Atheist says Africa needs God

Here’s an interesting essay from The Times of London. A “confirmed atheist” says that Africa (location of some of the deepest and most persistent poverty in the world) doesn’t need secular aid – it needs Christian missionaries. Matthew Parris is a former Member of Parliament who grew up in South Africa and has seen much of the continent and its troubles first-hand.

His basic argument is that tribal culture promotes maintenance of the status quo and stifles any entrepreneurial attempts to make things better. Christianity, he says, changes people’s hearts and gives them the confidence they need to improve their lives. But a closer reading of the essay shows that it isn’t God that Parris is promoting, it’s Western individualism, as preached by Protestant Christianity. Here’s a quote:

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being … offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

I have no doubt that’s true, if perhaps overly generalized. But here’s another quote that’s relevant to our society:

tribal belief … suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe.

Our society has gone too far in the individualist direction. We think first and foremost of our own needs and wants – if that harms others, it’s someone else’s problem. If our addiction to oil funds terrorism and fuels global warming, I don’t care as long as I can fill up my SUV.

I wonder if some of the tribes would agree to a missionary exchange???

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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.


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