Religion has been one of the strongest cults in Africa. It didn’t start here by the coming of the European missionaries nor the advent of Islamic jihadists from the Middle East. It started with our cultures, and as long as man lives, he can never do away with his culture. In fact man invented culture as part of his socialization strategies. Culture is then taken as a common front among those who wants to come together and live together within the same rules. Religion is invariably an offshoot of people’s common beliefs which are strongly being influenced by the people’s cultures.
Religion has always been part of humanity. Therefore, religion has always been part of Africa. It is erroneous assumption to think that when religion is mentioned today in Africa, then it would be restricted to either Islam or Christianity alone. They are just parts and not all of the religious cults we have in Africa today. And as we already know, some parts cannot make a whole. When we talk about religion, I would like to discuss it in its entirety, including African Traditional Religion which is by the way the original religion of Africans. When it comes to how religion underdeveloped Africa, I didn’t find any exemption although one can always look closer and see that one or two religions might be more culpable than others.
African mind, like the rest of mankind, has natural endowment to always seek for truth. Truth is always one, immutable and unchanging. This makes truth one of the fundamental needs of human mind. The mind seeks truth for its own betterment and advancement. Thus, whatever man could achieve in the world today has its primary foundation in truth. This includes truth about man, his environments and his future.
For example, if Sir Isaac Newton has been credited as the one who discovered gravitational force, we could also say that Newton just proved to us beyond some reasonable doubt the same eternal truth that has been there – one, unchanging and immutable. He simply proved to us the truth about why matter always lose what he described as their ‘centre of gravity’ and fall to the ground to find rest. This truth is the basics of scientific and technological breakthroughs in the world today. This truth stimulated developments across Europe, transported to America during and after trans-Atlantic slave trade era, and then spreading through to other continents of Asia and Australia. But whether this same truth has found base in Africa is a question we are too worried while asking. If truth can make all the differences we have in some developed countries across the globe, then why is this truth unable to be utilized for the betterment and emancipation of African continent?
The only relative truth I have realized is that Africa is a continent where religion has become the primary drive in people and is dangerously turning to be the only drive if care is not taken. Religion is unnecessarily being extolled more than common sense that it might beat every right thinking person’s imagination on why African people today prefer unverified fictitious and superstitious dictates of religions they adhere to rather than using their common sense to verify if applications of those dictates are proper considering their own environments, their cultures and the age they live in. While the world is moving fast every second into super-highway light lanes, religions have bent to drag Africa back into medieval era of world history, moving them back to Stone Age. This is one of my greatest disturbances. No matter how you think it, religions can never build a standard modern nation because most of these religions are ideologies based on outdate worldviews of their founders.
Despite the fact that I could not validly separate common sense knowledge from the idea of supreme beings that serves as the foundation of every religion, but I solidly believe that misplacement of priority in this could spell doom for any people. Africans seem to have missed the whole story of Supreme Being by placing religions before their common sense knowledge in this era of human development which already has been sweeping fast across the globe through science and technology. When men’s drive for advancement in life is being control by something external rather than something internal, then we are in for real trouble because it might be seen as impossible for us to take control over them. Then when what control men from within is then seen as their unmovable mover, then the story might change drastically in its sizes and dimensions. This is exactly what religion has been doing to Africans and this unfortunately is not relenting soon.
I believe in Africa without interference of any kind. I believe in the inherent passions which nature bestowed on every living creature. Therefore, I don’t believe in any kind of man-made remote control in fashion of religion which uses some medieval thinking still in this modern era. This is where religion becomes dangerous to development and any people whose lives are revolving mainly around religion always move in parallel lines with development.
I believe that our passion or the drive for advancement inherent in us must of necessity be focused on those things we can relate to. With the exception of African Traditional Religions (though with all its own pitfalls and loopholes), every other religion being imported into African continent is here to change the people we were made by God to be. No religion should be allowed to obstruct people from seeing their own worldviews holistically.
While Christianity started in Israel in the Middle-East and was later redesigned in Europe, Islam came to us from Mecca or Medina (also in the same Middle-East) as raw as it is being preached there. Africans accepted these religions either under strong unavoidable influences or through the power of swords and barrels of guns. The religions that invaded us here in Africa came with a single package which only option was to either believe and be converted or face death. Thus we were never allowed to be the people we were supposed to be by these undue interferences of the foreign religions.
Since the law of preservation of life entails that no one wants to die soon, then those who came with superior weapons to colonize Africa, intimidated them to succumb to their dictates and observances. They came to conquer them both physically and spiritually and they succeeded. They came with their seemingly infallible logics to dominate and preaching their religions to weaken their minds to deter them from revolution or revenge, then succeeded in taking what belongs to them and jettisoned the strong values and bonds they shared together as people. Africa was their test grounds for almost everything, including religion. No wonder that till today, African people are still confused on these religions and the ways forward. They were left in the middle of nowhere, where going back to their roots would be impossible while trying to be like the owners of the religions/cultures they practice would be like living perpetually in self-deceit.
Even in this era, some decades after the last African country got their independence from their former European colonialists, they still have not started to improve on the way they think and the manner they logically face the world they share with people from other continents. Everything about Africa is still being perceived around the globe (by people who by default expected nothing good from Africa) as a story that must of necessity begin with sufferings of some bunch of black African people living in that continent which it’s map shape looks exactly like a symbol of a question mark, and then end with the greater sufferings, pains, hopelessness and anguish of these same people in more tragic end or else in the happy ending, they would be rescued by some kind-hearted benevolent white fellows. The story of Africa being told by the West has no relevance in their own media if all of a sudden, these Africans could help themselves to figure out their own problems and find solutions to them without the help of either Americans or Europeans. Thus, here comes my personal maxim that, “when you give man your religion and succeeded in making him worship your own god, then you are the next in the ranks of gods for him. Whenever he feels that the god you had given him to worship has failed, you are next in command to be consulted.”
Thus, to sincerely answer the first question asked in this chapter, the answer is emphatic yes. Alien religions we practice today in Africa stole our common sense. Though I cannot in anyway justify African Traditional Religion in its entirety as the best among the other religions for Africa simply because it wasn’t a religion with strict written down rules like its adversaries. Because African religion is not written down, it always generate abuses since people are not bound by any written down rules while observing it, and with this it can generate conflicts from time to time. But then, I won’t also look away and pretend that the way and manner we practice other religions that were brought to us here in Africa is the best for African man.