Our schools have a religion problem

And I think it can be traced back to the beginning of the nation state. But more on this after a slight digression. The constitution of Kenya under Chapter 4 and article 32 provides for the following

  1. Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion
  2. Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship.
  3. A person may not be denied access to any institution, employment or facility, or the enjoyment of any right, because of the person’s belief or religion
  4. A person shall not be compelled to act, or engage in any act, that is contrary to the person’s belief or religion

and I argue that these rights are absolute. They apply to a child or to an adult and as such any regulation by a private body that contravenes any of the provisions above is acting in violation of the supreme law and should be compelled to comply.

Formal & Western education in Kenya has its beginnings in mission schools run by the religious arm of the colonialists- or we shall just call them missionaries. The goal of this education- if we can call it education- was to create Christians out of Africans who hitherto had no religion, that is, no codified belief as seen in Christianity or Islam or any other ancient religion that codified their beliefs. When the colonial administration expanded the education curriculum, it was meant to create a semi educated labour force and administrators, but never thinkers. The curriculum included religious education/ instruction which I think we should call correctly as religious indoctrination. This did not change even post independence.

The religion problem in our schools and our education system in general is borne from the mistaken belief that religion is important in ethical formation of young people, that without it they will be lost to the devil or something close. Or maybe even join a cult. To address the religious discrimination going on in schools, it is not enough to quote the law, the root cause must be addressed. Those responsible for the formation of our children must first be made aware that religion is not a prerequisite for ethical behaviour. And on the contrary, religion provides a cover, many times for unethical conduct. Take the case of the president who does not miss an opportunity for public display of religiosity but I am not many people consider him an example of a virtuous man.

Why is this important? The Court of Appeal has ruled and I agree that learners shouldn’t be compelled to follow a school’s faith. I think this ruling has been long overdue. I recall having to attend Sunday service which was compulsory and one could be punished for dozing off during a boring sermon or for forgetting to bring a hymnal to the service regardless of what faith one belonged to. It was unjust. Still is unjust to force students to attend a prayer service. Attendance to church service should be optional and those students, who like me, don’t want to go to church should be left to their own devices, like private study or catching up with badly needed sleep!.

And I find the school’s demand, in the above case, to be outrageous. By arguing that it would have granted the nine learners reasonable religious accommodation by exempting them from the Friday Mass if they could prove that their faith was a genuinely held belief, the school administration is arguing that only their faith is a genuinely held belief and any other must be subject of proof. And one wonders where they got such powers? Being of no faith or of a different faith is not a subject of proof. It should be accepted prima facie.

There is need for civic education right from primary school. Children should grow up not only knowing algebra but also what rights and freedoms they have as citizens of the republic. What protections the constitution guarantees among other things. If we are going to address cults, then educational institutions cannot be grounds for indoctrination but must encourage free enquiry. Religious indoctrination should be removed from the curriculum and replaced with philosophy- age appropriate philosophy-. Let religious instruction be done in the hearth of the family home. And our schools be bastions of free thought and secular education. Or maybe I am wrong.

Who knows?

where do we go from here

This song has nothing to do with this post. But it is Sunday so any song can do.

The here I am talking about is the hot debate currently trending this side of the ocean regarding the starving to death of 100s of worshipers in the coastal town of Kilifi. This post, like the one before it, is a commentary on an article written by Dr. Reginald Oduor. He says there are three vital questions that have yet to be answered, these are

  • How do rogue preachers thrive in their deception?
  • Is there an essential difference between religious fanaticism and political fanaticism?
  • What is the correct balance between respect for freedom of worship as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the warranted limitations to that freedom through subsidiary legislation necessitated by rogue preachers?

To the first question, he proffers three responses: poverty- religion flourishes, mostly, among the poor; channeling Platinga, his second response is we humans have a hunger for the spiritual and that we have a god shaped hole in our hearts- this is easily falsified- there are many people among us who don’t have this hole; and lastly, he says these people didn’t study the bible well. I have no issues with the first claim, though we see even rich people taken in by churches but not in the same magnitude as the poor. To the second and third responses, I disagree with the good doc. First, quoting Cotta from the disputations of Cicero

You have said that the general assent of men of all nations and all degrees is an argument strong enough to induce us to acknowledge the being of the Gods. This is not only a weak, but a false, argument; for, first of all, how do you know the opinions of all nations?

The argument that we all have a god shaped hole is not only weak but it is also evidently false. Platinga didn’t offer any demonstrations for it. Nor did Augustine. They just threw it out there hoping it will stick.

On the third response, that they didn’t adequately study the bible. He offers the following verses Matthew 24:24-25, 2nd Peter 2:1-3, and Acts 20:29-30. The problem with all these verses, including Matthew 7:15-16, is they offer no way of distinguishing the false and true prophets. Is profit Owuor a false profit? Or Joel Osteen? Maybe they should read Ezekiel 13:1-7. Or maybe we should read 1 Kings but even then we would still be lost. There is no definite criteria for distinguishing a false from a true profit.

We move to the next question, that is, is there any difference between political and religious fanaticism? My answer is unequivocal yes. Reginald goes farther to show the unholy marriage between the church and politics in Kenya where each side uses the other for her means while screwing the masses.

And finally, when we come to the last important question of what is to be done, the good doc has no answer. He recognizes the protections in the constitution on religious freedom that wouldn’t allow the government to meddle in religious affairs. He proposes self regulation which I don’t know how this would work. As an academician, he fails to suggest as a possible solution education that encourages critical thinking, discourage indoctrination of children till they are mature enough to question religious teachings, and ridicule. I like ridicule. I know it is counterproductive but some religious beliefs can only be addressed through ridicule.

Or maybe I am being too harsh and the good doc has provided us with solutions on where to go from here now. Let me hear your thoughts.

the hidden face of god

is a book by Friedman which i read a while back and this post has reminded me of the book. Friedman’s argument, iirc, is that god- of the bible- has been receding from his subjects. He starts off in genesis by lively walks in the garden of Eden to showing only his ass to sending representatives. In this recess, we have an opportunity to take care of our shit, the best way we know how.

And that brings us to the linked article in which Alan writes

However, there is something relatively new in our civilisation; the retreat of God into a quiescent state, which should be a welcome development. Why; because if God, or the gods generally, can deliver nothing on their own, their role in human affairs is at best dubious.

which again reminds me of a book i read where the author wrote the gods are nothing to us. Only we can help ourselves.

He continues to write

Recognising that God is in a state of rest greatly clarifies the human condition, making men squarely face their world. Carry your burdens with intelligence and earn all the credit, or stumble and fall in the dust as degraded creatures.

and here, we can say most of us don’t carry our burthens with intelligence. We still believe that the gods who have gone to sleep care about our troubles, our fasting- or as the case maybe- starving to death. Many believe they can earn the favour of their favorite god by saying a few words and performing some rituals.

Alan writes

Many people, especially Africans, still pray until they are hoarse, turning their faces and stretching their arms upward. They scream like wild animals. They howl and twist their tongues like witchdoctors, conjuring supposed effects of an invading Holy Spirit and the death of demons. In extreme weirdness, they see the Divine. When God is quiescent, they peddle the exact opposite about His condition, telling the gullible that He is in a state of super-activity.

And boy, don’t I like him!

His, Alan’s recommendation that The quest for rational thinking is more effective than government laws is a reminder that we must invest in teaching critical thought. Laws cannot cure this madness.

Happy Labour day/ May Day

Once upon a time, in Kenya

There was a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Cult of Devil Worship in Kenya which was set up in 1994 and whose report was never released to the public but was only tabled in parliament in 1999. You must be wondering why I am bringing this up this late. Worry no more. In our of dailies, a reporter has made the claim that had the government followed up on the recommendations of the commissioners that was comprised of clergy and lawyers, we wouldn’t be here- here means dealing with whether to award Darwin Awards to people who decided to starve to death on advise of their pastor.

First, it appears our journalists and reporters have resorted to assassination as modus operandi. And here, it is the English language that is being assassinated. They have decided that they will refer to the deaths as a massacre- indiscriminate & brutal slaughter of many people- the way god does it in the book of Numbers. But this wasn’t a massacre. This was religious delusion. Plain and simple. But let’s get back to our main story.

How did the commission define a cult? They said a cult is any religious group which differs significantly in one way or another from those religions which are regarded as authentic or standard by any given community. I am not sure they identified areas of difference but I suppose it must have been in real estate terms. They, the religious leaders, wouldn’t define their churches as cults because they would be out of business. In effect, they were looking at indigenous religious groups whose founder was still alive but lacked expansive real estate, like the cult which is the Catholic Church.

Our good clergy defined a devil worshiper as wealthy and prominent people who drive very expensive cars and possess large amounts of money.

What were the recommendations of the commission? We are told, the most important ones were

  • to set up a special police unit charged with the responsibility of investigating ritual and related occultic crimes
  • establishment of a moral agency to police the activities of the religious organisations.
  • the government sets up a national committee consisting of professionals, lawyers, social scientists and the clergy to prepare a comprehensive national moral code of conduct which will regulate and govern the conduct of Kenyans, especially those in leadership
  • the establishment of a national body comprising professionals and experts on religious matters to help in scrutiny of all religious organisations seeking registration, keeping in mind the constitutional provisions regarding the fundamental rights and freedoms of others

Our reporter concludes thus

Given the adverse effect satanic cults have on the society in general and the youth in particular and considering that most are recruited unknowingly, the commission strongly recommends that programmes be developed to educate and sensitise the public through mediums such as public barazas, mass media and religious organisations on the manifestations and evils associated with the cult of devil worship

Daily Nation 30th April 2023 by Roselyne Obala

There is no critique. But then again, that is the status of journalism in most places. For instance one would want to question what rights would a few individuals chosen for their beliefs- not necessarily their right conduct- have in telling the rest of us how to behave? Or who is an expert in religious matters? A priest? A scholar? How would the moral agency work? Like moral police in many Islamic countries whose duty is to define the length of the skirt a woman should wear, among other things?

Someone at the Guardian newspapers also wrote about it at the time. In the Guardian, Kenya’s anti-corruption czar, John Githongo is quoted as saying, and I agree with him

Religious superstition had inspired a ridiculous commission to investigate a ridiculous thing and write a ridiculous report

Guardian online

This article lists some of the organizations that were considered Satanic by this commission. And one will be forgiven for concluding, even with scant reporting of the whole report, that it is as I have said, a Christianity gone mad attacking anyone who doesn’t believe as they do. It is this reason why I question what the Daily Nation’s reporter benefits by regurgitating a report that would not pass the litmus test if applied to any religion practiced in the country and which is open to abuse by those seeking to disenfranchise others from making money from gullible followers.

For more interesting coverage from the wayback machine, go here.

News coming from home

If you read the BBC, Reuters or any such publication you must have read of the guys who starved themselves to death in the hope that Jesus will come for them or something like that. That 70 bodies have been exhumed is a painful thing. One wonders though how do you, as an adult, starve to death? And why take children into a cult?

Every time something this crazy happens, I ask myself what happens to their brains under religion. How do you not see that you are going to die and maybe your cult leader is wrong, that he knows shit? And can we let the children out of it?

In another of those jokes that tell themselves, the president is set to appoint a Bishop of an evangelical Church to head the ethics and corruption cover-up commission. The last head was another Bishop who managed to successfully cover up corruption. In fact, going by the performance of this body, there is no corruption in this nation and whoever is saying so should have their tongue slit.

Is Pink attending the coronation? Last I checked he was his highness Pink

We stop here for now.


Are you superstitious?

Who isn’t? How do you live your life without some superstition? Where is the joy in that? Being an empiricist from Monday to Monday. No room for some crazy is a sure way to live a boring life. I know you are dying to know some of my superstitious beliefs.

If you wear any item of clothing inside out, it means you are anticipating a good meal in the near foreseeable future. Whether this is true or not is immaterial.

Crossing someone’s shadow will lead to stunted growth. I don’t care how. Everyone believes it. I believe it. So it is true. Coming from a village with witchdoctors, if someone collects your shadow, they can cause you harm. Don’t ask me how they collect shadows. I don’t know. But we know it to be true.

I have been debating with myself whether I should believe in ghosts. Human life figures with goat legs and can go through walls. I am just waiting for some evidence to come through of a ghost spotting then I will include this in my beliefs.

Anyway, I kid. I know there could be some irrational beliefs that I have, bordering on the superstitious but I can’t think of any at the moment.

What are your superstitions?