Why is a person non religious

Well, the simple answer is they no longer believe the claims of religion are valid but not according to this Christian. He tells us the reasons for non belief can be summarized as

  • the experiences he or she has had with Christianity insulted their intelligence
  • the experiences they had with Christianity were negative, or even traumatic
  • or, they simply feel they don’t have a need for God in their life.

but forgets or is unaware Christianity is not the only religion. One could be a Jew, a Muslim, a believer in voodoo, heck! There are many religions to believe in other than Christianity. But most importantly, the gods of Christianity don’t exist.

Joseph, he who is all knowing, tells us

Somewhere along their journey in life, they were negatively influenced to the point of openly rejecting God.

and here, I thought if someone were to influence you away from religion, they would have done you a good. I can only say Joseph has not heard of W. K Clifford who said “it is wrong everywhere, always and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence“(extreme, I think, but you get my drift). (This paper (pdf) is a good critique of the Clifford Principle)

But the christian knows the reason you are an atheist is

 a traumatic event

your priest molested you and this led you to call it quits on religion or your cat died and you said no more religion for you.

Or maybe, you are the type of atheist who

doesn’t have any ‘need’ to know God (I don’t know why need is in scare quotes)

resulting from

monetary wealth, an abundance of secular education, and/or a self-professed “understanding” of Christianity in general.

What is the christian to do when faced with any of the above scenarios?

  • First and foremost, you must approach this type of person with humility in your own heart. Talking down to them, or challenging them in any way, will only bring conflict and contention.
  • Second, you must allow them to see how Christ is working in your own life.
  • And three, we must be patient and know that their on God’s time, not ours.

The christian, even after doing the above, maybe faced with the challenge of trying to teach one who wont listen. What is one to do?

Honestly, there isn’t much you can say that will get them to listen to you. But, what we can do is show them the light of Christ in our hearts by how we live our lives. It is this Godly happiness, that can only be found in one who has been saved by grace. When things get tough, they may look to you for guidance on how to be happy again.

What however got me laughing is the comment below this post. The author wrote

You’re off to a roaring start on the blog. Hope you are well and that you gather all the followers you can attract.

And it seems to me the bar is so low in christian circles if this is an example of a roaring start. Or maybe roaring has new meaning.

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Hell is for children.

First a song

Then commentary from a man of the cloth

Morrison: What do you make of the theology which is pretty quite prominent these days in America, which is there is one guaranteed way not to go to hell; and that is to accept Jesus as your personal saviour.
Spong: Yeah, I grew up in that tradition. Every church I know claims that ‘we are the true church’ – that they have some ultimate authority, ‘We have the infallible Pope,’ ‘We have the Bible.’… The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book, is almost beyond imagination for me.
I mean, God is not a Christian. God is not a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindi or Buddhist. All of those are human systems, which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honour my tradition. I walk through my tradition. But I don’t think my tradition defines God. It only points me to God

Confessions 3

If we believe the priests, we shall be persuaded, that the Christian religion, by the beauty of its morals, excels philosophy and all the other religious systems in the world.

Baron D’Holdbach

One of the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. …[This] convention protects them, and so they proceed with their blather unwhipped and almost unmolested, to the great damage of common sense and common decency. that they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly. Nor is there any visible intellectual dignity in theologians. Few of them know anything that is worth knowing, and not many of them are even honest.”

H. Mencken

My first confession was a story of how I became clever, saw the light and left the faith I had been brought up in. The second confession (very Catholic, if you ask me) was a short story of the past. Then there was reflections on Christianity and finally about atheist experience in Africa.

This posting is about what I have become.

A great amount of care was taken to make me a Catholic. It was taught in school as fact. I went to catechism school. Went through the rites, participated actively in church activities and generally without reflection. It didn’t occur to me to question the truth of this religion I was brought up in. Did I have doubts, yes, but not about the truth of the catholic doctrine. I worried a little about whether I would go to heaven or hell. And the book of revelation (the few times I read it) didn’t help matters in this front with its small number of the chosen ones.

When my faith began to wane or maybe I had lost, I read a lot on arguments for god and why they failed. I read on authorship of the bible, on the existence of Jesus and even on miracles. All this reading led to one conclusion only, revealed religions were a scam. I read a little here and there on Islam and even the Gita.

Does Christianity or any religion for that matter deserve the attention we give them? Is there any good in wasting years trying to demonstrate that religions are all false, that their claims are contradictory and many times impossible? Is there any truth in the claims of Christianity? Is there a way to verify any of it? Is it any more true than the religions my forefathers had believed in? If it had been true and was ordained by a god, why did it need violence, deception, evangelism to spread? Was it important that we, everyone, had a religion or believed in a god(s)?

I am at that point in my life where I can say theism is false. That the supernatural claims religions make are baseless. It is not important that one believes in a god(s) as long as one lives well with others. Be kind. Be useful. Life is simple.

Africa interests me. African religion and philosophy more so. How my forefathers lived, what they believed in and how this knowledge made life in society and community possible. How did they face calamity? Death? Disease? And in times of plenty and bountiful harvests or hunts, how did they celebrate? Now this is interesting stuff.

Talk of gods and miracles bore me.

Hell doesn’t interest me. Heaven is a scary proposition. Vicarious redemption is abhorrent. And the gods? They don’t exist. We make them all the time. The raw material needed is a sick imagination and a people gullible enough to believe.

Burying Okoth, reflections

I am using Okoth here to stand for the African. This, therefore, is a reflection on African customs around death and burial with specific reference to the Luo of Central Kenya. In the last post, I did ask who owns the dead and if it is possible for one individual to lay exclusive claim of the dead. These questions, I think, we will continue to grapple with for a long time to come.

In this reflection, I want to do the reader some justice by introducing Ken Okoth and Luo customs regarding death. I will then look at some scholarly articles on the conception of death in Africa and the associated rituals, the meanings attached to them and so on.

I want also at this point to correct some form of disinformation that has been repeated ad nauseum on twitter by unread Kenyans that burial rites was introduced to Africa by the colonizers that we all left the dead to die in the forests. While this is true for certain nationalities like the Kikuyu, the Nandi, there were elaborate funerary practices in many places in Africa depending on the social status of the dead.

It is necessary that we have a working definition of culture before we can proceed. It has been defined as that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society or as the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively or the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. It should be noted also that culture has these basic characteristics

  • learned
  • shared
  • based on symbols
  • integrated
  • dynamic

With definitions behind us, we can briefly look at how the Luos dealt with issues surrounding death. But first, a cautionary note. Paul Mboya wrote about Luo Customs in 1938, that is half a century after the colonialist first set foot in Western Kenya. I mention all this because it will be evident in a short while how culture is dynamic. And this is an important point.

When an old man died, Mboya tells us, the first wife stripped her clothes followed by all others in the homestead to signify the death of he that clothed them home. If however, the man did not respect his first wife, she would refuse to strip and had to be persuaded but the cat was already outta the bag. A pre-burial (buru) ceremony was conducted in the wilderness where the enemy was fought. The grave was dug in the centre of the house of the first wife, or if she had died, a small hut was built. Burial took place on the fourth day for a man and third day for a woman after which there were several days of plays, tugo, to celebrate the dead. There was a public dress for the widow(s) of the dead. During the mourning, if any of the widows had bracelets, these were to remain covered until on the day of tero mon (when a widow got a guardian).

After several days of celebration and cleansing, bulls were slaughtered for elders, brothers in- law, and if the deceased was a wealthy man, a he-goat or ram was slaughtered for people from the homeland of his mother. If he had been a village elder, an elder was chosen on this day.

From the moment the family gathered in the house of the first wife following the death of the man, no one had sex. Nobody was allowed to go back to their houses until all the conditions set by custom were met. Then and only then did the bereaved members have sex.  At this point, I would just add that mourning period lasted from several months to a year and different ceremonies were performed in this period.

It is evident from the foregoing that among the Luo, there were elaborate ceremonies surrounding death. In a manner of speaking, there were no private funerals. The question of whether you had lived with your villagers or whether you had been estranged does not arise in death.

In Funerals in Africa, Jinra and Noret write

These events continue to provide crucial insights into the state of society, as they are integral to social, economic, religious, and political life. For Westerners, among whom death is normally a private and family affair, this is sometimes hard to fathom, but in the African context, funerary rites are oft en the communal event sans pareil, with ramifications going well beyond the events themselves.

The contestation of Okoth’s body and his cremation, can be understood, in the words of Jinra and Noret as representing social breakdowns brought about by religious changes, colonialism, urbanization, economic and others. Funerary practices should be seen as a link between the living and the living dead. We are told death is a crisis, it shakes the society and requires ritual treatment.

In The African Conception of Death: A Cultural Implication, Baloyi argues that the misunderstanding and conflict that
often arise in multicultural context especially the workplace, is due to the different conceptions of experiences
such as death, its cultural implications and meanings of the rituals performed during and after death. He notes, to the African, death is conceived not as discrete event but as part of the life cycle. The dead continue to exist among the living dead or ancestors. The dead live in community with the dead.

He writes

The mourning or grieving process cannot therefore be linked or limited to some time span in a discrete sense. It is for this reason that Africans take time off from work when their loved ones are dead, to perform rituals that eternally connect them to the deceased. Therefore from an indigenous African ontological viewpoint, death does not imply an end to life, instead, it marks the beginning of another phase of being.

In this sense therefore, death rituals become very integral parts of society living. They perform important functions of linking the two worlds; that of the living and the living dead (those recently departed and are still remembered) and are seen as important in maintaining balance and harmony between the living and the living dead. These rituals include, but are not limited to, bereaved family members shaving their hair, and the slaughtering of a domestic animal.

Baloye continues to argue that Ubuntu and Umuntu are ways of life of the African, that is, being-with- and- for-others. This being transcends death. He writes

Providing food to the masses of people who come to the funeral including slaughtering an animal is an Ubuntu philosophy imperative. The process of burying the dead, the accompanying rituals and the veneration of the living dead constitute performances and conversations as authentic.

It’s been argued elsewhere that nearly all African communities believed in burying the dead in their ancestral
land, where the spirit of the dead would join with the spirit world. Among Ghana’s Ashanti, families,
relatives, and members of the community would mourn at the homestead of the deceased (Owino, Bereavement and Mourning in Africa). He says the Luo usually buried the fruit of the yago (Kigelia africana) tree in a grave in the dead soldier’s homestead in the same manner they would have buried his body.

It appears to me, then, that the decision by Okoth and those close to him to consider cremation and a private funeral is an anathema to the people of Luo Nyanza and goes contrary to beliefs held by many Africans, however, since we can agree on culture being dynamic, a time may come when cremation will become part of culture. Maybe we will have public cremations, I don’t know.

Maybe, a new set of questions arise

  1. How do we reconcile the African philosophy of Ubuntu/ Umuntu with the individualized culture of the west?
  2. What compromises should be made between an individual’s wishes for after death and those of the community?
  3. Can the rituals around death be separated from the contestations around property inheritance to allow a public burial for a private individual?

 

Of God and other manenos

Most of us would agree that the objectivity of good was a thing we had settled and dismissed with the existence of God. Theology and absolute ethics are two famous subjects which we have realized have no real objects.

Ramsay 1925

If the prospect of integrating faith and contemporary experiences is to be ultimately successful it must be sufficiently radical. And to be sufficiently radical it must get to the root concept of God. And to be sufficiently radical respecting the concept of God it must radically depart from the philosophical world-view which has given the traditional faith in God a cultural form which no longer serves well that faith.

Leslie Dewart, Catholic theologian

It is possible that in their time the Five Ways (Aquinas Proofs) were an exciting expression of the whole movement from the actual world to the reality of God… But there can be no doubt that they no longer express anything of the sort.

Howard Root.

To all my religious friends

And especially enemies who over the years have felt offended by my tweets, blog posts that are critical to religion, I want to tell you i am sorry and that I plan to continue doing just that.

The good news however, is that I have today joined a new religion that I didn’t know existed. I am an ordained minister as we speak and I will be blessing every tweet or blog post I send to protect it from your funny prayers.

There is peace that comes with finding the right religion and today I found it.

May the Dude be with you all.