Africa Needs God? Like a Hole in the Head!
I saw this article on the RDFRS (richarddawkins.net) website and at first was wondering whether the ideas presented had any merit. In short it suggests Christianity as a stop-gap step from magic-based tribalism (which we all know can be extremely harmful) to some form of self governance, and eventually toward a secular future for these African nations.
What had me wondering was the statements by the self-proclaimed “atheist”, Matthew Parris, that he had seen an improvement in people’s lives when they had Christianity in their lives, improvements in social order, improvements in sanitation, improvements in quality of life, and sense of well-being and camaraderie that had been absent before. Parris says that Christianity has grown up enough in the past few centuries that it is basically only beneficial, and much of the harmful dogma that the religion has within its books are no longer to be believed, so become moot.
In the article he writes:
But think about this for a minute. Is replacing one form of mythology with another really helpful? Is it wise to teach a dogma to a people that, while on the surface may be beneficial, is just another form of delusion? And who are we to tell them that their superstitions and beliefs are wrong, only to impose “our brand of superstition” upon them? Is this not just another example of religious colonialism?
It would seem to me that replacing the “great weight” of tribal witchcraft, and replacing it with the just as “great weight” as the threat of damnation and hell would hardly be a helpful situation. At best, taking the fear from the anthropomorphic spirits of trees, animals and omens and replacing it with the thought that “God can see your every move” is just displacement of the fear of magic.
I propose a solution which involves no religion whatsoever. A secular solution, which involves teaching children the basics of hygiene and self-care, reading and writing, mathematics and a solid grounding in science. Teaching adults about safe-sex practices, and giving people access to contraception. Empowering women within communities to become educated, and encouraging them to pass this on to their communities. Teaching that the real value of human life lies in the way we treat each other, and is not governed by invisible magical powers. Clean water, clean housing, agricultural basics. These are the things that bring about well-being, and help foster a sense of community. Religion in this sense may be seen as the conduit for the education and action, but so much of the dogma can be reinterpreted, misinterpreted and taken “too literally” that it may actually get in the way of progress.
There’s no need for a god in this solution, but at the same time, if people wish to embrace one, there’s no reason they can’t. I just think that to use a religion, any religion, as the reason behind the betterment of any society or culture is disingenuous.
His conclusion reads:
“And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.”
So without God in the equation, Africa becomes a haven for brand-names, magic, technology and violence? Well I’m sure the people of the north African nations are just loving what the use of religion as a way to divide the people is doing up there. Is it not possible, nay probable, that given the right kind of education, a kind that promotes deductive reasoning over omens and superstition of any kind, that African nations can help themselves to some kind of betterment?
I’d like to hear your take on the article, and help to propose any further ideas to further these people, or problems that you see