where he has recently graduated with a master’s degree in International Political Economy.
The Religious Student
Adetiloye moved to the Netherlands from Nigeria and has always been a devout Christian. He grew up in a Christian family, but has never felt pressure to follow the same rules that apply to his parents. ‘My parents never forced me to go to the same church’, Adetiloye explains. ‘I was raised to be Christian, but I made the choice myself to identify as one’, he adds. Adetiloye sees religion as a perspective, the way in which he engages with the world.
‘I prefer to avoid categorisation,’ Adetiloye says. He has explained that he is a Christian, but identifies himself with the teachings of the Bible rather than religion. ‘Religion has different meanings,’ he says. ‘It played crucial parts in my life about how I see the world, not just what I do.’ Adetiloye has explained that he does not see religion as a secular part of his life, but as a framework of his life. It is a framework that he uses to make decisions in his daily life.
The number of people that identify as religious is in rapid decline in the modern world, and religious students are currently a minority among students at the university. Religion plays a much smaller role now, when compared to a century ago, and has consequently become a minority. Adetiloye talks about the difference between being religious and religion itself. ‘I identify with being religious, but religion is not just about people believing in something,’ he clarifies. Adetiloye talks about how non-religious people see religion as an institution. In reality it has nothing to do with religion itself. ‘Everyone has faith in something, not just in God, but also in science,’ he explains. ‘You can’t scientifically prove that either.’
In recent times, religion has been viewed in a negative light as result of extremist activity. ‘People do stuff in the name of religion, but it would be wise to look at what they claim to do,’ Adetiloye says. People also often impose their own religion onto others and persecute people who put their faith in alternative beliefs. ‘Religion is a powerful tool and is dangerous when it is in the hands of the wrong person,’ Adetiloye explains. It is important to remember that something that is done in the name of religion does not make it religious.
Adetiloye celebrates Christmas like anyone else, but does not see it as a religious holiday. ‘The origins of Christmas have nothing to do with Christianity or anything biblical.’ Christmas is a man-made celebration to Adetiloye and according to him it should not be special. According to him, every day should be like Christmas. The season of giving should not solely be restricted to Christmas, but should be year-round.
After talking to Adetiloye I realise that any society in the world can become a minority rapidly. Adetiloye has shown me that being part of a declining lifestyle is not easy, but it is possible.