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
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.