Developing countries with low literacy rates and poor education systems are bastardising moderate beliefs resulting in horrific and widespread crimes against humanity.
This post is going to read as part history lesson, part reminder about why religious groups need to stop punting their own agendas in African countries, regardless of their intentions.
I have always felt that notions of gods needed to be eradicated from Africa, but seeing an article by Ken Ham entitled From Old-Earth Compromise Back to Biblical Authority, which encourages the promotion of Christianity and Creationism in Ugandan classrooms, stating that Evolution has become a problem in Uganda, really set me off.
I have mentioned this in passing in my other blog posts, but I would like to make at least one post the undivided focus of this issue for a moment.
Christianity has had a devastating effect in Africa. When Christians entered Africa they saw a vast and beautiful land rich in gold, silver, diamonds, oil, minerals, and other vital resources. They decided to colonise Africa by preaching the doctrine of Christianity to the locals.
Christianity claims that Jesus preached forgiveness, love for your enemies, and the prospect of becoming God’s children.
Matthew 5:43-45 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil.
Christianity would further have you believe that Jesus changed God’s law written in Leviticus 24:19-20:
If anyone injures another person, whatever he has done shall be done to him. If he breaks a bone, one of his bones shall be broken; if he blinds him in one eye, one of his eyes shall be blinded; if he knocks out a tooth, one of his teeth shall be knocked out. Whatever injury he causes another person shall be done to him in return.
Perhaps if Africa had held fast to the teachings of Jesus rather than God’s teachings, Africa and its people wouldn’t have been as negatively affected by Christianity. However, this has not been the case. Christianity has been a cancer for Africa. The more it has spread the more devastation it has left in its wake.
The BBC’s July – Sept 2005 Focus on Africa magazine recently wrote “Africa is being colonized and christianised all over again. The colonisers this time are Americans, not Europeans, and the brand of belief they are bringing to Africa is Evangelical Christianity, a fundamentalist version of the protestant faith that many Pentecostalists, Baptists and others have allied themselves with.”
The BBC article poignantly captures the ongoing religious devastation, exploitation, wanton destruction, and cultural rape of Africa by Evangelical Christianity, also known as Pentecostalism. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Pentecostalism is spreading like a wild fire leaving death, rot, darkness and destruction in its wake.
Thousands of Pentecostal churches are mushrooming in cities and rural areas across the continent. In fact, in Africa, there are more churches and mosques than schools, industries and research centres. According to the Focus on Africa magazine, Evangelical Christianity has more that 125 million devotees in Africa – 19 percent of the continent’s population – up from 17 million people who described themselves as ‘born-again Christians’ in 1970.
One of the reasons Pentecostal churches are making waves in Africa is their emphasis on miracles and faith healing. Africans are suckers for magic, miracles and paranormal claims. Evangelical churches now capitalize on that. They promise divine healing and instant solutions to all problems – poverty, hunger, failure, diseases, accidents etc. Pentecostal pastors claim they can make the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk and the barren give birth to children. They tell us they can raise the dead, make the poor rich and the unemployed to get jobs. Africans are therefore trooping to Pentecostal churches in their millions mainly in search of their miracles.
This is one of many reasons put forward.
The most stinking and revolting aspect of the evangelical work in Africa is faith-healing. Most Evangelical pastors in Africa are now faith healers. They claim to have powers to cure all diseases and solve all problems. Recently, Gilbert Deya, a self acclaimed archbishop from Kenya, got himself into trouble. He said he could make infertile black couples give birth to miracle babies. But police investigations revealed child theft and baby trafficking.
Some years ago, a Nigerian pastor Temitope Joshua – of the Synagogue of All Nations – announced to the world that he could cure HIV/AIDS. But his claims were later discovered to be all fake and forgery.
In 2001, the German evangelist, Renhard Bonnke, was reported to have raised somebody from the dead. There have been a lot of such indiscriminate claims of miracles and divine healing by Nigeria’s televangelists and doomsday preachers – Chris Oyakhilome, Enoch Adeboye, David Oyedepo, Helen Ukpabio, and Matthew Ashimolowo etc. These faith-healers use the money extorted from miracle seekers to mount billboards and sponsor radio and television programmes advertising their miracles. Last year, the Broadcasting commission in Nigeria had to ban the transmission of miracles on national television. Faith healing is the greatest threat to scientific medicine and health care delivery in Africa.
Claims of divine cure and healing cannot be reconciled with the dire health situation in Africa. Africa has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. And millions out there are still dying of preventable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. According to the United Nations, 6000 African children die – and 11,000 get infected with HIV/AIDS every day. And if indeed there are people with supernatural powers to heal the sick, raise the dead and cure all ailments, why are Africans suffering and dying; why are human beings suffering and dying?
Fears of witchcraft are real in Africa. Churches have been involved in the torture and murder of thousands of African children whom they’ve denounced as witches. There have been reports of witchcraft murder in Lusikisiki, Men have been jailed for witchcraft murder, and numerous attempts to tackle witch murders in Tanzania. Even a London witchcraft murder was traced to Africa child trade. Witchcraft accusations of children have been made by their own families’ pastors in other African countries, with the families always taking the pastor’s side.
Christian “science” or Christian healing services are commonplace and extremely worrisome. This article discusses a Christian church currently facing action from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in South Africa after repeatedly claiming to heal the blind, the lame, and people with HIV Aids or cancer. They’re on the chopping block for making repeated unsubstantiated claims about their healing services. As usual, the Christian zealots fall back on anecdote and irrational rambling to support their outlandish claims rather than proven science and non-alternative medicine.
Superstitions surrounding health issues in SA are not uncommon or limited to Christianity, however. There’s also The South African Faculty of Homeopathy and of course let’s not forget the use of muti, which has resulted in murder and madness through children being killed so that their body parts can be used and people selling sacks of muti to thieves who then think they’re invisible and end up getting shot. Albino children are particularly sought after. Kenya has taken strides to clamp down on bogus herbalists. So far Nigerian pastors have been involved in over 100 incidents of murdered “witch children” and 13 churches have been named in case files. The nine year old boy, Nwanaokwo Edet had acid poured down his throat by his own father after their family pastor denounced him. He died a month later. Ugandans use Christian Bible to justify ritual sacrifice of children. Child sacrifice in Uganda.
Learn more about traditional African religions here.
As early as 1792, Christianity arrived in Africa through many groups of Christians of African birth or descent who had come to faith in Christ as plantation slaves or as soldiers in the British army during the American War of Independence, or as farmers or squatters in Nova Scotia after it. (5) They took their own preachers and church leaders to Africa and their churches were functioning before the arrival of modern missionaries from the Western world. (6) Therefore, the making of Christian Africa cannot be exclusively attributed to Western missionaries. The contribution of African influence and Africans’ unique interpretation and application of the Gospel have been enduring elements in the making of Christian Africa in the twentieth century.
In the early 1960s, when African nationalist leaders and politicians were fighting for political freedom from European countries and removing the last vestiges of colonialism, African Christians were also giving indigenous definition to Christianity. They defined the essential categories of the Christian faith in an indigenous religious paradigm and familiar idioms to the extent that Christian faith in Africa today is stronger than it has ever been, and also more obscure and dangerous since African pastors have drawn their own unethical conclusions regarding the Biblical teachings. Today, it is estimated that more than 360 million Christians throughout the world are Africans.
Many have noted the need to address the issue of Africanising religion. Academics in this field have warned of the radical rebirth of Christianity in Africa as a consequence of the dialogue between today’s African Christians and the continent’s traditional religions and philosophies, social and cultural contexts, and the like. All hell breaks loose when these dialogues either don’t take place or fail.
The existence of Bible translations into KiSwahili, isiXhosa, Zulu, Chichewa, Tswana, Shona etc is frightening. African cultures notoriously cling to superstitions as well as ancestral and tribal beliefs. Combining this with Christianity is resulting in an ongoing history of bad ideas. I have covered many of these issues before, but I’ll recap very briefly:
The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which you can learn more about in this online documentary, Missionaries of Hate, is shockingly violent and, naturally, has its roots firmly in Christianity.The role of evangelical American Christians in pushing the bill spreading anti-gay hate in Africa has been a not-so-well-hidden controversy. Ed Brayton writes on the duplicity of the Ugandan Anti-Gay Legislation
The role of the Catholic church in both Mugabe’s reign of terror in Zimbabwe as well as in the Rwandan genocide are just two more instances of disastrous mixing between traditional African beliefs and the larger world religions.
90 million African Christians are currently awaiting the completion of the Kiswahili Bible.
Africa is already rampant with a deadly blend of ignorant Christianity and tribal superstitions. This is fueling atrocities against young children on a daily basis. Not even to mention the role of Christianity in the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill which declares the punishment for homosexuality is death.
To add the Bible to a continent where the majority of the population do not have a tertiary education and barely a decent high school education is to put a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of the desperate who will believe anything they are told without being able to fully understand the supposed deeper philosophical and theological arguments presented in the contradictory, violent Biblical text.
The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is a quasi-religious movement that mixes Christianity with its own brand of spiritualism, the group reinforces its ranks by snatching and terrorizing children. LRA fighters wear rosary beads and recite passages from the Bible before battle.
Apartheid in South Africa and the Christian Dutch Reformed Church. The Apartheid regime implemented heavy racial segregation laws based on what the Churches supported, condoned, and suggested, resulting in many horrific laws. Our country is still suffering from the effects of these laws today and will continue to do so for generations to come.
The Afrikaans Resistance Movement (Afrikaanse Weerstands Beweging) In South Africa. Eugene Terreblanche was trying to revive the movement in God’s name but was assassinated 3 April 2010. The AWB have been responsible for racism, bigotry and active homophobia, burning and beating people. Eugene Terreblanche himself committed and ordered many of these atrocities. A recent news bulletin revealed that one black man he had beaten so severely that he suffered severe brain damage.
The AWB website vow: When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay itl for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
How to “cure” homosexuality: American-based Christian ministries pushed Ugandan kill-the-gays bill
Uganda anti-homosexuality bill threatens liberties and human rights…
American based Christian ministries pushed the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill which states that all people engaging in homosexual activity should be put to death, all people harbouring homosexuals should be put to death, and all who have engaged in acts of serial homosexuality should be put to death. If someone has sex with someone of the same sex and does not report them, they are both put to death. If someone knows of a homosexual or a homosexual couple but does not report them then they are also put to death.
I understand that secular groups bringing aid to Africa do not always operate under a banner of secularism or atheism, or even necessarily humanism, which means that I’m sure there are hundreds of groups of aid workers, doctors, educators etc who are in Africa promoting understanding about HIV/Aids, malaria, the importance of literacy, agricultural methods and such rather than infecting third world countries with unhealthy levels of violent religiosity. However, I fear that this is not the case. I also do not doubt that there are religious people in Africa doing genuine work, but I strongly believe that teaching anyone living in poverty stricken conditions to turn to God is a cruel and inhumane act of emotional guilt and mental punishment.
Aids and Literacy
The Pope says that Africa doesn’t need condoms to curb the Aids virus, because the use of contraception is a sin, inspiring this response from Richard Dawkins. Dawkins says, “I wonder on what basis anyone can say condoms make Aids worse. The Pope is either stupid, ignorant, or dim.”
Books such as When God Stood Up: A Christian Response to Aids, are easily accessible online.
It’s all fair and well rallying the troops in God’s name if it’s going to bring relief to Aids sufferers, but how can you honestly look the mother of a dying child in the face and tell her that it is God’s will that her infant child dies from Aids, or that her child will become one of millions of Aids orphans in Africa because God wills it? It’s despicable to think that anyone would hold fast to their blind faith in such a time.
There are currently 22,000,000 people living with HIV/Aids in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12,000,000 are women, 1,800,000 are children, 11,600,000 are Aids orphans, and 1,500,000 have died so far because of Aids (Statistics per African country).
Help them, but do it in the name of humanity and decency rather in the name of a God who would create such a disease, make it possible for such a disease to exist, and/or transfer it/let it be transferred to such a large, innocent part of the world’s population. The populations of developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa already lived hard and hardened lives before this virus spread. I also use the word “innocent” in the most secular way possible. I’m sure everyone is a sinner in the religious sense, but not everyone is a criminal or a generically bad person, and no one should be made to apologise for being human except in exceptional circumstances such as rape, murder, kidnapping etc. in which case their apology is owed to mankind, not to some god.
A royal senior in Swaziland has recently said that he thinks Aids is a scam. With the majority of African societies possessing such a low level of education and unawareness of their social responsibilities, you no longer need to imagine the dangers this could cause; they have become clearly visible.
The majority of African countries are at the very bottom of the list of nearly 200 countries included in international literacy surveys.
Nigeria twenty years ago was a bastion of Christianity in Africa with 90% of the population adhering to the Christian faith. 50% of Nigeria is now Islamic. A night-time “ethnic cleansing” raid by Muslims on a village near Nigeria’s turbulent city of Jos resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Christians. Authorities say the invaders were Fulani herdsmen, who seek to establish Nigeria as an Islamic republic ruled by Islamic law.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) may have existed before Islam, but it has since been made part of the Sunna of the Prophet. Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes bravely about her experience as a Muslim child in Africa in Infidel. She became a member of Dutch parliament later in life and sought to abolish article 23, which permitted the creation of private faith schools.
Christianity in Africa has not only failed to do good, but it actually produced character defects and rebellion, at least according to Reverend Isaac Taylor, Canon or York. For this reason, he dangerously promotes Islam in Africa without considering the possibility that Africa might benefit from having no religion at all. Many of Taylor’s remarks are exceedingly racist, but it his own misdirected way he makes one or two objective points. The conflict between Islam and Christianity still rages today, but in a violent way, as Christian and Muslim forces fight against each other in such countries as Chad and the Sudan.
For centuries, Islam has attempted to move southward on the continent of Africa. In spite of wars, political upheavals, and massive financial investments, the spread of Islam has remained stalled for 400 years just south of the Sahara desert and just inland of the eastern coast. The Islamic and Christian worldviews remain deadlocked in front-line nations such as Somalia, Sudan, and Mali.
The issue of multiculturalism has always been an ethnically poignant one in Africa. It has also been noteworthy in instances of religious clashes or religious mixing.
Professor Molefi Kete Asante has some interesting comments on the clash of traditional African culture with the larger religions. “The early Christian church had to deal with the fact that Christians had used many African ideas, the son of God, eternal life, and the resurrection, in their religion. The sad fact is that since we have forgotten so much we do not know that we are the originators of religion.
The abandonment of our history, indeed the abandonment of our gods, the gods of our ancestors, have brought us deep into the quagmire of misdirection, mis-orientation and self pity.
Our traditional religious leaders have often been hijacked by the material goods offered by the purveyors of these migrating gods.
What is religion but the deification of ancestors, the making sacred of traditions within the context and history. How can we honor any god who was used against us? The only people who accept alien gods are defeated people; all others honor and accept their own name for the Almighty. We must learn to appreciate ourselves and our traditions. What is wrong with the African God?”
There are theologians in Africa who are trying as hard as possible to reconcile traditional African cultures and traditions with Christianity, however. They have acknowledged that the existence of these religions is a reality, and are seeking ways to marry the varying ways of thinking in a variety of socio-political contexts.
James Cochrane is one such person, from the University of Cape Town’s Religious Studies department. Also see this page for a list of his publications.
Keep God out of Africa. Focus on infrastructure, agriculture, education, and basic sanitation. If you feel the need to teach people about the existence of an invisible deity who will help them out, then bring some solid scientific proof to the table instead of philosophical theorising for a change, and maybe we’ll let you drive your own religious agenda in Africa. Until then, whether you want to “save” people,”show them the light” or exploit them, ask yourself whether this is really a healthy, humanitarian move.
Update from original post:
I strongly disagree with this author’s conclusion, although I appreciate their optimistic approach. The falsehood about religion needing a replacement has already been dealt with extensively.
Education is key, not superstition, no matter how well-meaning it is.
The original comment thread to this post is on the main site and is quite extensive, so if you feel the need to join the debate you are welcome to sign up. If you do not feel like signing up, then I encourage you to read the comments. There are several very good opinions and statements made, not all entirely in line with my own opinions but with some validity nonetheless.
Reposted from my ThinkAtheist.com blog. Originally posted 20 August 2010.