With who does the greatest danger for the whole human future lies? Is it not with the good and just – with those who say and feel in their hearts: ‘we already know what is good and just, we possess it too, woe to those who are still searching for it’.
In any evaluation of the socio-economic and political problems of Africa, it will be a grievous omission not to accord a place of central importance to religion or the belief systems in general. Any anthropologist versed in the business of culture in primitive societies cannot miss the ever-palpable electrifying religious fervour displayed by Africans in the worship of their various gods. Another remarkable observation the anthropologist will make is the paramount position of honour given to foreign religions like Islam and Christianity, the two religions in vogue all over Africa now. Altogether, these two faiths between them attract about ninety per cent of the population while the indigenous beliefs merely record less than five percent. The remaining five per cent might belong to the nonconformist group who tend to be eclectic in their attitude to religion.
Another spectacular observation the expert will not miss is the ratio of houses of worship to the population. The number of churches and mosques that dot every street with esoteric celestial names they bear cannot go unnoticed. Same with the several sign boards erected at every street junctions to help worshippers locate the mosque or church where a celebrated Imam or Pastor/Founder/Overseer is holding court. The national daily newspapers also carry their fair share of advertisement for the registration of new religious organisation as prescribed by law and of more than ample coverage of religious news and activities/events.
The anthropologist cannot fail to notice the large number of devotees that throng daily to these assemblies in search of salvation from poverty, disease and deprivation of all kinds. If the expert is from the western world, the size of the multitudes of devotees will be remarkable because of the large number of empty pews and closed down churches for lack of patronage in Europe. The questions hanging in the air are: what is the secret behind this type of religious devotion, faithfulness and fundamentalism? Have these fundamentalist beliefs contributed anything to the development or under-development of Africa? Can the salvation of Africans from total ruin and humiliation depend on this kind of superficial religious engagements?
To fully understand the basis of this kind of religious passion among Africans it is necessary to step back in time. Before the arrival of Arab and European slave traders in the 15th century, it is noted that Africa was not particularly devoid of beliefs in a deity or deities. Africans like other races in the world had knowledge of the spirit world and the physical world. Africans had understanding about the forces that govern and dictate the affairs of all life. They respected and revered these forces and they illustrated this adequately in the cultural organisation of their societies. Members of a society put very high premium on those activities either social or personal that enable them to demonstrate publicly or privately their devotion, worship and respect for these forces. In fact, children were named after favourable deities and time was measured with reference to the annual festival earmarked for each of the gods or deities known to a community.
The sense of appreciation of the forces that govern life shown by Africans is replicated in every society on earth. The Indians, the Chinese, the Vikings, the Celts, the Native Americans, and the Native Australians all have a special place for the worship of the forces of life. The global commonality of belief seems to have more to do with the similarity in the nature of mankind and of the environment under which all human beings live. These two common denominators – human nature and environment – accounted for the fact that every human race in the world designated special names, peculiar to their language, for the forces of life. It is on record that every society of the world at one time or another in history recognised the sun, moon, weather, wind, fire, water/river/sea, forest, stones, mountains, iron, etc. as probable residential places for the forces of life . Peoples of the world, therefore, placed adequate attention to the worship of the spirits or deities resident in these natural phenomena.
To worship, in philosophical sense, is a way of showing gratitude to the forces that were kind in creating life, in providing sustenance, security and good health, and in ensuring procreation and growth. Worship is simply a practical means and acts of saying thank you to the revered divine force or forces that make life possible. The total package of a people’s appreciation of the forces of life, the nature and type of ceremonies organised for their celebrations, and the taboos, prescriptions, and laws established for rewarding good devotees and for punishing defaulters are what sociologist and anthropologist named as culture or religion. It therefore follows that societies derive the sense of religion from the highest level of thought and reasoning. It is a known fact that the thinkers of every society cannot help but to ponder, to reflect, and to inquire into the nature of beings and life. This mental exercise is normal and it is a necessary natural development because of the innate nature of mankind.
Science has revealed that each human being possesses an elaborate faculty of senses, which are breath-taking in their depth and capabilities. The sense organs are designed to be active automatically. They are programmed to zoom in, on and out of the environment, as these sense organs collect information in the vicinity with minimum (most times with none at all) conscious prodding from mankind. The brain, the central processing organ of the senses, along with the perpetual activities of the sense organs that collect the stimuli and data also assemble and combine all the information collected in an attempt to make a holistic sense of them. There is nothing special about this mental and sensory exercises except every human being still has a choice on whether to use the sensory faculties or not. Each person also has a choice on how far he/she wants to go in exploring the full capacity of the senses. It is important to mention that laziness, carelessness and sloppiness can account for the inability of some Homo sapiens to use the senses but it does not follow that they are naturally incapable.
It is the outcome of the articulated information collected by the senses and worked upon by the thinkers in the society that eventually become the received knowledge of life and these are the intellectual materials used for the development of a belief system. The recognised beliefs in every society include among others, a belief in a superior power above that of human being; a belief in the forces outside and within humans that have powers to stimulate and influence the processes of procreation, growth and death; a belief in the power of the sun, moon, stars, fire, water, metals, wood, etc. This catalogue of beliefs is common to every human society in the world because they are the product of the senses and experiences. Therefore, the type and kind of worship, the social organisation of worship, and the cultural artefacts of worship must necessarily depend on the depth of knowledge or on the level of intellectual development of a society.
Regardless of the sophistication of organisation of worship, the common denominator is that every religion flows from an intellectual appreciation of the immense power, force or energy that translates to life; and that surrounds and influences the behaviour and life of mankind and other creations. If this argument is true, why then does any racial group in the world feels that their own intellectual appreciation of the forces, power, and energy of life is superior to those of Africans or other racial groups?
Unfortunately, it is this supremacist attitude in the matters of belief and religion that informed the energetic zealot incursion of the Arabs and Europeans into Africa. The missionaries deluded themselves that they had a higher authority than the peoples of Africa in the area of religious knowledge; particularly a better understanding about the name of the force of life but more importantly the shortest route to its abode. They quickly labelled the African beliefs as pagan worship and the Arab called them infidels. The religious zealots in the company of pirates, slave merchants and mercenaries therefore took it as a sacred duty to convert the pagans and infidels of Africa. Is it true that bird of the same feathers flock together? Just imagine the holy fathers in the company of murderers pretending to be doing the work of God. Would it not have been more beneficial if charity started at home? Why should the holy fathers not work the miracle of conversion on the hoodlums they were dining and wining with during this holy travels before they ventured into the jungles of Africa?
The above was the genesis of the foreign religion to Africa. The holy men and the unholy men came to Africa rampaged, raped, and robbed the people of their traditional faith and also dispossessed them of their ancestral lands. Each party of adventurers pretended it did not know what the other party was up to. The missionary claimed he was only concerned with the saving of souls. The merchant and the pirates said they were only concerned with trade and profit. In the middle of these two groups was the mediating State that was concerned with the expansion of dominion and empire. The Imperial State was therefore keen on appropriating as much land as possible by force and by trickery.
As soon as the party landed on the foreign soil of Africa, they tricked the sovereign of the land to sign treaty ceding his royal power to the Crowns of Europe. In the case of the Arabs, they also came to trade in salt, spices and slaves and wherever they found themselves they warmed their way into the heart of the local powers. They taught the royalties of the land a new religion or a new way of life. However, the ultimate goal of this sharing is the seizure of political power. This they accomplished, as soon as the climate was suitable, by a Jihad war of conquest to convert the recalcitrant infidels by the sword to this peaceful way of life. This is quite ironical, to think that the only means of proselytising the message of peace is by bloody ‘holy wars’.
Now after over two centuries of the teaching of the unnatural philosophy of the Arabs and Europeans on issues that pertain to the forces of life, the whole of Africa is now under the spell of these two races. Between them, they have completely dominated the spiritual horizon of the continent. Unfortunately, the result of the interactions of Africans with Islam and Christianity seem to have robbed Africans of their souls. Africans are now fond of worshipping foreign gods but without their souls. The consequence is a lifestyle that is full of holy pretensions but in real sense, it is a lifestyle piloted by deception. When the art of worshipping any acknowledged force or power in a society is done without the soul it becomes a false worship and the only fruit it can produce in the life of the worshipper is decadence or perversion. What the anthropologist we mentioned in the opening paragraph saw is the full blown of the seed of decadence sown on African soils. The superficial fervour, devotion, and fundamentalism of the worshippers are false because their souls from the time of their forefathers had been stolen.
The African worshippers of foreign gods are soulless and they are moronic opportunists. As their fathers and forefathers before them did in order to survive the atrocities of the bloody marauders, the sons and daughters in our present age have continued with the same shameless practices. Of course, the African ancestors made a large profit by their pretended conversion to Islam and Christianity. Through this lie their offspring became models of success and achievement in their society. The children of such early converts were the privileged Africans sent overseas to study and to learn the white man’s ways. These children came back to Africa with fancy dresses and fancy certificates. They became the leaders of their communities over and above the traditional hierarchy in the community. They obtained these honourable positions without any genuine conviction in the white man’s beliefs. These early converts who joined the missionaries and the merchant mercenaries were the dregs and the never-do-wells of the African societies. They merely saw the whole design of converting to the foreign faith as an opportunity for an accelerated social elevation. The unpalatable result of these fraudulent dalliances by the dregs of Africa with representatives of the foreign gods is evident today all over Africa.
Consequent to this historical development, the offspring of the dregs of Africa have become the civic and political leaders. This type of development is a perversion of natural order and it has relegated Africa to the sick bay of the world ever since. Whenever the weak of any society dominate the civic and the political institutions there is no other way that society can go but down. We can easily trace the inertia that has bedevilled Africa in the last one hundred years to this development. It is a complete negation of natural laws.
Historically, it is on record that most African societies resisted these foreign teachings; and that they fought hard to uphold their native knowledge and beliefs of the forces that govern life . There is no doubt that the foreign missionaries were cleverer. These missionaries understood that the only approach to break down the resistance of Africans was to lure the weak and the vulnerable class of Africans into their cults. This strategy enabled them to entice the vagabonds and the never-do-wells into the religious cults. They taught them to read and write the foreign languages and they set them up as models in their communities. The local boys made good accompanied the white masters everywhere in their pillaging and robbing missions. They also served as the official interpreters between their local superiors and the foreign superiors. It did not take too long before every who-is-who in the communities began to queue up to have their children registered in the white man’s church or the Arabic mosque and schools.
The clever Africans of that age saw this development as a stepping-stone to material success and political fortune. It is obvious that these Africans never believed in the mumbo-jumbo philosophy of drinking blood and eating flesh as part of the prescriptions for obtaining salvation from sins. None of them could have understood the concept of sin and how they have inherited sin from a mythological couple called Adam and Eve. Nevertheless, the bright ones saw it as an opportunity to improve their social status and they grabbed it with their two hands but never with their souls. Now the children of the clever ancestors have continued with this tradition of canny deception. Socially, they worship in churches and mosques but privately they worship the ancestral deities. Openly, they profess Christianity or Islam but in the depth of their souls, they believe only in the power of their ancestral deities. This is the genesis of the socio-economic and political ailments that is gradually tearing Africa apart.
Contrary to the experts, the problem of Africa is not of failure of the social, political and economic institutions, it is of the decadence in the souls of Africans. The age-long pretences among Africans have become a way of life. The lying spirit cultivated as a survival strategy many years ago have become stabilised as a conventional wisdom in every community. Every professing African Christian or Muslim has perfected the art of lying and worse, lying with his/her soul. A soul that lies is definitely a dead soul.
For example, every Christian in Africa is eager to claim a born-again status. He/she is ready to narrate a cock and bull story of when and where the celestial experience of conversion and rebirth happened. Since these men and women have no basic understanding of the meaning of the concept of being born again, their deceitful declarations can therefore not yield any beneficial fruit of perfection but of perversion. It is obvious that if there were only one truly born again Christian in Africa, the story of Africa would have been different today.
From the statistics quoted above, it means that the souls of almost ninety per cent of Africans are dead. And unless the Creator of life revives these souls back to life, Africa is dead. The Daily Telegraph of Monday July 10 2000 titled its leader comment, The Dying Continent. It is one of the many common characterisations of Africa in the western media that depicts Africa as a third rated continent. This type of description means that Africa has simply shifted from being The Dark Continent of the 18th century to The Dying Continent of the millennium. Unfortunately, it is not HIV/Aids that is killing Africa as the comment in the Daily Telegraph mentioned; it is the decadence of the African soul that is responsible for the death of Africa. It is the inability of Africans to be truthful or the loss of the instinctive sense to know what truth is that is killing Africa. The absence of the spirit of truth and the lack of courage to tell the foreign harlots with the religion of decadence to get out of the continent; to stop seducing our peoples with bread and butter; and to desist from continuing to steal our souls are the spiritual viruses killing Africa. The Aids virus and other viruses are mere symptoms of a deeper terminal ailment.
It will alarm the so-called religious fundamentalists to hear that this writer at this junction in the world history will be asking Africans to beat a path back to their native gods, to their indigenous philosophy of life and to embrace the age-long knowledge of the forces of life as articulated and understood by their ancestors. There is much truth in the African philosophy with respect to the spiritual and physical worlds. Every African must go back to his/her ancestral root, using the knowledge of inquiry gained from the western philosophy, to revive the spirit of life and truth in Africa. The interaction of Africans with the rest of the world and with the body of universal ideas that emanated from every part of the known world should help Africans who wish to revisit their roots to sift out truth from lie. This writer does not recommend a wholesale embrace of all the practices in Africa with respect to the worship of deities. Like in all religions, Africans interested in this project should recognise, identify and excise the excesses of priests, shamans, medicine men and women and witch-doctors in all the taboos and ceremonies currently in place.
The seeker should recognise that the so-called spiritual leaders of every age and of every religion are lovers of power. They are fond of making powerful unsubstantiated pronouncements in the name of the deity in order to maintain a deadly stranglehold of power over the people. Every thinking human being ought to realise by now that the corruption found in all religious organisations across the world is an endemic problem common to all institutions of priests. The priests of all ages are enemies of freedom and equal rights since they love to play god or at least claim the title of the representative of god on earth. As the Representative of God, they expect to occupy the highest table in the assembly of the faithful, to live in the biggest palaces, to take the largest part of the sacrificial beneficence, to have the best wine, and to wear the tallest hat and the most ornamental garment. With a false pretence to humility, they treacherously claim the leadership position in every society as their divine right. In their ambition to dominate and to oppress the people, they lie in the name of god thereby putting heavy burden on the people as they ceaselessly call for sacrifices to propitiate unfounded sins against the gods. This spiritual sickness is not peculiar to African witch-doctors or priests alone it is a universal disease common to all religious institutions.
This writer is aware that he has to make a conscious effort at this stage not to lead the reader on a deadly path. God forbid, I am not in any way recommending a revival of any religion but a revival of the knowledge of the meaning of life as each race in the world discovered it. As mentioned above, the appreciation of the force of life is an intellectual and spiritual exercise; it does not come to the idle mind but only to those who are deliberately seeking and searching for knowledge. When the seed of the desire to seek for the truth of life enters the mind of any human being, it is the first sign of a contact with the spiritual world. It is the call from the deep of life and only the spiritual ones can hear the call. Until a person hears the call, the issue that pertains to life will forever remain at the physical level of existence – eat, drink, sex, having good time, seeking honour and power, pursuing money and profits, etc.
The advise that Africans should go back to their roots in the search for the meaning of life should not be taken as condoning bloody sacrifices, internecine, secret cults, and other kinds of native political intelligence developed by lovers of power to discriminate against the sexes, strangers, and the weak and vulnerable members of society. These are the excesses of the religious leaders of primitive communities. Therefore, Africans going back to their roots must use the instrument of scientific investigations to sift out the great truths from the great lies. The secret rituals, the taboos, the superstitions of their communities should be recognised as symbols of a deeper meaning of life. What do they stand for, when were they instituted and by who? These elaborate cultural ceremonies and festivals, somehow, hide the meaning of the truth of life. It is the task of every seeker to sniff them out. A true seeker cannot be bounded by fear and superstition. In the search for the true meaning of life, every taboo must be investigated and every ritual must be considered under the light of common sense. No single stone of tradition can be left unturned by a true seeker.