Slavery and Religion

I don’t want to be one of those people—the anti-religious who think there are absolutely no redeeming qualities in religion, but reading things like this only help to alienate me from faith in general.

To make my position clear, I’ll first start by saying that I don’t believe that any religions are inspired. People create religions for primarily three reasons:
  1.  To get answers about things they do not understand, such as why the world works the way it does and were people go after they die
  2.  To promote their own agenda and to control the masses
  3. To gain inner peace and tranquility
Reasons one and two are the ones with which I have a problem; however, I will be focusing on two today. But, I probably should just start by saying what motivated this topic before post loses any sense of order.

What caused me to think about this topic today was Phillis Wheatley (1754?-1784), a talented Senegalese woman who was kidnapped and sold to John Wheatley when she was seven. He taught her to read and write. She used her knowledge to create poems that astonished Americans at the time. They didn’t believe that an African girl could be brilliant. She published Poems on Various Subjects; Religious and Moral in 1773, which was praised in both Europe and North America. With her prominence, it would be marvelous if she used her talents and influence to move others to understand the barbarism of slavery, helping to liberate her brothers and sisters, as Olaudah Equiano did for example. Instead, she created poetry like this. (I highlighted the most notable parts.)

Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die." 

Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd and join the' angelic train

Two things are notable about this poem. The first is Wheatley’s praising slavery as an act of divine providence. The fact that anyone, especially someone whose race is a victim of it, could think that such cruelty and brutality is a gift from God is astonished me.  Being someone’s slave is worth it in the end because you will die and spend eternity worshiping a God who put you in that position to begin with?

The second piece of this poem that I found disturbing is the apologetic way that she refers to our race. If we are cleaned up and civilized, we can too can be permitted into heaven behind the Europeans. Oh, joy.

In addition, her reference to Cain is also interesting. Christians have long used the myth that Cain was cursed with black skin by God to advocate racism against Africans. She actually believes this lie, and thinks that we should be tolerated in spite of this fault. But, before I go on, I want to clarify I’m not blaming Wheatley personally for this. She was a victim of a society that has used religion as a medium of control. It disgusts me that not only did Americans use this reasoning to justify slavery, but also they were able to integrate it so much in our psyche that we even accepted inferiority—even to the point where we were
grateful for slavery. However, what is important is that this thinking still motivates our actions to this day.

How much does myth and superstition control African-Americans? Do you know someone who routinely wastes her money by throwing it away to preachers or and churches expecting God to “multiply her seed” so that she can “reap her harvest?” What about someone who continues to make foolish mistakes because “God will make a way” or will provide? Have you heard songs like this?

“Faithful Is Our God”
I'm reaping the harvest God promised me
Take back what the devil stole from me
And I rejoice today, for I shall recover it all

“The Blessing of Abraham”
You are the seed by faith receive
The blessing of Abraham
Wherever you are, where er' you go
Whatever you touch is anointed to grow

"God Will Make a Way"
God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me

It’s about time that we learned that neither God nor prayer nor magic beans will grant prosperity. There is no force that trails  you, allows good things to  happen to you, or that mops up your messes up when things go wrong. Your life is entirely in your hands. If you seek opulence, then it will have to be through your hard work, determination, and education—not because you gave a seed of a hundred bucks to your preacher. This is just one example, but I look forward to when religion stops holding us back.


GET ME LOLLY said...

Hi black bot.

Interesting post. I rarely write comments on posts, but your opnions in the above touched a nerve.

I think it's unfortunate that you have such a low view of religion, specifically christianity. In America (I'm from the UK, living in Scandinavia currently) it seems Christianity has been turned into some sort of circus, especially in the black church. Sometimes I wonder if these people are playing a prank on the congregation. That being said I still feel that a religion such as Chrisitinity is more than what people have turned it into.

Ultimately I don't think Jesus was on earth to set up a religion. He came to set up body of people who would share the Love of God via helping the needy and looking after the sick etc, he also came to save, but I wont get into that now. However the principles set by Jesus I think anyone could agree is an awesome one, and totally opposite to some of the prosperity non-sense these 'preachers' are talking about. They ARE exploiting the black community and it almost criminal.

If you are interested you sould look deeper into the Christian religion, maybe look at it's Hebrew/Jewish routes to have a better understanding of its intial objective, before it was corrupted!

Chrisitianity was never established to hold people back or make them feel less of themselves. From the creation story alone, it is evident that God created human good and to be great! In God we can do anything!

Don't base your opnions on the mess you hear. There are alot of very successful, educated black young people, including myself, who are living out this chrisitianity thing.

There's alot more that could be said, and I'm happy to have a converstaion with you in email if you like.


The Black Bot said...

First, my problems with Christianity extend far beyond the prosperity gospel. I don't like how people delude themselves into thinking that they have a magical force watching out for them. I dislike how people think that God will work things out in their favor, or that they think that problems can be solved through prayer. I hate when people dismiss important things with lines like, "God will take care of it." It just encourages people to be irresponsible, and contributes absolutely nothing to the world. Two hands working can do more than a million folded in prayer.

Secondly, I dislike how people assume that just because I don't have a positive perspective of Christianity that I simply don't know anything of it or that I'm forming my opinions on "the mess [I] hear". It was precisely because I looked deeper into the Christian religion that I became an atheist. I probably wouldn't be an atheist today if I were not a passionate Christian. In fact, the Pew study indicated that atheist know more about religion than Christians themselves. This is because as you draw closer to something its flaws become more apparent. Therefore, I wish that people would stop assuming that atheist are atheist because we just haven't given it a chance or that have been told bad things about it.

Finally, I have no doubt that there are plenty of Christians living happy, fulfilled lives, but that does not negate the negative aspects of it as well. As a whole, people of African descent would be better off if we loss this ridiculous notion that "God will make a way when there seems to be no way" (to borrow from that popular song) and realize that their life is in their hands. Prayer will not solve anything, but your own initiative will.

GET ME LOLLY said...

Firstly I'd like to say my intention when responding to your post was not to patronise or belittle your opnion. I was only sharing mine to give another perspective on what was written. Also, I could only base my reponse on the information given, therefore if they're many assupmtions, I'm sorry.

With regard to your response & looking at the rest of your blog, I can tell you are passionate about this subject. You obviously didnt come to your conclusion overnight, so I'm not on here to try to convince you there is a God in a couple of paragraphs. It is important to respect other's opinions and not shut them down, just because it doesn't match yours.

I've also had doubts being a christian, when doing my Biology degree I'd go from thinking there has to be a God (the argument of design) to maybe there isn't one. I made a decision to look at the works of some old theologians and more post modern ones. There are some great thinkers out there who have helped me to form my faith. Anyone who is searching I think should look at both sides (once again I'm trying not to assume that you haven't done this).

As humans we should continue to grow and learn. Forming opinions which allow us to have conversation and give room for development.

Lolly x

char said...

"Two hands working can do more than a million folded in prayer."

Amen, sister.

I can relate in a major way to this. My parents were both born and raised and married in Zambia, and came to the US before I was born so my dad could complete his Master's.

My mother has published a wonderful book about her life growing up in Zambia, how things were prosperous and wonderful and turned to poverty- and AID-stricken country. She offers solutions to fix the issues (implementing running water, sending relief aid items, teaching people how to start and maintain their own businesses).

But also pleads to the John Rhodes scholars for help. She talks about how thankful she is that people like David Livingstone went to her poor country and brought Christianity to the people, etc...and when I was editing her book I was like, "are you sure you should be thanking these people? Africans had their own spirituality before." She wouldn't have it. But imperialists are the people who changed African nations, for the worse.

You know the quote: "When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land."

It's BS. And I just wrote a blog about how religion and the church are in place to further enslave people.

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