Africa needs development, not God
By Leo Igwe
MY attention was drawn to an article "As an Atheist I truly believe Africa needs God" published on December 27, 2008
in the Time On-line in the UK. Personally, I found that piece deeply flawed, shallow, narrow and potentially misleading. The article is a misreading of the situation in Africa, and a misinterpretation of what Africa needs to walk tall in this 21st century. From his experience living with missionaries in Africa and returning 45 years later to witness the work of a British Christian charity, Pump Aid that helped rural Malawians install pumps and keep their village wells sealed and clean, Matthew Parris concluded that missionaries not aid money or the secular NGOs. God, not education or training was what Africa needed to grow, develop and emerge in this Century. He maintained that Christian faith was what Africa required to conquer fear, anxiety, a tribal belief system that has ground down their individual spirit and curiosity. I mean, nothing can be farther from the truth. First of all, I want to know, when Parris says Africa needs God, which God is he talking about. As an atheist, he doesn't believe in the existence of God. So how did he come about the God he thought Africa needed? Maybe a 'simple pump' in a rural community suddenly became an evidence of God's existence? Or the relative security he enjoyed near mission houses while travelling through Africa'? Or the missionary schools and hospitals in African villages? I mean, if these missionary schemes were enough to shake or embarrass Parris' growing belief that there is no God, then he is not a confirmed atheist. Alright, let's assume that Parris has suddenly realised that God exists. Which God did he think Africa needed that the continent does not have? Is it the tribal God? We have it in thousands. Or the Jewish God? Or the Christian God? Or the Islamic God? Which bloody deity does he think Africa lacks? None.
In fact Africa is filled with Gods. The black continent is a den of deities. Obviously Parris meant the Christian God - the post reformation and post Luther Jesus God. Particularly that brand packaged and propagated by European missionaries through the installation of pumps and building of schools and hospitals. At this point I want to state that missionaries have been coming to Africa for centuries. In Nigeria, missionary work is over 200 years old. In fact some parts of Africa like Nigeria and Ghana have started sending locals to go and re-evangelise and bring God back to Europe and America. (I mean which Africa is Parris really talking about). In his article Parris failed to differentiate missionary God from missionary good or better what appears to be missionary good. The missionary god, like all other gods is a myth, a sacred fantasy and an illusion. While the mission good is real - a real attempt to spread and propagate the 'God delusion'. And I want to stress that the missionary good is not an evidence for the existence of the missionary god. Parris just allowed himself to be carried away or be seduced - by what he witnessed as some missionary good. He refused to take a critical look at it. No doubt missionaries have executed many humanitarian projects on the continent that have impacted positively on the lives of Africans. But these projects as helpful as they are or may appear to be are Trojan Horses. They are baits - evangelising weapons which missionaries use to get Africans to embrace Christianity. Missionary schools are religious indoctrination centres. Missionaries do not educate Africans to think for themselves or to exercise and express their individual curiosity and thought. They educate Africans to become slave to Christianity and to accept blindly and not to question, or challenge the Christian god, the Christian doctrines and the Christian dogmas. In most cases, missionaries locate their projects in rural areas. And these are places where people are not just desperately in need. These are places, where people are very ignorant, very gullible, and prone to being exploited. In most cases missionary schools and institutions are located on lands acquired and appropriated by force, without compensation or under false pretences like furthering the work of God, from poor rural peasants.
It is true that at missionary hospitals they heal the sick. They also kill by denying women their rights to abortion and to reproductive health services. Missionary hospitals in Nigeria carry out forced baptism on infants and forced conversion on death bed and forced administration of sacraments on patients. It is important to note that, in these hospitals, missionaries heal the sick using scientific medicine not prayers or the power of God. They provide water by installing pumps, not by striking the rock with a rod as Moses did in the wilderness. But they will not teach Africans, the science behind their medicine or the technology of pump installation. Instead they attribute their work to god-the Christian god. So, the truth is that God has no hand and no place in the missionary work in Africa and Parris was greatly mistaken to have thought otherwise. I agree with Matthew Parris that African thought is driven by anxiety, fear of evil spirits, of witches and wizard etc. The same is applicable to Christianity and also to all religions so, Christian evangelism cannot liberate the African, mind or help cast off the crushing tribal group-think that hampers its development. The removal of Christian evangelism will not turn Africa into a place of chaos, confusion and superstition. (The continent is already a basket case with missionaries everywhere). Because Christianity is a superstition - a mind-enslaving and intellect-numbing superstition. What Christian evangelism has done and is doing in Africa is to replace one superstitious system with another or to reinforce the existing ones. Christian evangelism sanctioned and sanctified witch hunt, sexism, the persecution of gays, oppression and discrimination against non-believers, and other atrocities and crimes against humanity. To emerge in this 21st century, Africa does not need God or a re-invasion by missionaries. Africa needs the Good. Africa needs good governance, good infrastructure, good roads, good schools, college, and universities. Africans need a sound education and training system that would make them to think, create, criticise debate, invent, and innovate freely. As Francis Bacon said, knowledge is power. Africans need an educational programme that empowers them to discover, express and actualise their potential. Africa needs freedom. And this includes free mind, free society, free speech, free will, free expression of intelligence and free choice. Africa does not need a religion that shackles their minds and chains the intelligence. Africans need to rediscover and restore their humanity and human possibilities to the centre of their global perception ethics, education and belief system. So Africa needs humanism, skepticism, rationalism, positive atheism, and free thought. Africa needs reasons, not religion, not Christian evangelism or Islamism or spiritualism or supernaturalism to experience genuine rebirth, renaissance and transformation. A popular adage says "catch a fish for a child and feed the child once, teach the child how to fish and feed the child forever. It would have been wonderful if Pump Aid had gone to Malawi not only to install pumps but also to teach young Malawians at the Polytechnics in Blantyre or at the University of Malawi how to install pumps. So, all development aid, projects and programmes in Africa must be such that they teach, educate, inspire and empower Africans to fish, (not catch a fish for Africans) so that the people on the black continent can feed themselves forever.
This is what Africa needs, not God.
Igwe is the executive secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement