I must admit, as an African, we have been left behind in seeking and searching the real truth about common aspects of our lives, origins and our existence. Worst of all, we have been conditioned to think that it is a virtue to be satisfied with a lack of understanding. Something that we give a righteous name… Faith! Even more preposterous is the fact that intellectual curiosity is frowned upon and stigmatized in the society. It’s a vice, depravity of the highest order.
We teach our children to question and develop critical thinking in school. Yet, in religious realms we ring-fence their thinking and ours too, to the teachings of a non-factual, legendary myth of Hebrew origin, aka the bible.
How did we get here?
In addition to our indoctrination, mainly into Christianity and Islam, there are very few knowledge-seekers into the complexities of life or simple questions on origins humanity. From an early age, we are not exposed to the existing scientific evidence primarily because our parents have also followed the same path. A path ridden with fear, dread and horror perpetuated by religious teachings of consequences of such thoughts in our current lives and after death. This is nothing short of religious blackmail!
It requires very little effort to dig a bit deeper into recent history of humanity and discover that much of what the bible has used to gain dominance has shrunk to literally nothing. The gaps in knowledge and understanding that require divinity are getting less and less and soon (not in my African lifetime) will be left with nothing to look up to!
Disease, famine and war have been some of the largest human calamities from time in memorial. In the ancient times, religion had always provided answers for such tragedies, when no other explanation seemed feasible. And it has served this role pretty well, with the promise of hope and a yearning for heavenly riches in our afterlife. However, the last few centuries have seen a remarkable annihilation of these misfortunes. The prospect of war is almost unthinkable to most nations. Obesity kills more people than famine and thanks to advances in modern medicine, we are living longer than any other time in humanity… unless you believe in the Hebrew legend of Methusellah J.
Despite such a remarkable contribution to humanity and advances that continue to shape our lives, we still carry the brainwashed stain of an all-knowing deity; who created the universe, but still petty to scrutinize each thought and actions of every human being on this planet. I wonder whether he does the same for millions of other species? It is remarkable to think of how we could use the same deity if the clock was turned 100 years backwards for the modern man.
Back in Time
As a doctor, you are taken back to the year 1917 at the height of 1st World War! Millions of people are dying of wound infections after bruising battles in France and Germany. The religious vicars and priests are praying for their souls and extracting their last confessions to hopefully make it to heaven. To their knowledge, God’s will be supreme and his intention is for these men to die. Period.
In today’s perspective, that would be almost unthinkable! More people died of wound infections during the 1st World War, that fatal gunshots. At that time, and to some people in the present day, death was easily explained using God and religion as a platform.
Today, such a death would possibly be considered a technicality. We would wonder why someone with trauma did not go to a hospital; what organism caused the infection? Was it isolated and cultured for microbiology? What are the best antibiotics to use in such scenario? Is there resistance to the ones that initially failed? And so on!
Past, Present & Future
The same reasoning could be used for a huge number of past diseases, natural phenomena and ‘miracles’ that could only be elucidated by quoting a deity. From lighting to malaria, earthquakes to eclipse we don’t seem to consult the holy books anymore. I’m yet to see a professional visiting the church or confessing to their cleric when inflicted with a curable disease like TB or pneumonia. If this God was all knowing, all-powerful and omnipresent, we’d turn the places of worship into places of healing with theatres, laboratories and pharmacies to adjunct the ‘creators’ services. But we don’t! Rationally, we use our intelligence for solutions that previously belong to the deity, and fail to utilize the same reasoning to look at what is possible in the future.
In retrospect, such issues and their religious rationalizations makes Christianity, Islam or any other religion look like laughingstock.
At present, we tend to ignore what we’ve learned in the past and dwell in rationalizing religion. We fill what we don’t know, ambiguity and uncertainty with a deity. Generations to come will look back and chuckle the same way we think of concepts like ‘the world is flat’, bloodletting, the sun circling around the world, polio, etc.
The future is not a concept that a majority religious bigots want to contemplate. For most, the best source of solace lies in the book of Revelation – that carries varied form of interpretation, based on fear of eternal torture & anguish.
God of the Gaps
Creationists will always seek gaps in the current understanding of such aspects of life and human origins. That said, any scientific and factual teaching cannot claim to have a full account of a stepwise progression of life from the beginning. In fact, it is quintessential for the scientific community and rational thinkers to admit ignorance and use it as a motivation to research further! A dose of ignorance and mystification is acceptable in science and no single person can claim to be all-knowing (except if you use the creationist)
Richard Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion, gives a very good analogy of creationists asking for full evidence as proof of evolution or origins of man. It would be similar to a judge asking for a complete cinematic record of the murderers actions leading up to the crime, with no missing frames. That’s outrageous and ludicrous to say the least. By default, to the mind of the creationist, any gaps in the fossil record is filled by God. This is really unfortunate and the future looks bleak to such thinking. Such a God, would have to keep shrinking every time new evidence comes to light. It is with similar attenuation that God has shriveled in most countries in Europe in parallel to humanity’s answers to these gaps.
The point is, within a population, the larger the knowledge gap in explaining our origins and other facets of our life, the larger the role that religion plays in such a society. Religion obsession with any gaps in science helps perpetuate the additional ignorance with little if no motivation of finding real truth.
My African communities have fallen prey to this. Christianity and Islam, both Abrahamic religions are barely 120 years old to the interior of Sub-Sahara Africa – with exception of East Africa where trading with Arabs and exchange of culture & language had continued for centuries. That said, we have taken up these doctrines so strongly, without questioning any rational teachings and evidence besides the holy scriptures. The laziness, lethargy and languor that infects the common man in searching for answers is concerning. Who wrote these books? How did such doctrines spread around the world? Could these be mythical stories of a single community? Etc.
Above all and most worrying is the upcoming and growing class of ‘African Intellectuals’ aka African Professionals with high level education, reasoning and perceptive ability to question such arbitrary, uninformed and outright capricious practices that shape our society. The inability to think independently of our peers and society is inherently built into our education system and social setting. As mentioned earlier, this is compounded by the social stigma of being non-virtuous if considered without faith. Faith (yes, that virtue) sounds to me like the end of knowledge. It is the point where one claims that they do not know (the gap) and don’t want to find out more (the laziness). In which case, we result into a manuscript ancient scripture written thousands of years ago – that seems to have all the answers that cannot be verified. How in the world, did we come to uphold such a practice as a virtue? Faith to me should easily be referred to as the ‘default lazy gap’.
What is Evolution?
To illustrate this phenomenon, I recently challenged a group of friends to match the creationist story vs the Darwinian explanation of the origins of man. Most (read all) are aware of the creation story and use it as a reference to how man came into being. This is perfectly fine because to the best of their knowledge, that is all they know and have been taught. Then came the uncomfortable and uneasy part… someone please explain to me the origins of man from a Darwinian perspective?
None, could even begin to mumble the simplest fundamentals of natural selection. Mainly because of the lack of knowledge in this subject matter, but also because of the fear that a ‘deity’ is looking down on their thoughts and action – the result of which is eternal fire! To most, despite their high cognitive and perceptual abilities, could only site man evolving from monkeys? WTF!?
If that is what these highly powered brains know about evolution, what of the common man in the street? No wonder the concept of deity and religion continue to plague our minds like a chronic illness.
Ignorance is definitely no bliss! I rest my case.