Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Atheist says Africa needs God

This is a truly fascinating article, one I picked up while back in England this Christmas. Here's an extract:

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
Thanks to Biblical Theology for finding the link.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I was not moved - I think he missed the point of his own observations. It is not just Christianity that is good for people - it is religion. Religions provide hope, reason for being, answers to questions and codes for living well together and spiritual fulfillment. I think his experience has been limited to witnessing Christian evangelism.

Phil Sumpter said...

I agree that religion in the general sense of the wrold can do the things you mention. Yet, I think you'd agree that there are different kinds of religions and different strands within one religion, all having their own effects on human life, both positive and negative. Thus, I would talk of "religion" in a qualified sense, "which religion? What strand"? As you know Christian and Muslim fundamentalism can both be damaging, and even then, damaging in different ways (Christians creat mental ghettoes and support dodgy foreign policies, Muslims practise military conquest and install inhumane legal systems).

This article talks of one strand within one religion: Protestant Christianity (probably of a Free Church variety). He details the actual content of their doctrine and demonstrates the pragmatic effects. Different doctrine, different effects. So I think your view that "all religion per se" can achieve similar results needs to give the kind of detailed and nuanced evidence he gives.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say "all religion" did I. And in order to make my point I did not think I had to qualify it. Even primal religions have the qualities which achieve the same effects. But there are other effects from qualities of other religions (like for example Buddhism) which are equally as 'good' for people. This article, whatever its objective, has been hijacked by Christians as 'proof' that Christianity is the best. Even moderate Islam of the kind that is, contra Mr Muslims against Sharia, practiced here achieves a glowing, peaceful convert with a desire to live well with others and love God etc.

Sally D said...

A friend sent me that article and my blood has been boiling ever since.

What patronising, colonialist, disgusting clap trap!!

Clearly the writer thinks that something (Christianity) that is untrue and unworthy of his own attention is nonetheless good enough for benighted African savages. Has he not read, for example, Steve Biko on Black dignity?

Decades of work go by in politics, social anthropology, sociology and related studies in Africa, and all we've got to say is send in the missionaries??

I'm sorry, Mr Fashionable Atheist, but if it's not good enough to change YOUR life then it certainly isn't good enough to change the lives of people in Africa or anywhere else.


Sally D
South Africa

Phil Sumpter said...

Sally said:

I'm sorry, Mr Fashionable Atheist, but if it's not good enough to change YOUR life then it certainly isn't good enough to change the lives of people in Africa or anywhere else.

I dig that! Great perspective. Thanks.