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African Development: Is Kicking Out Christianity and Islam the Answer?
Leo Igwe   Jun 13, 2015   Africa Futures Project  

I state right away that I do not think “Kicking Christianity and Islam out of Africa” is the Answer. Why do I believe this will not lead to development in Africa?

I understand clearly the sentiments of those who would want Christianity and Islam kicked out of Africa. Yea, that sounds exciting. Isn’t it? Definitely this is a proposition in good faith, a well meaning desire to get Africa back on its feet, not kneeling or prostrating while other regions are standing. Christianity and Islam should be thrown out, some people argue, so that Africans would have peace, development, progress.

But I think those making this proposal might be be overlooking certain things. They may be under some form of illusion.

Surely, given what is going on in the world today, it is in order to dismantle the infrastructure of Christianity and Islam. Of course the brainwashing that is going on in Africa is massive. The damage that religion – Christian and Islamic-  do to Africans is colossal. The savage acts of fanatics is mind-boggling. The African youth capital is being depleted by religious extremism and other mistrusted otherworldly ideologies. Religious fundamentalism is destroying the continent slowly.

But my concern is this: kicking Christianity and Islam out of Africa is not be the panacea for all Africa’s ills because we still have another religion to contend with – African Traditional Religion which has its own mind-numbing superstitions.

I do not think the region and its people will be better of with African deities and religion taking over the religious space. Why?

We have many tradition based-atrocious practices like witch hunting, ritual killing, albino murders, human sacrifice to deal with. Will kicking Christianity and Islam out of Africa stop these harmful traditional practices? It may worsen the situation because throwing out these Abrahamic religions would create a vacuum which many might interpret as an opportunity to valorize traditional beliefs. I do not think African religion would be a unifying factor at all because it has never been.

Actually, there is nothing like ‘African religion’ - what we have is African religions because what constitutes ‘African (Traditional) religion’ differs from country to country, from community to community sometimes from family to family. We might actually see Africa descend into religious chaos and anarchy as many countries did after independence. Africans may be divided more by African religions than has been the case with Christianity and Islam. The traditional deities which Africans worship are legion. There are thousands if not tens of thousands of them. And Africans seem not to have agreed on which ones are true or false. In fact due to the influence of Christianity and Islam in Africa, many Africans no longer reckon with these deities. They regards them as false gods or idols.

If we kick Christianity and Islam out of Africa, another fight might ensue among African god believers, the fight to determine which African god is superior, which version of African religion is ‘true’ religion’; which African god is most powerful, which African religion is from god; which god is the true god, which African god is still alive; which African god is the supreme God. I foresee a situation of “African gods at war”, or better African religions at war.

‘African religions” would not unite Africans or bring peace and harmony to the region. If there is anything that unites a people it is their relationship with human beings, not with local deities; it is reality not revelation, science not superstition, thinking not blind faith. It is fact not fiction, the habit of reason and questioning, not dogma. It is the virtue of courage, not the fear of imaginary beings. It is openness to new ideas, not close-mindedness.

I think Christianity, Islam and other religions should not be kicked out of Africa because such an endeavor is not consistent with the ideals of a free and open society. All religions and deities – local and foreign – are welcome to the African table of free inquiry and critical examination.

Christianity, Islam and other dogmatic faiths will fade away at some point just like other religions if they cannot withstand critical scrutiny. That is how they would kick themselves out. The god of Christianity – Jesus - and the god of Islam – Allah- would become useless and unappealing to most people and would slowly disappear like other deities which human beings once worshiped and later abandoned.

Instead of thinking about how to kick out Christianity or Islam, Africans should begin to question and critically evaluate all religious claims. They should focus their energies on tearing away the veil of dogma that shields Christianity and Islam from critical evaluation and free inquiry. Africans should be exploring to know if these Abrahamic ‘emperors’ have any clothes at all. The people of Africa should start breaking the taboo against apostasy and blasphemy and start tasting the forbidden fruit of atheism and freethought.

Africans should embark on the process of ascertaining whether Christianity and Islam are still relevant and can serve as meaningful guides for 21st century humans. The problem in Africa is not Christianity or Islam per se but the dogmatic attitude of Africans towards these cultural myths and superstitious systems. The problem is in the habit of blind belief and reverence by Africans – Christians, Muslims or Traditionalists - in their reluctance to seek evidence for religious claims and the fear to question supernatural postulations; in the lack of rational and critical will to express doubts openly and publicly – and in the inability to freely examine spiritual phenomena.

The future of Africa rests not on kicking Christianity and Islam out of the region but on Africans rediscovering the values of intellectual awakening and enlightenment.

Leo Igwe, as a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, has bravely worked for human rights in West Africa. He is presently enrolled in a three year research programme on “Witchcraft accusations in Africa” at the University of Bayreuth, in Germany.



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