By Hannu Afere

trouble with religion is first and foremost the superabundance of self-deception.

Religion from the east, religion from the west. Religion from inside Africa, also.

There was a man in 16th Century England named John Hawkins.

In 1562, he became the first English sailor known to have obtained African slaves for sale. He took approximately 300 human beings from Sierra Leone and sold them to the Portuguese in the West Indies.

When he returned to England, he did so with ships laden with ivory, hides, and sugar. Of course, his contemporaries saw that it was lucrative– and that was the beginning of the slave trade for the English.

His business was so profitable, Queen Elizabeth I granted him a special coat of arms. He was appointed as Treasurer for the Navy and knighted in 1588 by the Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard.

Between 1562 and 1567, Hawkins and his cousin Francis Drake (yeah, the Francis Drake) made three voyages to Guinea and Sierra Leone and enslaved between 1,200 and 1,400 Africans.

What was his preferred method? Violence and/or subterfuge. Promising greedy Africans free land and riches in the new world. Essentially a 16th century yahoo boy.

Funnily enough, he was also a missionary. In fact, he claimed to be such a devout individual, he had a reputation for requiring his crew to “serve God daily” and to love one another. Services were even held on board twice a day.

When he landed on the coasts of Sierra Leone and found the people going about their regular businesses of harvesting crops, it was he who came up with the idea of using Christianity.

He told the natives of a God named Jesus, who would save them from their sins. Asked how many of them wanted to have Jesus as their saviour. The hundreds who raised their hands were then led to the beach and his ship “Jesus of Lubeck,” also known as “The Good Ship Jesus.”

Those who entered soon found they were barred from disembarking as the ship sailed and then they were sold.

The services onboard continued twice a day.

Now, I am not going to bore you with the million other examples of Christian missionaries committing atrocities. Or the history of the crusades. Or the jihad. Or human sacrifices in southern Nigeria. Or even the First World War.

Or how many pastors today are no better than Hawkins– slave traders and slave masters.

I just want to establish my position from the first sentence on this post: the trouble with religion is first and foremost the superabundance of self-deception.

The most important way a religion solidifies its role in any given geographical area, is by giving the worshippers a sense of community. You have a place to go where you’re not lonely. Where you can hold hands and sing songs or even light blunts and forget your sorrows albeit temporarily.

You have the ‘born agains’ thinking themselves better, and more virtuous than all the other worshippers. You have the Muslims who pray 5 times daily feeling the same way. You have the Sopona worshipper angry about fading relevance and looking down on westernized nonbelievers, mocking them when the ‘come back home’ after failing with orthodoxy.

Self-deception. That because you follow all the rules, no harm will befall you. And even when harm befalls you, you will go to heaven. The concept of ‘Grace’ and ‘God will save whom he wants to save’. The concept of salvation through religious rituals and suffering.

It’s crazy, but it also has its evolutionary uses. When you lie to yourself, what you’re automatically doing is you’re teaching your brain to lie to others more convincingly, and to better catch on when they are lying to you. Once you can fake genuineness, kilo tun ku?

But THIS is also what leads to the greatest follies, crimes and atrocities. The entire time you’re thinking the best of yourself when you are really a terrorist!

The trouble with religion is first and foremost the superabundance of self-deception. Which ultimately means it is the trouble with the individual.

Look at those missionaries. Those priests. Look at the jihadists. The evil lecturers. The vile businessmen. Look at the average man on the street who thinks of people from other religions as monsters or condescendingly as people who don’t know any better, people bound for hell.

Look at them.

Look at yourselves.

Hannu Afere (c) 2019

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