The Humanist Association of Ghana practices a philosophy that is mostly unheard of in Ghana, which a recent survey ranked as the most religious country in the world. Nonetheless, the group has already made waves in West Africa.

Last weekend, the association hosted humanists from across the region for a conference in the capital Accra, where attendees listened as speakers discussed the impact humanists could make on West African society. Lecturers talked about how humanists can stand up for gay and lesbian rights and against traditional practices like witch hunts. One talk dealt with whether humanism is compatible with belief in God.

“The humanist movement isn’t really about converting anybody or forcing anyone to think a certain way,” says Monika Mould, a member of the group. “It’s just about giving people a way to say, ‘I can make my own decisions and I can think my own thoughts.’”

Humanism is a philosophy based on emphasizing humans over deities or religious texts. While many humanists are atheists, it’s not required, and some humanists believe that you can practice the philosophy while still being religious.

Nyame in many names

Nonetheless, humanism is seen as at best an oddity and at worst an offense in deeply devout Ghana.

On the streets of the capital Accra, everything from taxis to restaurants and real estate offices seems to be named after “Nyame,” the word for God in the local Twi language. The trend carries into politics: The country’s largest opposition political party has the slogan, “the battle is the Lord’s,” on their campaign posters.