How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.

The Christian Religion is still heavy stuff in Africa, it is bread and butter, it still has both blood and body. Africa is now bestrewn with ‘living churches,' that is over against 'dead' churches like Roman Catholic and Anglican (I understand the latter has done a lot to liven itself up now). There are thousands of denominations on the continent. In Nigeria founding a church has become a veritable no-brainer, a Klondike rage that is on the boil, and the rise in the number of churches has consistently ridden tandem with economic hardship. If any editor is thinking of packaging a copy asking Is Karl Marx Truly Dead? he should go to the continent and get his answer, at least he would be able to flesh out the Marxian axiom of religion being an opiate for the populace. And beyond being an opiate, it is also a sop for impoverished souls, warm compress for the sores and festers of poverty.

It is not unusual for misgoverning fatcats in Nigeria to call on people to pray and fast for a better government, pray for an end to corruption, and for an election (often rigged by the government itself) to run smoothly and bring out the best of candidates. The species of Liberation Theology practiced across Nigeria is indeed liberating, its promise to uplift people from poverty unto wealth and prosperity would have been commendable if it is not an imposture, a gooey nostrum. Well, not to mince words, what is practised is the worst kind of Prosperity Theology. The theology of thievery and cupidity, a theology which borrows heavily from the so-called seven deadly sins. I wonder why a name has not been coined for the sort of pentecostal revivalism characterised by Lagos churches, I mean something suggestive of the term ‘Toronto Blessing' - Lagos Paraclete or Lagos Revelation? Or to be less charitable, Lagos Hocus-pocus.

I have always been concerned about the recent role of religion in boosting mediocrity and undereducation in my country. Primary and secondary school education is too battered for the deadhand of religion to make any further dent, so I'll leave that aside. Recently the more affluent of the evangelical churches had begun to outdo one another in establishing universities. Although I think universities established by Christians should evince a certain degree of charity by offering scholarships and bursaries in large numbers, the universities have only turned out to be part of the mercenary projects of the church. But then you may not attend the universities if you cannot afford the fees. There is no law that says a Christian University should not indulge in a bit of free-marketeering and money-making.

I asked a nephew who has just finished the first year in the most grandiose of the new Christian universities how he is getting on. The picture he inadvertently painted is a university that is a tattier twin of the late Rev Jerry Falwell's ‘Bible Boot Camp,' the hotbed of illibertarianism misnamed Liberty University, second only to Oral Roberts University for being a monument to the elevation of bigotry and bleached-out booklearning. Although he was an influential figure in American politics for some time, Falwell was not a pleasant man, his Christianity was so narrow and constricted that he might as well have died of involuntary asphyxiation. Unfortunately, Falwell's university is a testing ground for his views, the students his hobbled guinea pigs.

In that Nigerian facsimile of Falwell's university, every sort of moral bottleneck is imposed on the undergraduates, and even postgraduates, in the name of religion. This recalls to me a character in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's First Circle telling another character that a university is the only place a youth can really live freely, fulfillingly, fantastically before the drudge of work and other extramural duties will intervene. I can't imagine the damage that is being done to the reasoning of students in a Physics Department of one of these newfangled universities whose head is an obdurate creationist who will never mention anything like cosmology or string theory to his students. My nephew is studying Physics in this department. In the university the teaching of philosophy is also forbidden. This is even worse than Plato's Republic where a ban is placed on poets. Universities should be about ‘love of wisdom' and knowledge, which is a rough definition of the word philosophy. A university that abominates the teaching of philosophy actually belies its being, its integrity, as a place where anything worthwhile can be taught.

George Bernard Shaw once pointed out the ridiculous tautology of the term ‘Catholic University,' since the old Greek ‘Katholikos' means ‘Universal' - it's as good as saying ‘Universal University.' To carry the argument conversely, the very fact of a Christian, Jewish or Islamic University is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron, especially if such universities intend to see things only from vantage-point of their religions. The word ‘university' shares a cognate root with the word universe and any university that offers anything less than a rounded, rich, universal curriculum does not deserve the name. Even in enlightened cities of Western Europe, Catholic Universities, despite their overdefined name and pretensions as citadels of great learning, often fall short of teaching anything universal - it is this sort of intellectual limitations imposed by religion that the pentescostal universities in Nigeria have further foreshortened.

Although large pockets of fanatical Christianity in the US do give a lot of people in the West (especially in Europe) a lot of concern, that vast country with its multifarious peoples and attitudes can manage this. America would never be bowled over with Christian fundamentalism – read Sarah Palin. Extreme diversions like the Jerry Springer Show should also testify to this. And you don't often see the greatest minds from Yale and Harvard gibbering their precious time away in Jerry Falwell's sort of church, nor would they wish to be part of any department in Falwell's Liberty University. And when people talk about American being more religious than most countries in the western world, they often omit to say that 94 percent of American scientists are nonreligious. Americans have won the Nobel Prize more than any citizens of any country in the world and 95 percent of the Laureates were/are not religious.

Recently yet another research had reconfirmed the truism that the least religious countries like Sweden, Norway, Japan and even Estonia are doing far better than countries like Senegal, Indonesia, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Congo where most respondents to a vox pop claimed to be blissfully religious. The researchers had acknowledged the anomaly that is the United States, but then there is said to be between 20 and 40 million people in America who would not tick any box if asked what religion they belonged to, and some would only tick to conform or to let the dog of unbelief in them to continue its dogmaless sleep in private. Again, as I have pointed out above, those who are making major contributions to America's progress are not often religious. And there is an omission in the list of underdeveloped religious nations. Nigeria. What an oversight!

What may be defaultedly described as a fledgling state like Nigeria does not need the sort of religiosity it has sunk itself in, it augurs nothing for the country but further stagnation, if not regress. It simply takes a people who place too much emphasis on religion and its sib, superstition, to ensure this. If we must look up to a country like America at all, we must focus our gaze on the laboratories and scientific hubs where things happen, not on the vast prayer concourses where big-suited men, oozing both salesmanly sweat and profanely pricey aftershave, tell ancient lies - or, if not exactly lies, stories and folktales spun thousands of years ago by Semitic and Levantine men in desert robes, with some of the stories later doctored by the patristic hirelings of the Roman emperor Constantine.

It is useless to dwell on the heinous role the church played during the African slave trade - although I must say the church, or rather some churchpeople, later did some compensatory good works. Nevertheless, it irks me that at the time the missionaries were introducing Christian religion to Africa, Charles Darwin was bringing out his Origin of Species and such a hot-and-bothered debate over the ‘Gaderene Swine' was in full swing in England. In Africa Christianity was sold as the brave new thing. And knowing how long it took Europe to rumble the obscurantist essence of Christianity, it is really not a surprise that today almost all schools in Africa still have what is called morning devotions. Religious Knowledge is still a very important part of schools' curriculum and evolution has never been part of any school's teaching list. And possibly the attitude of overwhelming god-fixation today may be rooted in such an ancient selling of religion as the be-all-and-end-all. Although Walter Rodney only intangibly blamed religion as contributive factor in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, it certainly would have amazed the man today how Africans are busy underdeveloping themselves with religion - together with other things like corruption, Mugabeism (what the snotty VS Naipaul once called Mobutuism) and so forth. Look at the list of men Nigerian government gave national hours recently, two names stand out. Mr Adeboye and Mr TB Joshua - Men of God, so-called. Where are the Men of Science, Men of the Arts, I mean secular savants whose name would stand out as those of these anti-intellectual men of god?

Not once has it been proved that religion and progress in the post-medieval world do not go together. With the advent of the Enlightenment, religion began to dry-rot. Although Voltaire was often described as a deist (shorthand for atheist in those days), no one would read Candide without having second thoughts about god. And we all know about the dark desperation of the church when it introduced the Inquisition: that horrible blot on Roman Catholic conscience was brought to being solely to suppress the rise of scientific knowledge, to scotch any sort of inquiry outside the central quadrangle of the Pope's main residence, Rome's St Peters. Which was why Galileo Galilei was forced to renounce the result of his investigation that the earth was not the centre of the universe. Really, there is no time to list the role the church - I mean any sort of church - has played in suppressing knowledge. But if the Roman Catholic Church which prides itself on being the guardian of Christian truth and whose clergy have often truly been well-read and sometimes scholarly could still harbour a lot of obscurantist views today, one wonders what sort of education and knowledge an evangelical institution would impart – a trueblue evangelical sees the bible as his first, if not only, (definitive) textbook; he is a literalist; he is often anti-science; he believes in such poppycock as ‘the world was created only 6,000 years ago.' Mostly, these are the kind of people ep whom we are now leaving the education of our children. From my understanding, it is now even fashionable among lecturers in supposedly secular universities like Ibadan or Ife to parade themselves as born-again Christians, making god and religion the talking-points of what should have been more rewarding intellectual colloquies.

Just before the anniversary of 200 years of the birth of Charles Darwin, in a forum where the troubles of Africa were being debated, someone had asked, What good is the knowledge of evolution to Africa now? A lot of good, I'd say. And more. Whatever arguable good religion may have done for Africans in the past, now it is only an overcrowded bandwagon that's bearing us backwards and downhill, it is now the most potent force for the desertification of African minds. We need up-to-the-minute science, we need to be part of the latest trends in arts, we need to be counted at the frontiers of varied realms of knowledge: nano-tech, neuroscience, cosmology, quantum mechanics, evolutionary biology etc. Africans need a well-rounded education, the scaffolding of our minds needs a concrete late-modern infusion in every facet, for us to begin what may be a long journey towards self-sufficiency. The kind of comment that Africa does not need to know anything about evolution because the continent is still buried in a welter of problems and troubles is as good as condemning us Africans to live by bread and prayer only.



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Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
Ocnus posted on 02-24-2009, 01:28:32 AM
There are practical problems which arise from the mindset illustrated so well in this piece. In Catholic areas of Africa there is the continuing problem of the Church's ban on contraception. In a continent riven by HIV-AIDS and numerous sexually-transmitted diseases the ban on contraception is a failure of the Church's duty of care. In many of the Protestant regions, especially among the 'born-again' communities, the strict interdiction against abortion or termination of pregnancies delivers a social policy of population boom and a blockage of the prevention of inherited diseases or conditions through abortion pre-term of known infected mothers. These are not religious dicta or differences which can be found within the Gospels; they are European cultural overlays which have developed over time and which have been made part of the religious dogma by accretion. They aren't applicable to the conditions in Africa. The dilemma facing believers is whether to seek salvation on Earth or to wait, doing the will of the church, for salvation everlasting.
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
Mathelize posted on 02-24-2009, 06:21:36 AM
Thanks for this great article. I expect villagers to come out and comment but they won't for fear of blasphemy. We need to change our ways of thinking and approach our problems pragmatically, not looking up to God that'll not come down to save us and butter our bread.
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
Tunde meee posted on 02-24-2009, 10:17:28 AM
Thanks for this well articulated piece.
In my opinion religion is not to blame about for its adherents decides to follow its dogma. I am of the opinion that lack of proper knowledge of the religion you decides to practice is the bane of of all ignorant adherents. What we witness in Africa is the result of exploitation of ignorance of the ignorants by the knowledgibles. They twist the articles of their faith according to their whims and caprices and those who should challenge them have not got the tools(knowledge). How do you justify the pastor growing fat while the church appears malnourished."Aje ke lana, omo ku leni, every reasonable person should at least guess that, Aje to ke lana lopa omo to ku leni"
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
Lapalapa posted on 02-24-2009, 19:24:12 PM
Okay, this is another Nigerian who found liberalism in the West, forgot the origin of religion in Africa, and begins to spout the usual left-wing manifesto.

In as much as I disagree with commercialized pentecostalism in Nigeria it would be wrong to associate born-again christianity with the advent of the current Nigerian slide towards the abyss. Anyone who has a good memory would remember the days of SUs, the Deeper Lifes etc. Those were the days when the only trustworthy people in the country were born-again christians. Now, after getting swamped by the extreme materialism of the West, especially the era of American pentecostal capitalism, our country has become polluted beyond recognition. It is now difficult to recognise who is a true "man of God".

If we leave christianity alone and begin to talk about African traditional religions, the fallacy of this write-up even becomes clearer. We always had Ogun, Oya, Obatala, Orishanla and so on long before the advent of Christianity in Nigeria. And those religions gave us a way and manner of life that allowed us to relate respectfully with our neighbours, because we had the fear of God (in whatever form) in our hearts. This is even also the case in the Western world; most of the scientific discoveries that paved the way for what we enjoy today were made by a culture that derived from a religion which instilled discipline in the people of those days.

But what do we have today in the days of extreme liberalism? We have people who don't have any sense of what is right and wrong. Of course it is not surprising that up to 95% of the so-called "scientific discoveries" in our days were all fake, made up by godless men and women who are only interested in boosting their ego and keeping their jobs. The South Korean scientist who reported the first "cloned" human embryo comes to mind here. There are millions like him all over the western world.

Well, all I want to say is simply this; science and religion don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. I make bold to suggest that meaningful science can only be conducted by God-fearing men and women. And please, true religion does not pose any danger to human development. Thank you.
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
F.scorpion posted on 02-25-2009, 00:50:22 AM
QUOTE:
Anyone who has a good memory would remember the days of SUs, the Deeper Lifes etc. Those were the days when the only trustworthy people in the country were born-again christians. Now, after getting swamped by the extreme materialism of the West, especially the era of American pentecostal capitalism, our country has become polluted beyond recognition. It is now difficult to recognise who is a true \"man of God\".


This reminds me of that song... "old time religion". Truth is, the past always appears more glamorous than it really was. The author's article could easily apply to the days of SUs. With all that fervent religion, there was no lasting change where it mattered: politics, government, social well being....

QUOTE:

If we leave christianity alone and begin to talk about African traditional religions, the fallacy of this write-up even becomes clearer. We always had Ogun, Oya, Obatala, Orishanla and so on long before the advent of Christianity in Nigeria. And those religions gave us a way and manner of life that allowed us to relate respectfully with our neighbours, because we had the fear of God (in whatever form) in our hearts. This is even also the case in the Western world; most of the scientific discoveries that paved the way for what we enjoy today were made by a culture that derived from a religion which instilled discipline in the people of those days.


The issue is not to do away with religion, but the fact that religion in our case has become a stumbling block. The great revivals in America in earlier centuries were engines of creativity... no historian will argue this. But their revival is very different from what we have. Those revivals represented fundamental shifts in American thinking. Nigerian revivals are at best opium.


QUOTE:

But what do we have today in the days of extreme liberalism? We have people who don't have any sense of what is right and wrong.


Extreme liberalism does not have a patent on moral ambivalence. Do you want me to give you examples of christians or muslims or animists with the same problems?

QUOTE:

Well, all I want to say is simply this; science and religion don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. I make bold to suggest that meaningful science can only be conducted by God-fearing men and women.


I must disagree with the "only". Unless of course you mean that meaningful science is that which confirms what you already believe.
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
A oriku posted on 02-25-2009, 00:57:57 AM
Dear Mr or Mrs Lapalapa, I am sorry I do not have the time to answer your suppositions. However, let me quickly point out that I did not find find liberalism - as you would like to call what I found - in the West. I'd been an agnostic for more than a dozen years, since my teens, before I even left Nigeria. Whatever you might mean by liberalism, even as a secondary school boy in Nigeria I argued against the old-guard conservatism of Awolowo et al. This idea that anyone who chooses to say something not compatible with the herdlike thinking of many Nigerians home and abroad has become westernised is rather annoying, I think.
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
A oriku posted on 02-25-2009, 01:07:57 AM
And by the way, F Scorpion's post has nailed the points. Lapalapa, will you take the time out to read it.
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
Lapalapa posted on 02-26-2009, 01:48:54 AM
Hey folks, take it easy! Shouldn't we be able to express different opinions? I did read the article and Scorpion's great points. All I'm saying is that we shouldn't be quick, as is now globally practiced, to heap the blame for the collapse of our civilization on religion. Of course the religious landscape has always been littered with charlatans, who ride on the ignorance of unsuspecting adherents to stretch out and pluck materialistic apples their pygmy-sized work ethics never deserved. But that is not a good reason to blame religion for every evil on the face of our planet, like most of these left wing liberals would do. Religion should have a strong modulating effect on civilization. The liberals, in castigating religion, are inadvertently shooting themselves in the foot: does anyone know that it takes a God-fearing heart to advance the "your-brother's-keeper" tenet of liberalism? If we keep slagging religion, we stand the risk of prolonging the scourge of west-end and east-end fundamentalists we have endured in the past decade.

By the way, science is not always an antidote to religion because it is also one!

Have a good day, and be nice to your brother.

BTW: Oriku, I'm not against westernization. If that was the case I would still be peeping from the mud huts in my village. But contemporary westernized thoughts are often defective because they start with a primary presupposition that religion is bad. That is what I would call "herd mentality". And it has nothing to do with Nigerians or Siberians; the cows have gone global!
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
Solid posted on 02-27-2009, 09:22:59 AM
People:

I do not want to read such a book. But, I can interject a few points through the comments I've read so far. Half information will always 'sell' half truth to the public. Positions held by people based on half-truth will always give us distorted conclusions.

Our dear Lord Jesus Christ layed down a clear foot-print of how, what, and why of the WILL of God. Man, in his usual character, turned the table to suit his 'ways' and diluted the entire message of the kingdom. From the beginning, the battle between God's Will and man's 'desires' has raged and we still experience the spill over today.

A father tells a child that "stealing is bad, it will develop a lustful habit in you, it will cause you to lust after your neighbor's property......you will suffer bitter consequences for holding on to such habits...etc" The child shakes off his father's wise counsel like a dogs would do with his wet back, and keeps his habits alive. WHO IS TO BLAME.

The blue-print of Christian religion is clearly written in the Bible. If anything, we should hold God responsible for His word, and not on the poor modeling of christian practitioners. Also, most of the assertions so far, are based only on earthly experiences.........there is a higher SPIRITUAL realm that most people don't have a clue about. They see people 'die' and fail to inquire where their souls heads to.

Let me narrow the discourse down to a few points with this conversation a true servant of God, had with God. This servant was showed several churches and was asked to guess the number of saved souls in them. Amongst many of the mega churches we have today, the Spirit of God revealed that only a handful of people are truly saved in them.....some had 3, 5, or 10 saved souls; the numbers were so shocking to this servant, he wept throughout the session.

When people don't follow Christian guidelines faithfully and fall into diverse consequences as a result of their hard-hearts......who is to blame? Remember, only Noah's family was saved when God opened the floodgates of water to wipe out 'man' because of wickedness.

Time will not permit to complete my take or proofread this piece.

Thanks,

SOLID
Re: How Religion And God-fixation Are Underdeveloping Africa. Part 2.
DeepThought posted on 02-27-2009, 11:32:36 AM
QUOTE:
People:

I do not want to read such a book. But, I can interject a few points through the comments I've read so far. Half information will always 'sell' half truth to the public. Positions held by people based on half-truth will always give us distorted conclusions.

Our dear Lord Jesus Christ layed down a clear foot-print of how, what, and why of the WILL of God. Man, in his usual character, turned the table to suit his 'ways' and diluted the entire message of the kingdom. From the beginning, the battle between God's Will and man's 'desires' has raged and we still experience the spill over today.

A father tells a child that \"stealing is bad, it will develop a lustful habit in you, it will cause you to lust after your neighbor's property......you will suffer bitter consequences for holding on to such habits...etc\" The child shakes off his father's wise counsel like a dogs would do with his wet back, and keeps his habits alive. WHO IS TO BLAME.

The blue-print of Christian religion is clearly written in the Bible. If anything, we should hold God responsible for His word, and not on the poor modeling of christian practitioners. Also, most of the assertions so far, are based only on earthly experiences.........there is a higher SPIRITUAL realm that most people don't have a clue about. They see people 'die' and fail to inquire where their souls heads to.

Let me narrow the discourse down to a few points with this conversation a true servant of God, had with God. This servant was showed several churches and was asked to guess the number of saved souls in them. Amongst many of the mega churches we have today, the Spirit of God revealed that only a handful of people are truly saved in them.....some had 3, 5, or 10 saved souls; the numbers were so shocking to this servant, he wept throughout the session.

When people don't follow Christian guidelines faithfully and fall into diverse consequences as a result of their hard-hearts......who is to blame? Remember, only Noah's family was saved when God opened the floodgates of water to wipe out 'man' because of wickedness.

Time will not permit to complete my take or proofread this piece.

Thanks,

SOLID


I hereby bind every evil spirit that will try and move me to comment on this.
May God grant me the strength to ignore this

Amen.
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