In conducting an analysis of the many reasons Black men and women in this country (America) and around the world are unable to unify, the topic of religion can’t be avoided. In fact, the more one discusses the topic, the more one comes to realize just how dangerous and divisive religion has been to Pan-Africanism.
Religion Promotes Division
I’m a Muslim minister….Islam is my religion, but I believe my religion is my personal business. It governs my personal life, my personal morals. And my religious philosophy is personal between me and the God in whom I believe; just as the religious philosophy of these others is between them and the God in whom they believe.
And this is best this way. Were we to come out here discussing religion, we’d have too many differences from the outstart and we could never get together. So today, though Islam is my religious philosophy, my political, economic, and social philosophy is Black Nationalism. You and I — As I say, if we bring up religion we’ll have differences; we’ll have arguments; and we’ll never be able to get together. But if we keep our religion at home, keep our religion in the closet, keep our religion between ourselves and our God, but when we come out here, we have a fight that’s common to all of us against an enemy who is common to all of us. – El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)
Brother Malcolm advised us well. Anyone with any sense can understand how religion over the centuries has served more as a divisive element than as a unifying one. One can also bear witness to the conflict that inevitably arises when one religion comes into contact with another.
Religion Permits Atrocities
…in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.
- Deuteronomy 20:16-17, New International Version (NIV)
Religion permits awful people to do awful things under the guise of obeying the will of the Lord.Take the cases of Boko Haram, the recent and ongoing destruction of Timbuktu, and the rise of bloodshed in Africa .
Boko Haram (translated as “Western education is sinful”), whose official name is People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad, is a militant Muslim organisation based in Nigeria. The organization opposes science, technology, and man-made laws. And, of course, any other religion but Islam.
Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001, the organisation seeks to establish sharia law in the country, and has declared war on every other religious groupin the area – bombing churches, carrying out assassination attempts, and murdering civilians arbitrarily. In 2011, Boko Haram was responsible for at least 450 killings in Nigeria. It was also reported that they had been responsible for over 620 deaths over the first 6 months of 2012. In the first few years of operations 10,000 people are reported to have died.
Boko Haram is, of course, based on the religious teachings of the Koran, and justify their actions based on their adherence to the orders of Allah. The Koran is very clear in its promotion of atrocities committed against “non-believers”…
“[We] shall let them live awhile, and then shall drag them to the scourge of the Fire. Evil shall be their fate” (2:126)
“Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage. . . . [I]f they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers”(2:190–93)
“Believers, do not make friends with any but your own people. They will spare no pains to corrupt you. They desire nothing but your ruin. Their hatred is evident from what they utter with their mouths, but greater is the hatred which their breasts conceal” (3:118).
I could continue, but I will allow you to examine the Koran in full for yourself.
The atrocities that religion promote are not limited to human life. We will never know how much knowledge has been lost to those who destroyed it because it offended their God. Namely, Muslim clerics have called for the destruction of the Pyramids of Egypt, and across Northern Africa. Backed by Islamic militants, these religious fanatics have also begun the destruction of some of the most important parts of Black history – the sacred scrolls and tombs of Timbuktu.
Islamist militants consider these shrines and the books inside of them as idolatrous and thus banned by Islam. These priceless books, whose subjects cover every topic of human endeavor from astronomy and navigation to politics and African history, are indicative of the high level of civilization attained by West Africans during the Middle Ages and early modern period. It is even rumored that some of the scrolls taken from the Great Library of Alexandria were taken to Timbuktu and copied.
Unfortunately, the knowledge contained within them are gone forever – thanks to religion.
While Muslim-Christian tensions are to be found in many countries across the world, Africa is in the unique position of having huge blocs of followers of both faiths across most countries. Moreover, while much of the Muslim population in the West is made up of migrants, in Africa these are indigenous people’s who share a common history of slavery, oppression and colonialism with their Christian counterparts.
If continent-wide efforts at inter-religious dialogue are not given priority, together with conscious attempts to protect civilians and cultural treasures from religious psychos, then religious conflict may well be Africa’s undoing and forever remove from us the possibility of a United Africa.
Religion Promotes Distorted Rationality
One of the best known examples of religiously promoted distortion of rationality comes from the Christian story of Ham, Shem, and Japeth. In short, the Bible premises the existence of three major races of human beings:
- The Black race – Negro
- The White race – Caucasian
- The Yellow race – Oriental
and these three races came from the three sons of Noah following the Great Flood:
Specifically, according to this theory:
- Blacks came from Ham
- Whites came from Shem
- Yellows came from Japheth
In the Biblical story, Noah was found drunk and naked by his son, Ham, who did nothing to cover his father. Shem and Japeth then entered the tent of their father and covered him. When he awoke and found out what happened, Noah cursed Ham. Heres the verse from Genesis 9:20:
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24 ¶ And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
This parable was used in the Bible to justify the subjection of the Canaanites to the Israelites, but was later distorted by Christians and Jews to become a curse of, and explanation for, black skin. For centuries after the exposure of Blacks to Christianity, we have been taught in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that we are the God forsaken descendants of Ham, and the color of our skin is a curse.
The psychological effects of Christianity on the Black race have been as damning as the proverbial curse of Ham. We know from psychological studies that “in the face of challenging life circumstances, individuals with low self-esteem are prone to depression because they lack sufficient coping resources, whereas those with high self-esteem are able to cope effectively and consequently avoid spiraling downward into depression.” The only coping mechanism that Christianity provides to buffer against this is prayer, more submission to Christian doctrine, and “putting ones trust in the Lord”.
There are several other examples of religious distortion that I have talked previously discussed. These include:
- The use of religion to distort marriage (read: Solutions for Black America: The Economic Case for Polygamy)
- The use of religion to justify slavery (read: What Do We Know About Christianity?)
- The use of religion to exploit its followers (read: How Prosperity Theology Is Robbing Us Blind)
There is no doubt about the fact that religion completely alters ones view of reality, if we define reality as the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. If you seek the truth and the clarity of consciousness, then you must abandon false notions that religion has indoctrinated you with, and see reality for what it really is.
I Say All That To Say This
Religion and spirituality are both beautiful aspects of the human experience. They have their place in helping us mortal men and women orient ourselves with the Universe, and our origins. But my relationship with my creator is my business. Too often, movements are short-circuited because we let our religious beliefs divide us.
As Brother Malcolm said, my religious philosophy is personal between me and the God in whom I believe; just as the religious philosophy of others is between them and the God in whom they believe. The 5 Percenter who forces himself upon “non-believers”, the Islamic militant who takes it upon himself to kill “infidels”, and the Hebrew Israelite who preaches the “word of God” infused with his personal biases and bigotry are all as much a threat to Black unity and solidarity as the New Jim Crow.
No true Pan-African, no true unifier, and no true liberator can achieve their aims with religion alone. Our destiny in the hereafter is largely unknown. But our destiny in the here and now is crystal clear – and that is a free, redeemed, and unified geopolitical Africa. One is a matter of perspective, the other is a matter of fact.
Keep it in the closet and lets come together.