Colonisation, Faith, Philosophy

Is Black atheism really THAT weird?

I saw a tweet the other day and this guy was saying that he finds it weird when he meets Black people that are atheist, or something along those lines. I found it weird because on one hand I kind of get it, most black people that I have personally come across anyway are religious but then I also think should they be???

There’s this whole argument that Black people should absolutely not be Christian because the WHITE MAN USED IT TO ENSLAVE THEM!!!!! I get where this is coming from but it’s just narrow-minded. It takes away Black peoples agency. Not only that but Christianity was in Africa before the slave trade and colonialism, it just wasn’t really a huge deal. There’s evidence that suggests Christianity was first established in 1 or 2AD in Northern Africa, this is before it even found its way to some parts of Europe. This also includes Islam which spread around the 7th century causing Christianity to retreat slightly, although it remained in places like Ethiopia. Islam also gained considerable momentum in the West around the 10th century. Then the Portuguese showed up in the 15th century which was the main driving force for Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But even in light of this, it’s not like in smaller communities people were sitting together singing hymns and retelling the parables, they were still slaughtering chickens for sacrifice and throwing away twins into evil forests. Sort of. (Sidenote: I really recommend reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe it provides great insights into precolonial village life). The extent to which Africa, specifically Sub-saharan Africa, was Christian is greatly overestimated just to argue against the fact that Christianity is the White mans religion. I think we need to shift how we think about religion, who it is for and who it belongs to. If it is the White mans religion where did he get it from? And why did he require a monopoly on violence to spread his belief of an all loving God?

Anyway, that’s besides the point. I think that right now we’re in a climate where people are either extremely afraid to be wrong/problematic so they never say anything even mildly controversial or people are totally controversial and abrasive about their beliefs. I think there is a happy medium and I also think that starts with honest conversations that are not controversial for shock factor. To do this you can’t be on the defence, you cannot be ready to be offended otherwise you’ll never learn anything. What if I want to talk about why the gospels have different accounts of Christs resurrection? Can I do that without someone being offended, probably not. Or what if I wanted to talk about inheritance laws in Islam or Judaism, or what’s happening with Palestine or Israel? I’d probably be labelled an Islamaphobe or Antisemite. However, this is assuming the things being said are genuinely not oppressive and I understand that some people just love to fight which is annoying.

There needs to be a space where both believers and non-believers can challenge and discuss their views without offending each other. I’ve seen in some religious communities that someone even asking a question is seen as defiance rather than an opportunity to unpack a specific belief. How we respond to each other I think is so important. One thing I’ve heard a lot of since I decided I wasn’t a Christian anymore was people telling me that it’s okay because I’m on a journey. And yes, everyone is on a journey but the end goal for me isn’t Christianity. It’s almost as if other peoples way to cope with my lack of faith is to assume that at some point I’ll eventually “see the light” which is so crazy because I don’t have the opposite expectation for them. Not only this but I’ve seen non-believers be embarrassed about their religious pasts and only ever insult the religion they once followed without trying to have productive conversations about it. Or even some atheists looking down at religious people as having less academic capability which is just so wrong. It goes on and on and back and forth, without being productive.

I think organised Religion is too obviously political to ignore which begs the question of whether people are having genuine personal experiences or if they’re just subject to conditioning. Some people don’t like this because they don’t like the idea of being subject to anything but conditioning is so real. Conditioning is why me, as a proud feminist who believes that generally men and women are capable of the same thing, could NEVER propose to a man. I think I would rather eat a rubber duck. It’s a totally random example but the principle applies. There’s absolutely no reason I shouldn’t one day be able to bend my knee and ask for a mans hand in marriage but I literally just can’t, for no good reason. And that’s how conditioning works, you can believe things that are totally unjustified just because it’s become a norm for you through whatever sociological or psychological process. A simple question could be, if I were not born into this family in this country would I still have this ‘objective’ belief?

Maybe if I challenged myself enough I could think myself out of refusing to propose but I have bigger fish to fry. Plus it’s just one of those beliefs I’m okay with being subject to. Humans aren’t as rational as we think.

The big overarching point I want to make with this is that we should let people say things, and although people do just say anything, we should let them talk to we can figure out how right or wrong they are without being mean. Unless they are mean first.

((Also, there are tonnes of resources online that teach African history in an accessible way, it does take a fair amount of sifting through useless stuff but it’s worth it!!))

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Academia, Colonisation, Politics

WHAT is my degree actually doing?

For those of you who don’t know (or anyone that cares) I’m in my first year studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at UCL.

I’m writing this purely out of a reoccurring frustration I’ve been having with politics. I have my qualms with the other P and E but upon reflection, they’re personal problems.

However, when it comes to politics I know this goes beyond just my personal feelings. At first, I thought that what I learned and the way I was taught wasn’t problematic and the issue was just me not paying enough attention. But when I really started to pay attention to what I had been taught, I realised I have learned a whole lot of nothing.

And by nothing, I don’t mean I literally haven’t learned anything new. Some of my lecturers are actually really great. I just feel like I haven’t learned anything relevant. Even though I only just started studying politics I don’t really feel like I know anything more about solving political problems or the extent of what they are.

When I did my weekly readings I thought that my boredom came from a place of misunderstanding because of how dense and historical they could be. I also thought that perhaps the topics we were studying like the state and democratisation were necessary for an introductory course; so I was totally willing to devote my time to making sure I understood these things.

Then I realised that I was only learning about a small section of Western/Eurocentric thought. The thing is I could complain about the lack of diversity in academia but there are so many people that have already done this. Not that it makes it any less of a pressing issue, but I’m honestly just over talking about it. My main issue is that the extent to which my studies are even Eurocentric is questionable. How honest and transparent my subject is, is my concern. For some reason talking about colonialism in lectures or seminars is totally ignored, this is genuinely shocking to me. This must be madness because how can we talk about Europe and NOT talk about colonialism. It’s like if anyone says the word colonialism they’d burst into flames. I even saw that on one of the readings I had for this week the scholar said in the introduction that he wasn’t going to address colonialism. But why?

The answer is I’m not totally sure, but I think I have an idea. One thing I have learned in politics is how big of a deal nationalism is. British values are something that continue to be heavily promoted in this country despite the values being incredibly generic (in my opinion). This isn’t an issue though, I think that British values are great in some ways but to some British history is a massive threat to this. For example, tolerance is a British value but in the countries that the British colonised they essentially did everything they could to label native people as barbaric and toxic. They drew boundaries where there weren’t boundaries before and forced their language and religion on pretty much every single country they could get their hands on. So my question here is WHAT exactly did they tolerate? If we really deep it, the Brits (and also other European colonists) couldn’t tolerate other people living in their own countries. That is laughable. Sure, British values came after this but my point isn’t that the British are hypocrites. The point I’m trying to make is that if the British essentially just owned what they had done I really believe this could dampen a sense of national pride and I think this might be why history and politics are taught the way they are. And I think this is so wrong. National pride doesn’t depend on the erasure of a countries toxic past. To be honest it’s even debatable how necessary national pride is but that is a whole other topic.

The extent of the British Empire is actually quite remarkable, it stretched literally across the whole world people used to say “the sun never sets on the British Empire”. Well, the sun has set. But at what cost? The colonisers reaped enough economic benefits from the colonies that independence would not have been a long term threat to them. However, independence wasn’t as liberating as it is made out to be for the colonised. There is a lot to unpack here and I would be doing a huge disservice if I pretended like I knew all the ins and outs of colonies gaining their independence. But what I do know is that the effects of colonisation are still felt today which makes total sense because a lot of countries only recently gained their independence. Even in saying this, the extent to which ex-colonies are independent should be closely examined. Conditional aid/loans suggest that poorer countries (often ex-colonies) aren’t totally independent and what’s holding them hostage is economic growth and stability that they are made to believe can only come from the west. Economics is also guilty of not addressing this issue.

I think that sometimes “woke” culture or whatever you want to call it can make colonialism seem something that we just cannot seem to get over or always complain about and I do understand that. It can get really exhausting. But I think that when you really think about the scale and the proximity of colonisation it becomes something that we should examine so that we can offset the issues that have arisen from it, not something we should just forget about because it’s depressing to think about.

When I decided I wanted to study politics I thought it was going to be more problem-solving. Like, what are the issues in the world today and what political mechanisms can solve them? Perhaps that was my naivety coming out but regardless I guess I do have politics to thank for making me think in such a critical way. I just wish that it came from a place of genuine interest and not passionate outrage.

Interesting stuff to read: (slyly long but worth it)

 

The Case for Colonialism

 

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