Atheist: “Africa Needs God”

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This Times Online (UK) article entitled, “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God” (sub-headlined: “Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem – the crushing passivity of the people’s mindset”)  is already over a month old, but I found it to be such an amazing admission from a self-avowed atheist that I couldn’t resist passing it on.

I’m not convinced that Mr. Parris, the author of the article, has the analysis of why Christianity is having such a positive impact upon the African scene quite right; indeed, he seems to overlook the answer that the Christians would more likely give–that God himself is responsible for some of these changes. Yet his frank admission that the Christian religion has something to do with it is, well, quite disarming, especially in light of the newer militant atheism (i.e., the so-called “New Atheism” associated with Hitchens, Dawkins, etc.)

Whatever else he has to say, Parris’s closing line is highly perceptive, if not prophetic: “Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.”

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2 thoughts on “Atheist: “Africa Needs God”

  1. Please understand that no Atheist speaks for all Atheists. I think what Mr. Parris was saying is that Christianity is a more peaceful superstition than those espoused by Africans today, and that the missionaries who administer to Africans are trying to teach peace and love, rather than tribalism and hate.

    I disagree with Mr. Parris. I don’t think Africans need to replace several superstitions with one, and they certainly don’t need bibilical literalism, which would only lead to executions for relatively minor offenses, the subjugation of women (which they already have now in most African countries), and a hostile environment for science, which is something they need to advance in today’s world. However, many of the missionaries are Catholics, who are contextualists, for the most part; they have embraced science and teach children properly. I don’t like the indoctrination into religion as a component of it, but at least they’re doing some good in other ways. Of course, we’re talking about an institution that covered up child rape; I despise the Catholic Church now for that reason, but I won’t heap that charge onto the missionaries. The fault lies with the Vatican.

    What Africans needed was for the rest of the world to stop interfering in their affairs and creating artificial borders. They still need it. China, Saudi Arabia, Europe, the United States–all still interfere in African affairs, to the detriment of Africans. A few hundred years ago, Europe made it possible for a slave trade to thrive on that continent. Christianity certainly didn’t help the slaves that ended up in America, whose descendents are still feeling the effects of having been in bondage, then freed without being given anything to help them start their new lives. They had to beg for jobs, often from their former owners. They met with strong resistance from racists when they tried to organize, run for office, or even get ahead in life. Segregation laws made their economic advancement difficult all the way until the 1960s–and the loving Christians who surrounded them were responsible.

    I say Mr. Parris spoke without thinking, but I don’t know him, and I know full well how the press likes to quote people out of context and get half the story.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Greg. I was in no way intending to give the impression that Parris was somehow speaking for all atheists, though one gets the impression from some of the “louder” atheists around these days (e.g, Hitchens, Dawkins, etc.) that they think they do. Parris’s viewpoint (and yours) are evidence to the contrary.

    Without hesitation I affirm that not everything done in the name of God or Jesus Christ is automatically good just because it is baptized with as being “Christian.” The history of Christianity has more than enough examples of such injustices. Parris, however, speaking as an atheist is at the very least willing to admit that not everything done in the name of Christianity is bad either. Just as there are fundamentalist Christians who see everything only in black and white, so there are a good number of fundamentalist atheists who automatically assume that anything even smacking of being “Christian” must automatically be denounced as some kind of “evil.” Parris clearly, in my mind, does not fall into the fundamentalist camp of atheism.

    (BTW, I’m not positive of the origin of the terminology of “fundamentalist atheism,” but I believe it was coined by Chris Hedges in his book, “I Don’t Believe in Atheists.” See: http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Believe-Atheists-Chris-Hedges/dp/141656795X )

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