This is a guest article by author D. Alan Johnson. His latest book Asgaard is set in Africa and looks at the role of Private Military Contractors. David himself is a Military Contractor and has been since 1988. We were talking recently about life in general, and the world as a whole. I invited him to offer his thoughts – Simon
The greatest concentration of the poorest countries on earth is in Africa. Warfare, famine, slavery, mass rape, genocide, warlords and child soldiers are all a part of the fabric of Africa. Presidents come to power through coups and assassinations. AIDs depopulates entire villages leaving thousands of children orphaned. No one would argue that Africa is the worldâ€™s slum.
After working in Sub-Saharan Africa, I have asked myself if the local religion helps or hurts the development of the continent. As a religious man myself, I am used to arguing against the atheists about the problems of religion.
When the atheist speaks against religion, he is usually railing against Christianity and Judaism. Their complaints seem rooted in their perception that all wars flow out of religious hatred, that we persecute gays, and that we want to take away a womanâ€™s right to choose.
While I could fill up many pages speaking to these points, today I want to talk about the problems that are found in the superstitions of Central Africa.
Our question of whether the local religions are good for Central Africa will not be answered so much by arguing which system is following the true God. My presupposition of a â€œgoodâ€ religion will not be so much theological as consequential. What are the societal consequences of following the local witchdoctors? In other words, does their religion lift up the individual and the society?
My argument is that a good religion prospers the culture and the individual in this life as well as in the hereafter. This argument flows out of my belief that God is good, therefore any system that he has devised will be good for mankind. God is great and wise so he is able to devise a religion that will allow the adherents to enjoy the good things of this world.
Based on this argument, the religions of Central Africa are harmful to the development of their society. Most of the facets of religion that we see as admirable in Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam are missing in the animism and witchcraft of Sub-Saharan Africa. Honesty, chastity, hard work, and family values are never stressed by the witchdoctors.
Instead they practice their religion by taking money and sometimes human sacrifices to cast spells and make decrees that are designed to keep them in power. The witchdoctors murder albinos and sell their body parts as good luck talismans. In Angola they declare the homes, farms, groves, and factories left for them by the Portuguese as off limits.
â€œAll of those places are still haunted by the spirits of the Portuguese,â€ the say. So the Angolans let these fine assets rot and go back to jungle again. And so a poor people are cheated out of hundreds of modern homes, lumber mills, and farms.
Families are the building blocks of any successful society. The father works to provide for his wife and children. They are a team. Not so much in Central Africa. The witchdoctors put no emphasis on duty, work, or chastity. So, many of the men do not work. And worse, their culture of promiscuity guarantees the high rate of AIDs.
Culture is determined by religion.Â Atheism, communism, Judaism, humanism, Shintoism and Christianity are all examples of how religion has shaped the culture where they have been dominant. Good religions share some components in common:
â€¢Â Â Â Honesty.
â€¢Â Â Â Hard Work.
â€¢Â Â Â Chastity.
â€¢Â Â Â Keeping Commitments.
â€¢Â Â Â Alignment of Cause and Effect. (You reap what you sow.)
â€¢Â Â Â Tolerance of Other Religions.
â€¢Â Â Â Self Sacrifice for the Good of Society and/or Others.
The system we call Animism for lack of a better name, has none of these good characteristics.
Since religion is a system of beliefs about the world, others, and ourselves which overarches our actions and decisions, a culture must look first to its religion in order to change. Religion is the window through which each culture views the world. So, for Africa to ever come out of its backwardness, it must incorporate the good parts of the worldâ€™s great religions into its culture.
D. Alan Johnson
Author of Asgaard