What this blog is about


If you have followed this blog for long you will notice a recurrent theme, addressing religion. I believe if we can address the contradictions and some of the doubtful claims of religion, we can be on a path to addressing ignorance in our world. Some of the beliefs people hold, like being visited by ghosts, are only possible because they have similar such beliefs in religion.

For example, you should question why your religion can convince you that it’s pious to fast during the day and binge eat at night, or avoid eating some food on Friday but eat it all the other days. Your religious teacher has convinced you that the god you worship is everywhere but you need to, even if poor, to build an extravagant place of worship where this good lord will hear your prayers more.

The worst form of a decadence must be the belief that your god is pleased when a person is killed for blasphemy. A young woman has lost her life in Nigeria because her righteous classmates acting on behalf of the prophet, first stoned her then burnt her to death for what? Saying some not nice things about the prophet.

Elsewhere, it seems The google is helping end religion, one old lady at a time.

I don’t write on alien abduction not because it is not off the rails, but because it is such a North American problem that makes no sense in my village.

If there is some absurd belief you think i should write on, perhaps just start it as a niche project. Life is short. Time, what is it even. And interests are many.

Have a pleasant week.

About makagutu

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

43 thoughts on “What this blog is about

  1. ladysighs says:

    This old lady has done her part. She has sung her part. She has rhymed her part. If poems could get rid of gods, they would have been gone years ago.
    But I might have to start repeating myself before I’m abducted by aliens.

    Like

  2. Are you sure? I thought this blog was about me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      You are the second reason I blog. You bring both humour and sarcasm and a bit of reality, only a bit.

      Like

      • I thought this blog was about recipes for cooking Christian babies. Hmmm….I musta gotten confused. I needs more baby meat 🍖!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          You are not confused. This is associated with the first one. It is a two pronged approach. Educate the adults. Eat the children. in the end, you solve the problem.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            With my faith tradition, that policy is unlikely to succeed since more than 90% of its followers come from outside the tradition. Offspring of adherents have no automatic right to membership. They must apply in exactly the same manner as everyone else. Most offspring do not seek membership, and why should they? As children and young adults, they absorb the values of their parents, and apply those values in whatever way seems appropriate for them. It doesn’t require religion to do so.

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  3. Barry says:

    Well, my friend, you and I have very different attitudes towards religion, but I won’t hold that against you 🙂

    To be clear, I am opposed to any religious belief where the adherents declare that that belief applies to everyone. But then the same applies to economic beliefs and practices – especially Capitalism (with a capital “C”) and corporate geed, extreme political ideology, cultural intolerance and racism, and even straight out ego and greed. A 10 year civil war not far from NZ was the result of multinational corporate “interests” running roughshod over the wishes of a community. The same has happened throughout the continent of Africa on occasions too frequent to mention, and still continues today.

    While there’s no doubt that religious intolerance is behind that horrific death, perhaps I might compare that to a very common belief in the US that is often held with a religious-like fervour: that guns are necessary for one’s safety. That belief results in around a hundred school shootings per year; 8,000 children being shot each year of which 1,500 die from their wounds. To me that is more horrific. They they are both the result of ignorance and stupidity, and inspired by a particular set of beliefs and those who lead and promote those beliefs.

    Perhaps even more telling is that while the Nigerian incident made headlines, most of those US deaths are reported only in the obituary columns. Perhaps that fact alone is more horrific than the incidents themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Barry, we agree that the average American is crazy. They keep to mow each other down with guns for absurd reasons. And I agree there are other manifestations of ignorance such as racism. In a previous post, I did say that the two causes of human misery is greed and ignorance. So we agree on greed and its manifestations that lead to wanton destruction of the environment, accumulation of things we don’t need and so on.
      My focus is just religion makes some of these ills manifest in disastrous ways. The belief that we are here for a short time and that heaven awaits the faithful believer takes away the urgency to address environmental destruction. The belief that there is one way, one correct way to belief, leads to intolerance. The belief that someone is selected by their god to be their messenger leads to abuses among others. And this, my friend, is why I address religion.
      This is not deny that the religious have done some good. In deed a lot of good. Could the same good be done without religion? I don’t know.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Barry says:

        Could the same good be done without religion?” Quite possibly. Religion and/spirituality are part of being human. By this I don’t mean that there’s necessarily anything supernatural. Rather that we are capable of perceiving some experiences as being beyond “nature”, and historically we have explained these as being the result of an “agent” of some sort. This I believe is due an evolutionary advantage that helped human beings and perhaps prehuman beings become the altruistic communal creatures we generally are. Because of how these experiences move us, they can motivate us in extreme ways, and that can be either for good or evil.

        I don’t think of religion in terms of gods or supernatural realms. Instead I perceive religion as being a total mode of living, of being. And often the best means of describing that experience is in terms of metaphors that are what we describe as religious stories. In this respect, the metaphors I use are a mix of historically Western (Christian) and Māori (animist). For example the Māori concept of the relationship between nature and humankind is that we belong to the land (or the mountain or the river etc), and harming the land harms us. Māori living in the vicinity of the Whanganui river have a proverb “Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.”
        (I am the river, and the river is me). This is also my perspective, whereas in Western culture the predominant perspective is that the land belongs to us to be exploited solely for the owner’s benefit.

        While it’s difficult to separate religion from culture, I would argue that the respective religions do have a part in how the two different cultures relate to the environment. In this country we’re already seeing how the Māori perspective is influencing how we understand stewardship of the environment – for example in granting forests, entire river basins and mountains personhood. They have the same rights to existence, including good health, as human beings. Could that be achieved by other means? Perhaps, but it would require a model that doesn’t currently exist in Western culture. I think I can safely make the claim that Western culture has shaped Christianity as much as Christianity has shaped Western culture.

        Perhaps because religion is so important in the lives of many, it can be more effectively exploited by those who seek power in many forms. I don’t see this as being the fault of religion per se, but the failure of so very many people to understand the nature of what religion really is: an aspect of being human, and by those who desire to take advantage of that lack of understanding.

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        • makagutu says:

          Instead I perceive religion as being a total mode of living, of being.

          I have no problem with this definition of religion. In this definition, African traditional beliefs and practices, which were not entirely religious are encompassed as they were and are a way of being. It is difficult to see how these would lead to religious conflict as they do not require evangelism or converts. With the coming of the conquest religions- Islam & Christianity- there was a cleave between religion on the one hand and its attendant practices and beliefs and culture on the other hand. With this came associated beliefs that there was a house of prayer to be visited once a week and all the other things that come with it.

          Perhaps because religion is so important in the lives of many, it can be more effectively exploited by those who seek power in many forms. I don’t see this as being the fault of religion per se, but the failure of so very many people to understand the nature of what religion really is: an aspect of being human, and by those who desire to take advantage of that lack of understanding.

          I think religion, (here defined as belief in gods and the attendant rituals) and its parsons have to be blamed. Many teach that there a select few individuals who have a direct contact with the gods and speak to the people on behalf of these gods. Such a belief, you will admit, creates room for abuses.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Nan says:

          But why must religion be “so important in the lives of many”? Are humans incapable of existing without religion?

          Like

          • makagutu says:

            Good question. Not to answerfor Barry, but i think the simple answer is most people are brought up in some religious environment that demands total devotion.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            Of course we are. Just like we can exist without science, art or literature or by being unable to socialise. It’s part of being human. Don’t conflate religion with belief. One can believe in a deity that tortures non-believers for eternity, or one can believe QAnon theories. One is religious, one is not. They are both harmful. Or you can believe there is ‘that of God’ in every person or believe strongly in humanism. One is religious and one is not.

            I am a non-theist – I don’t believe in the existence of any form of the supernatural, yet my experience of sharing my values and experience in a religious setting is extremely important to me. While I could survive without it, it would leave a hole that I don’t think it could be adequately replaced by any other activity.

            I don’t know what the situation is in the US, but here where the religious are a distinct minority, the religious express a much higher level of life satisfaction than the non-religious. The religious also contribute considerably more to charity – both in time and money ($800 per person per year more).

            I daresay there’s many reasons to be attracted to religion – some good, some bad, but in this country, over all, religion seems to do more good than harm. I can’t speak for elsewhere.

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            • Nan says:

              So, if you’re not a theist, but you are religious, does this essentially mean you believe in a higher/supernatural (unnamed) power that controls human destiny?

              Liked by 1 person

              • basenjibrian2 says:

                From past comments, Barry has emasculated the definition of religion to the point it is meaningless. Or more kindly, religious is some vague social thing or other. Is a cycling club event a religious experience? Why not?

                Like

                • makagutu says:

                  https://wp.me/p44PYo-2U2 from this post by Mike, Barry may no be way off. There are people who find the term religion incoherent. And you should realise that in parts of the world before Christian and Muslim conquest, there wasn’t a distinct class of belief called religious belief that was separate and unique from the peoples way of life.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Barry says:

                    in parts of the world before Christian and Muslim conquest, there wasn’t a distinct class of belief called religious belief that was separate and unique from the peoples way of life..” It’s not a case of “was” but rather “is”. For example, some people define Māori belief in terms of religion – animism. Māori don’r perceive as being a religion – it’s an essential part of their being, of how they experience the world.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      What is animism? Do the Māori see themselves as animists?

                      Like

                    • Barry says:

                      Animism is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Māori, and a great many Pākehā refer to “Māori Spirituality”. It encompasses what modern Western thought now considers separate – religion and spirituality. Even in the West, separating them into different concepts is relatively recent – perhaps two or three hundred years.

                      Like

                    • makagutu says:

                      I think, following Okot p’Bitek that animism is a term without a proper conceptual framework. Empty word. It is basically a failure of the Christian- mainly Christian anthropologist- to understand what the indigenous person believes. And it has been this way since these different systems collided.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Barry says:

                      I tend agree with you. But keep in mind that here in Aotearoa, Māori spirituality is seeping into the wider community. For example giving legal personhood to aspects of nature such as forests, mountains and rivers. Some Christian fundamentalists have described it as “pandering to Māori animism”. One of the first blogs I posted was related to this topic: Animism is the established religion of Aotearoa New Zealand. Really?. And for the first time since colonisation began, Matariki – the heralding of the New Year – is to be celebrated as a statutory public holiday (this year on June 24). Neither of these could have occurred in a strictly Eurocentric environment.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      Could this be out of necessity to address challenge of environmental destruction?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Barry says:

                      Not directly. Māori culture has had a rejuvenation/resurgence and made significant inroads into Pākehā culture since the 1970s and showing no signs of slowing down. There’s no doubt that over the last decade concepts such as mauri and how humankind is part of nature (not above or separate from it) have been incorporated into the environmental destruction narrative in this country as it’s a powerful metaphor here. But without a widespread understanding of the Māori worldview, it would have little traction or meaning.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      What’s the population distribution between Maori and Pakeha? Because this is quite interesting. In many places, the dominant culture, mostly they conquest culture, tends to almost wipe out elements of the conquered people and only adapts that which it finds useful.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Barry says:

                      When Europeans first made contact with Māori there was an estimated population 100,000 to 150,000. By the end of the nineteenth century, European diseases, conflict with Europeans (NZ Land Wars) and amongst themselves using European weaponry (the Musket wars) had reduced the population to around 60,000. Today their population is approaching 900,000 or roughly 17% of the NZ population. Additionally, Pacifika (People of Polynesian ancestry other than Māori) have similar world views although they have been more strongly influenced by Christianity. They make up another 8% of the population. People from the Asian continent make up another 15%, while MELAA peoples (Middle Eastern / Latin American / African) make up only 1.5% of the population. Pākehā make up around 70% of the population. If you add up the percentages of the 6 major ethnic groupings, it comes to around 115% to 120% depending on what source you use. That’s due to offspring from “ethnically mixed” relationships. I and both my children are “guilty” of this.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      17% is almost a critical mass, I think and with organising and unity, can influence change.
                      What do you feel about the changes? Is it a good direction? Is there more than still needs to be done?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Barry says:

                      There’s much more that needs to be done. However it needs to be done cautiously so as not to antagonise a not insignificant proportion of Pākehā, who are still cling to a Eurocentric notion of culture.

                      I’m part way through preparing a post about major changes to our health system that will, amongst other things, create a Māori Health Authority. Some here claim this is a case of “Māori privilege” or a form of “reverse Apartheid”, completely ignoring the fact that the health outcomes of Māori under a mono-cultural Western model have been poor. Personally, I think I would prefer being treated by the more holistic approach of Māori than the compartmentalised approach of Western medicine.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      There’s always a feeling among the dominant class, when a wrong is being addressed, that they are being mistreated or something to that effect.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Barry says:

                      And an extreme version of this would be the USA, where perhaps a quarter of the white population think there’s some validity to the “replacement” theory – the belief that there is a secret plan to “ethnically cleanse” whites using stealth instead of direct violence. It’s so often repeated on Fox that it’s hardly surprising that it’s believed by so many.

                      Like

                    • makagutu says:

                      I think this is to expected where a fear of the other has been nurtured over the years. I am not even surprised. Not long ago there was an article I shared whose authors were concerned with fertility of white folk.

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                    • Barry says:

                      Fertility decreases as afluence increases. In Europe and North America people of European ancestry are more likely to be wealthier than those of other ethnicities, hence a lower reproduction rate. In Aotearoa the reproduction rate of Pākehā is 1.7 live births per woman – well below the 2.1 live Births considered necessary to maintain the population.

                      Elsewhere on WordPress I have been described as a “traitor to the white race” because I married someone who is not white, and he was doubly horrified when I then informed him that both our children married someone who was a different ethnicity from either the wife or I. His comments regarding “mongrel blood” are not something I care to repeat here, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s sad that so many people hold a similar prejudice.

                      Liked by 1 person

                • Barry says:

                  I avoid making eye contact because it is extremely unpleasant to me, and if I force myself to do so I’m unlikely to get the gist of what the other person is saying. I can make eye contact or listen. Not both. I cannot read body language, no matter how hard I try, so when I look down at their shoes or off to the side, or fail to respond to body language, it has absolutely no meaning to me, but others perceive it differently. What’s more, I’ve ended up in the Emergency Department, because of it. I still have some scars to prove it.

                  And while a cycling club event would never be a religious experience for me (even though all the socialising would feel like Hell), perhaps somewhere someone might find “meaning” they feel is religious in nature. Personally I have my doubts, and I’ve never heard of anyone making such a claim. Mak might have more knowledge in that sphere, being more into cycling than me 🙂

                  The difference between you and me is that I acknowledge that what can be meaningful to one person may be meaningless to another.

                  Like

              • Barry says:

                Sorry, Nan, I mistakenly made a new comment instead of replying to yours. See comment further below

                Like

  4. Barry says:

    No.

    See my blog post What is religion?

    Within my faith tradition the concept of religion as being “a total mode of the interpreting and living of life” is true regardless of any theological position individuals may have, be they Christian, non-theist, Wicca, Buddhist, atheist or animist. There are some within our tradition that do hold a concept of there being a “higher/supernatural (unnamed) power”, but few, if any, would believe he/she/they/it controls human destiny or manipulates the physical world in any way. Any power it might have can only be realised through the hearts and minds of individuals. Some have described it as “listening to an inner voice”, a “pricking of the conscience”, or “being lead” to act as for example joining Greenpeace, the peace movement, penal reform, or taking part in a movement supporting the rights of a disadvantaged section of society.

    For myself, I am convinced that what I would describe as a religious experience or a “sense of the Divine” is real insofar as it’s something I feel intensely, and while it certainly feels like there’s something there, that is the result of millions of years of evolution and a few millennia of civilisation. My understanding of concepts such as gods, forces, energy, spirits, kami – (in the Wife’s Japanese tradition of a “life force”), mauri (a “life energy” in the Māori tradition of my grandchildren), etc is that they are metaphors that describe aspects of one’s experience of life.

    I’m not convinced that these experiences are anything other than something created within the bundle of neurons we call the brain, but I do appreciate how others might feel and think differently.

    By way of an analogy: I’m autistic, and how I experience the world is radically different to how most people experience it. Some of my senses are hyperactive, while others are hypo-active. My experience of human communication through means such as body language, facial expressions, eye contact, intonation of voice, etc is much the same as most non-religious people’s experience of “the Divine” – it doesn’t exist and is meaningless.

    Another example: I can read a few emotions in other people, such as anger, joy, and frustration for example, and less so in myself. But when it comes to other emotions such as suspicion, boredom, contentment, jealousy, fearfulness, wistfulness, lust, etc, I am usually oblivious to them in other people and I do not know what they are. Obviously other people experience them and can talk about them as if they are real, but for me they don’t exist. On the other hand I have a sense/feeling of/for “fairness” that drives others to distraction. And whānau often complain that I’m “too reasonable”.

    For 60 years, I thought everyone experienced emotions in the same way as I did. I had come to the conclusion in my mid teens that they were metaphors for aspects of life (which I am unable to decode) in much the same way I understand religious language to be metaphors describing aspects of life (which I am able to decode). In the 12 or so years since I learnt I am autistic, I have had to re-evaluate many aspects of the way I understand the world. It doesn’t change the actual experiences, just the way in which I interpret them relative to how others do.

    Does that help?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nan says:

      Thank you, Barry. As I read your comment, the word “spirituality” came to mind — but NOT in a “sacred” or “religious” sense. More like a deep connection with all that is part of “life.” As you wrote in your post: … it doesn’t assume sacred tomes, deities, creeds, an afterlife or anything of a supernatural nature.

      If this is what you mean, I can identify with that meaning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        To many in Aotearoa, Māori and Pākehā alike, the common Western (and especially American) practice of compartmentalising aspects of life into separate boxes such as the secular, the religious, the spiritual, work, family, business, leisure, art, sport, etc is at odds with how we experience life. We live the secular, the religious and the spiritual as one. They cannot be separated.

        the word “spirituality” came to mind — but NOT in a “sacred” or “religious” sense.‘. I have trouble with that observation. Perhaps it reflects how much our cultures differ. I was born on the banks of the longest navigable river in Aotearoa – Whanganui. It is considered sacred by the local iwi (tribe/nation) because of the life-giving properties it bestows on those who live alongside it. I too consider it sacred, as do many other Pākehā who live adjacent to it. I then grew up in the shadow of the mountain Taranaki, also viewed as being sacred by the iwi living in its proximity. It is their ancestor (although not necessarily in a literal Western understanding of that word), and should be treated with the respect all ancestors deserve.

        The question you might like to ask yourself is what is the source of the sacredness? In Western Christian culture it is mostly something imposed from a higher authority – God or his Church. However, I understand sacred to mean “entitled to, or deserving of, reverence and respect”. It is not something that is imposed. To Māori, Whanganui is a living entity and to Pākehā it has its own legal personhood equal to to that of humankind. Sacredness refers to the special nature of that relationship – us on the one hand and the river on the other. Most Māori and some Pākehā perceive Whanganui as sacred. Some Māori and most Pākehā view Whanganui with a high level of respect, and a few view Whanganui as a resource to exploit for their own benefit. Sacredness describes the intensity of the relationship between us and the river as much as it does the intrinsic qualities of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Nan says:

          As you pointed out, the western understanding of this topic tends to be considerably different. Having said that, I feel I can identity with what you have written. Possibly because I’m not really tied into any kind of western “religiousity.”

          Thank you again for elaborating on how your part of the world lives. IMO, it’s far better than what is offered here.

          Liked by 1 person

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