Africans are the most religious people in the world today, existing entirely in a religious paradigm. It maintains an unprecedented all-encompassing hold on society and individual alike in the continent. Abrahamic religions constitute the largest denominations in modern day Africa with roughly 40% subscribing to Christianity and 45% adherents of Islam. They replaced traditions and cultures along with myriad of uniquely African practices that sustained the population for thousands of years. When there was no knowledge, when science or government are not yet developed as institutions, religions dictated all events in ancient Africa – and still do so today. Although the overwhelming majority identifies with either Christianity or Islam, indigenous religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism also exist in Africa.
Religious indoctrination of impressionable youth commences very early for African children whose parents ensure memorization of verses that they may not fully comprehend. A staggering number of children only receive religious teaching and rarely obtain non-religious formal education. The population disproportionately spends entire lifetime – from cradle to grave – on religion starting from the formative years where alternatives may not be available – usually by force and compulsion and not by choice or conscience. Children are taught early on by the state, family and society not to think outside the box of religiosity. They are discouraged to question, challenge or examine religious content. Faith of the family dwarfs facts and individual worth measured by the degree of religiousness. Being irreligious in incurably religious Africa is tantamount to being enemy of the state; it is highly frowned upon and potentially dangerous.
The society, the government, the family and the individual function as a religious unit. Educational institutions serve as religious indoctrination centers where missionaries from the West and Arab financiers compete for influence and recruit new converts. The countryside is littered with churches and mosques. The intent here is not to educate the African. In this context, Africa does not appear to be considerably different from when the Europeans and Arabs initially conquered it. It is more religious than a century ago and subsequently vastly lags in social and economic progress.
In Africa, intuitive thinking substitutes critical thought through religiosity, leading the population to invest substantial emotional capital in religion. Intuitive thinking relies on intuition rather than critical reflection and accentuates belief in gods. Cognitive thinking abilities decrease belief in gods (Shenhav, A., Rand, D.G., and Greene, September 2011). Prolonged religious studying in formative years decreases cognitive reasoning abilities. Thus, Africans are more likely to reason emotionally because of this way of thinking. Discussing this taboo subject often invites confrontation. A subject that has contributed significantly to African conflicts (religion has caused more wars than anything else in history has) and gestates poverty and ignorance. Where poverty and ignorance remain prevalent, religion proliferates, and vice versa. If religions developed countries, Africa’s would have been superpower. However, Africans appear blinded by religion and consequently detached from reality.
All nations and continents were once highly religious and superstitious per Africa of today but matured from religious domination. For example, the West went from Christian nations to secular democracies. As church and state separated, it ushered an era of economic, social and political advancement leading to the current technological pinnacle. Increased educational attainment cultivated the decline of religiosity in Western civilization. Education has proven the enemy of religion, it has been studied extensively without fear, and exposed to the scrutiny of critical thinking religion in the West is rendered irrational blind faith to mythical supernatural beings. Scientific discoveries have repudiated religious myths. To a certain extent, it is viewed as immoral for its historical promotion of slavery, conflict, human sacrifice, celestial dictatorship and mandatory love/hate relationship in the concept of good vs. evil.
Children in Western nations are not susceptible to the level of religious indoctrinations African children experience, secular Western education promulgates critical thought and factual basis in place of intuitive thinking. They are encouraged to exercise independent analytical thought that African children are inoculated from by religions. In the Middle East, where Islam spread from, many oil-rich nations send hundreds of thousands of their youth to the West to obtain modern education. The top ten universities in the West now have campuses in the Gulf region. This, while simultaneously exporting dangerous Wahabi ideology to African (and other) Muslim nations. It will ensure decades of religious conflicts, malfeasance and backwardness. Equally important, the continuation of the phenomenon of curtailment of critical thought.
Africans – engaged in a life long celestial battle of good vs. evil – typically point out the flaws of developed nations when faced with plausible explanations of the detrimental effects of religions, appear mummified by “holy” texts, and expect a messiah to come down from the clouds and solve all problems for them. Large numbers anticipate that the second coming/caliphate would happen in their lifetime. They proudly proclaim that (whichever religion conquerors imposed) is a blessing when evidence suggests that it has greatly hindered development and probably a “curse”. The behavior of the African mind on religion presents remarkable evidence of its hold on the continent; people become euphorically self-righteous, absolutists and highly incorrigible. It increased delusions, hallucinations and pathological disorders leading to fanaticism and in some instances murder and genocide. The pattern is similar from Somalia to Nigeria, from South Africa to Algeria.
Religiosity has not moved the human developmental indexes for Africans where children are programmed to think as though advancement is something for others to strife for. It has stunted the healthy skepticism required for a progressive society. The continent is still evolving and has not yet reached the age of enlightenment. Days are spent on seeking miracle healings through telepathic communications, praying for redemption, performing Stone Age rituals to stave off potential demons and to ward off diseases. For instance, while the world seeks medicine for the AIDS ravaging the continent, Africa religious institutions stipulate the disease is consequence of sinning and god(s) are punishing the sinners. People pray for rain rather than learn to purify water, only to have the sun scorch crops. When prayers and gods do not deliver, it is insinuated that people are not praying enough. It is an intellectual dishonesty, one similar to the common African phrase that “if the conquerors not come we would still be worshipping fictitious gods”, and the thinking that all knowledge comes from “holy” books.
It is common occurrence to witness two Africans who, one believing the Bible from the accident of birth and the other believing the Quran by the same accident, each label the other an infidel. African diasporas are often flabbergasted when they encounter Europeans or Arabs whose lives religion has little relevance or influence. Africans are so religious that they send missionaries to Europe to revitalize religion in developed countries.
In Africa religion is a closed book, not an open book of discoveries of the wonders of life. Leaders utilize it to gain and maintain power, it is a proven weapon on the vulnerable, and people often fall prey to it. The continent consists of societies where people attempt to live like the Arabs of the 7th century, in which people aim for high priesthood in Europe, and children conditioned to think that they were born with religious dogma when it is clearly a learned behavior. This is similar to suggesting that child is born a communist, a capitalist, a socialist or a patriot. However, these are all dogmas, like religion, that a person is not born with but indoctrinated with as a child. A person would die for a country in the same way they would for a religion, or any other dogma, for that matter. It is essentially the thinking that a particular dogma purveys that becomes either an asset or a liability. Ultimately, though, any dogma that inhibits healthy skepticism is harmful
There are many problems plaguing the most religious continent in the world and they deserve a long overdue penetrating expose. Religion has taken its toll on the African mind; it has crippled its ability to reason, to think clearly, to understand itself, to progress and to contribute to the world in proportion to its potential. Africa must initiate an honest debate regarding the subject matter. The mind-killing fear that sustains religious domination lifted and the youth given the opportunity to think logically and forwardly. It must come out of the box of religiosity, not necessarily become irreligious, to experience and enjoy secular values such as human rights and freedom of expression that religions stifle. Moreover, the continent must establish a coherent cultural and political discourse devoid of religiosity and comprehensively analyze its way to advancement. It must encourage free thought, enlightenment, and African free thinkers not suppressed. Religion does contain positive elements just as it contains negatives. Both warrant equal analysis without prejudice.
Mahad M. Kooshin