From the Archives: To Develop Africa Needs God

I came across a letter I wrote to the guardian in 2009 which was in response to an opinion piece. It hasn’t found a way to my blog all this while and 4 years certainly won’t be too late for an article like this.



Leo Igwe’s article, ‘Africa needs Development, not God’ (The Guardian, 11th, March 2009 is a clear example of the intolerance and dogmatism commonly exhibited by Atheists or Humanists or Rationalist or whatever high-sounding name used to cloud their beliefs. Leo Igwe begins by citing an article by Matthew Parris in The Times online titled: ‘As an Atheist I truly believe that Africa needs God’. Anyone who has read the article would easily conclude that either Leo Igwe read only the title or he grossly misinterpreted it on purpose to advance his views.

Matthew Parris was not just writing about pumps installed by missionaries in Malawi, he was not just writing about the material aid brought to Africa by mission groups, which any charity with enough funds can bring and does bring. Matthew was talking about the interior rejuvenation, the change of mindset, the ‘spiritual transformation’ (in his words) which the missionaries bring along with their faith and whatever material care they may bring. The Christian view of the world -a world made by a God who is outside of and infinitely transcends it, and of Man, made in God’s image and therefore with a dignity that goes beyond blood, tribe or status- gives those who come in contact with it ‘a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life.’ Matthew concluded that ‘those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted. And […] it has to be supplanted by another.’

After all his huffing and puffing against religion and the mission schools -whose contribution to the forming of intellects in this country (including that of the ‘intellectuals’ of the Nigerian Humanist movement) cannot be brushed aside- what does Leo Igwe recommend? ‘The Good.’ Where would this ‘good’ come from if not from men? Moreover, if men were not good where would ‘good governance, good roads, good schools, colleges and universities’ come from? Christianity provides the means for –among other things- making men good. It is only when people are good that Africa would truly develop. Why is the western (European) civilization the most advanced? Underlying the advancement of the west is a culture, a worldview that is Christian. The west is where it is today because of Christianity.

Leo Igwe also recommends ‘humanism, skepticism, rationalism, positive atheism and free thought for Africa’.  History at least gives us salient examples of where such a world view would logically lead Africa to: the Despotic slavery of the Marxism of Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s china, the tragedy of Nazi Germany, the current anti-humanism that is Abortion and euthanasia, the anti-rationalism that is the so called ‘gay-rights’ movement. Is that what Leo Igwe (and the Nigerian Humanist Movement) wants for Africa? Tufiakawa!


Ikenna Okonkwo



3 thoughts on “From the Archives: To Develop Africa Needs God

  1. There is no place in the world, that I know of, where people killed each other for being reasonable and as such to equate freethought and skepticism to the ideologies of Stalin and Mao is to miss the point by a mile.
    If as you imply christianity provides the means for men to be good, pray tell me, why this is not reflected in the conduct of many of the leaders in African countries who identify as christian?
    And why do you look down upon African traditions? Have you been so colonised in the mind to not notice that Africa lost so much with the coming of the colonialist? We had a rich culture and engagement with each other and the world, The language of a creator god who creates from nothing does not have a parallel in most African languages because it is far from logical.
    What Africa needs is education and good education at that. She requires that governments expend money in ways that promote development and are accountable to the electorate. She must develop systems that are efficient. And she must be free from religion and its ability to numb the brain.
    No one denies that the missionaries built schools and hospitals in many places in Africa. All we are saying is the African must begin to break free of religiosity that stops him from engaging rationally with his government, always resorting to prayers when firm action is required and to rise above the bigotry you are trying to spread here promoted by the christian worldview about gays, assisted dying, abortion among others.

    • Don’t conflate religion with the behaviour of religious people. There’s what Christianity is and what Christians do. What Christians do is the same thing that almost all human beings do, Atheist, Muslim, Traditional Religious etc . What Christianity is is different from what Atheism, Traditional Religions, Islam etc is.

  2. Pingback: To develop Africa needs god | Random thoughts

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