Perhaps I should post this in the African Atheists group, but I'll begin here. I just stumbled across this infuriating article:

"As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God"
by Matthew Parris
The Times
December 27, 2008

"Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset"

The subheading alone is enough to make me hurl. The rank dishonesty in framing the question in this manner could not be more worse as an exercise in mendacious propaganda. Perhaps longing for the good old days of British colonialism might be worse, given that a brazen nostalgia for imperialism has resurfaced in recent years in right-wing propaganda.

The author claims to be an atheist who nevertheless thinks that Christianity has worked wonders for Africa, both in terms of missionary work and in terms of the improved outlook of Africans themselves. Christianity is claimed to instill a much healthier attitude than traditional African beliefs. Most of the respondents to this article, effusively pro-Christian, agree.

Even if there is some surface truth to these impressionistic generalizations, they vastly distort the underlying reality of what has made Africa what it is, not to mention what needs to be done to improve the well-being of Africans, which is about economics, technology, infrastructure, education, and politics, not the religious brainwashing that accompanies do-gooder social service gestures. There is something sick in the entire history of the human species, its self-abasement before its own helplessness and the transmission of fear-based world views and practices to its progeny. Being in thrall to natural forces "evolves" to a higher-level totemism of thrall to empire. How sick must a person a half world away from Rome, Mecca, or Jerusalem be to bow down to the distant gods of one's oppressors, whose authority is based neither on reason or evidence but naked power?

As for missionaries, they have in general a deplorable historical record, but it is worthwhile to look more carefully at the motives and perspectives of those who really are do-gooders. Perhaps you have heard of Christopher Hitchens' expose of Mother Theresa, The Missionary Position. But that is a little off the beaten path from what concerns us at the moment.

I have a book buried somewhere--I'll dig it out and give you the title--published circa 1962. You have of course heard what a great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer was. Well, this book is a collection of essays on Schweitzer as perceived by Africans themselves, who paint a somewhat less flattering picture. Schweitzer, so these folks say, had a paternalistic attitude towards Africans, viewing them as children that had to come under the tutelage of Europeans. Sure, the African is a brother, but a younger, less mature brother, who needs the guidance of the European colonizer.

Such is the kindly face of white colonialism and racism. But worse perhaps is the internalization of mystifying religious ideologies by the very people who want to assert themselves and stand on their own two feet. The prevalence of clergy among African intellectuals perhaps is not surprising given opportunities for access to formal education, but it is no less sickening.

That someone could get away with publishing rubbish like this in this day and age in the British press is a sad indicator of the failures, defeats, and corruption of the African liberation movements, which included many prominent secularists, let us not forget. The glorification of religion following the wane of a revolutionary period is a chief indicator of the global forced march to the right.

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Replies to This Discussion

Many of Africas wars are reiligious. Christianity has rediculed us. They will never be able to give back what they took away, my history.
As an African myself, I am appalled at this article. I've been in America for over 6 years (Since I was 12). I can tell you from experience that Christianity or religion in general has created a divide in Africa.

This video will show you what is going on in most African countries, if not all.

I don't have my copy at hand, but looking at the Library of Congress database, I'm pretty sure this is the book:

Desai, Ram, ed. Christianity in Africa as Seen by Africans. Denver: A. Swallow, 1962. 135 pp.

I also confess that I find attempts to Africanize Christianity give me the willies, too. See my essay:

Book Review: Between Tides by V.Y. Mudimbe
For me one of the more glaring examples of religons ill affects among Africans is the rebel insurgency in the Congo, the Lord's Resistance Army, led by a man named Joseph Coney. This band of brigands is engaged in committing terrible crimes against defenceless men,women and children all in the name of Christianity. Religon ruins and distorts innocent peoples lives where ever it is found.
I think that the Catholic church's stance on condoms and there relationship to preventing HIV/AIDS is bad enough, but to actively enforce that in the part of the world that has the worst time dealing with HIV/AIDS. Is immoral and if it was a Western company it would be banned in every country. What these people need is truth as best we know it, and a helping hand.
The idea that all Africa needs is more of the education shunning religion is truly absurd. History has shown that religion especially Christianity and Islam have and still is ransacking the minds of African people. It is true that the indigenous religions maybe no better; the indigenous religions are also hindering the progressive growth of the African people. Moreover, you are right, all African needs are “economics, technology, infrastructure, education, and (good) politics,” not an unseen, unproven God that does absolutely nothing for his own.
I finally unearthed my old copy of:

Desai, Ram, ed. Christianity in Africa as Seen by Africans. Denver: A. Swallow, 1962. 135 pp.

Table of Contents 4

Preface 5

Acknowledgments 8

1. Christianity in Danger, Ram Desai 11

A. Background 11
B. An Historical Perspective 12
C. Africans--The Early Missionary Image 13
D. Motivations behind Conversion 14
E. The Role of the Missionary in the Conquest of Africa 16
F. Missionary Contributions--Real or Apparent? 18
G. Positive Contributions of Christianity 27
H. Christianity and African Nationalism 29
I. Islam--The Cross and the Crescent 33

II. African Life and Ideals, Price Nyabongo 37

III. Religious Life in Africa, Mbonu Ojike 49

IV. Christianity in Africa, Mbonu Ojike 60

V. Imperialism and the Spiritual Freedom, Ako Adjei 67

VI. Christianity and Clitoridectomy, Jomo Kenyatta 84

VII. Christianity and the Bantu, D. D. T. Jabavubu 89

VIII. Christianity and Ashanti, K. A. Busia 94

IX. The New Religion in East Africa, Jomo Kenyatta 99

X. Albert Schweitzer--An African Image, Ndabaningi Sithole 103

XI. The Contribution of African Culture to Christian Worship, J. H. Nketia 109

XII. The Christian Church and African Heritage, E. A. Asamoa 124


This book dates from the period of decolonization, hence the emphasis on debunking the "civilizing mission" of Christianity. I remember only two essays from reading this decades ago. Jomo Kenyatta's ridiculous defense of clitoridectomy earned my disrespect of him. And I recall Albert Schweitzer's racism, which justifies colonialism.
Now on my web site:

Albert Schweitzer—An African Image
By Ndabaningi Sithole
Having Christianity in Africa is the starting of a Divide and Conquer technique to eat up all the land in the name of WHAT???? CAPITALISM!! yea I said it!
I don't know if any of his films are available on DVD, but Ousmane Sembene of Senegal is perhaps Africa's most important filmmaker. A propos of this discussion, you should see his film Ceddo if you can.

It's about the competing imperialisms of Christianity and Islam, but mostly about the forcing of Islam ontp a native African way of life in the 18th century.

Sembene's later film Guelwaar takes place in a contemporary setting, featuring the conflict between African Christians and Muslims as the discovery is made that a Christian was accidentally buried in a Muslim cemetery. Sembene attempts to demonstrate that a concept of Senegalese nationality should take precedence over both religions, which after all are of alien origin anyway.



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