Standing on the shoulders of giants


When one reads Mbithi’s African religion and philosophy, you get the idea among many of his claims that Africa was and is too religious. In fact, when I finished off the book, the thought that there would have been skeptics among our ancestors became so doubtful. So you can imagine the joy I found while reading Odera Oruka’s Trends in contemporary African Philosophy.

First, Paul Mboya, though not a skeptic had this to say

I believe God exists. But no one is capable of knowing what God is. Those who claim to do so are wrong.

Next, Muganda Okwako says

God talk is the gossip of the lazy. If god exists, he can only help god, not man(esp. the Africans). The black man should forget religious fanaticism and learn to try to achieve great things.

And finally, Njeru who said

I am not a Christian. Christianity I saw as the white man’s bluff, his witchcraft in Africa.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

28 thoughts on “Standing on the shoulders of giants

  1. john zande says:

    God talk is the gossip of the lazy.

    What a line!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. God talk is the gossip of the cr/lazy.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. judyt54 says:

    God talk is the talk of the easily convinced, easily led, and in the long run easily fleeced.

    Like

  4. basenjibrian says:

    Detective Thomas Papania: You figure it’s all a scam, huh? All them folks? They just wrong?

    Rust Cohle: Oh yeah! Been that way since one monkey looked at the sun and told the other monkey, “He said for you to give me your fucking share.” People… so goddamn frail they’d rather put a coin in the wishing well than buy dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Swarn Gill says:

    I wonder if this is also good evidence to demonstrate to those who try to claim that Christianity is the basis of Western achievement, that Christianity is no driver of science and innovation, because if it was, countries who have had Christianity hoisted upon them would all being going through golden ages of enlightenment. I know you aren’t talking specifically about Christianity here, but I think this holds true for religion in general. The only real connection I can see is that clergy had more free time and were literate, and more than anything this led to philosophical ideas and scientific discoveries…but had secular institutions of learning existed in the past, this would have just as easily if not more easily led to similar advancements in knowledge.

    Religion, particular the dogma, it seems, is far more of a suppressor to the advancement of knowledge than an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      SoM used to insist that only where christianity rules supreme is there development and civilization or something to that effect. I think, it was only a coincidence. The other day I reviewed a book on this blog that showed how Christianity at the very beginning was opposed to art, to learning and the efforts put to destroy ancient stores of knowledge. It has been argued that the Arabs saved most of those works and only later did not monks come in

      Liked by 1 person

      • basenjibrian says:

        How does SoM explain China? Or India? Or Japan? Certainly areas with deep civilization and development.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Swarn Gill says:

          Yes, but they fell apart long ago. The colonization by European and the economic colonization if the U.S. certainly dominates the modern world. For him those long ago fallen empires are an example of their failure to see the true religion. I’m not saying I agree, but that is likely what he would argue.

          Like

          • basenjibrian says:

            I think we will find that the era of American dominance was…QUITE short lived. (What empire other than one in steep cultural and economic decline would anoint a TRUMP as God-King). China has had high culture for 3,000+ years. India, not much shorter. And they are definitely rising.

            Somewhat off-topic, but right wing westerners such as SoM tend to have too high regard for our vaunted “civilization”. It appears “we” are inevitably crashing the ecosystem. Other types of cultures may be the ultimate winners if modern catabolic capitalism (the Leviathan) fails as it appears prepared to do.

            This is a fascinating discussion of cultural knowledge over at the inimitable Slate Star Codex. Too often we westerners sneer at “primitive” tribes (example: The Hebrew scribes were intelligent, learned men, not the vaunted goat herders too many Village Atheists deride). Just look at the skills, the knowledge, the cultural traditions, the deep understanding of local environments described here:

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/04/book-review-the-secret-of-our-success/

            I would argue that it is the modern “western” office drone, or teenage Intagrammer that is the real unskilled primitive.

            I cannot recommend this site enough. Despite a whiff of libertarian, Scott always finds the most interesting “stuff”.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Swarn Gill says:

              I agree with you. After another 5000 years we may have a different picture of the role of various cultural philosophies and how they changed the world. I agree with you and what you shared in the link, that we might say that we got a bunch of things right here in the west, but we also got a bunch of thing wrong. More importantly the foundation for which western philosophy (religious or otherwise) comes from other cultures. Christian ideas don’t represent much new under the sun.

              One of my favorite books is Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, which does a fantastic job showing how much the rise of civilizations is a matter of luck. And even then it still took a long time for anything to be made of that good fortune. The difference being that those “luckier” geographic regions developed at a faster pace. People like SoM are blind to this reality just as the first Europeans were who landed on the “New World”. Diamond paints the contrast between the Spaniards and the Incas in terms of technology, but also immunity. The Europeans had no idea why natives would be so weak to disease and so far behind technologically and simply assumed that they must be “lesser humans”. As your link points out this was only through century upon century of evolutionary change. Not because of some grand idea in their cultural ideology that drove them. Diamond who is an evolutionary biologists talks about how painfully long it took Europe, India, and China to not be killed easily by the diseases themselves. Although I’m no historian, based on the sort of death rate that came from the early days of agriculture this is also when religion was able to gain such a stronghold on society because there was so much death to what was seemingly invisible forces that this made societies desperate to hang on to some philosophy that gave them hope beyond this life.

              I do think that having an honest of understanding for how we arrived where we are has value in moving us forward. It does not mean that we can fix things in an instant, but I do feel that if those Europeans who came over to the New World had understood evolution and the thesis to Guns, Germs, and Steel that less useful knowledge would have been lost. Even as sophisticated as the scientific method is, we still see that when mathematics demonstrates something to be true, to empirically prove that concept takes the work of numerous scientists and sometimes over several generations to get it right. This is an important part of science that people forget…we might be impressed by a single genius like Einstein, but for much of Einstein’s work to be proven to be true, took the work of many who were not geniuses, but who were still meticulous and who slowly improved upon methodology, and slogged through mounds of data and calculations. But somewhere over that timeline is a scientist who has it wrong and won’t give up on that wrong idea, somewhere is a scientist who has fudged his data to gain recognition, somewhere is a scientist who had it right, but who was deterred from that path by an older mentor who thought they understood things better….there is a slew of individual personalities and only through the collective over space and time does the right idea finally come to the fore.

              Like

              • makagutu says:

                I don’t know what it was about Guns Germs and Steel that didn’t impress me. I need to go back to the time I read that book to recall. Though it was generally well written.

                Like

          • makagutu says:

            Exactly. This is how SoM would say it.
            (We are channeling som)

            Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          SoM would tell you those only developed once they interacted with the Christian world

          Like

      • Swarn Gill says:

        It’s not surprising. I think ultimately knowledge is the undoing of any religion…unfortunately some portion of the people in a religion must be literate and knowledgeable in order to effectively manipulate. Which makes their deception all the more egregious. There are a number of examples in Christian history (I assume this is true for other religion histories) that ideas and philosophies they chose try and suppress competing philosophies, or keep people in the dark, actually turned out to have the reverse impact in the long run. I would argue that there is a natural return to logic over faith in the long term. (in contradiction to the tweet you posted on your latest blog piece).

        Like

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