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Catch the Witches (Part 1)

Some people hold the belief that religion is a necessary evil. They hold this belief or opinion due to some few negative consequences of religion on society. They don't, for example understand why religion which is meant to be good tends to affect people in very egregious ways. Although this group of individuals might not be right in their thinking or belief, we cannot also say that they are completely wrong. They, of course, react in the ways they do due to their observance of happenings in society. For instance, when religious people are perpetrators of heinous crimes, and hold on to beliefs that tend to hold societies back or at a standstill, then they have every right to ask mind-boggling questions.

As I did aver in an article titled “the symbiosis of religion and society” posted on this platform about a couple of months ago, there should be the need for the mutual existence of religion and society. Each needs the other for the proper functioning of the world within which we are situated. But the questions that need to engage our intellect are the following: How can religion improve the course of society? And in which ways can society help in the proper understanding and engagement of religion?

One of the drawbacks of developing countries such as ours is the unwillingness of some religious persons to engage in critical thinking about some of our “fears” which in most cases are imaginary. Why do most people in developing countries, especially Africans (Ghanaians) attribute our woes, failures, disappointments, etc. to works of evil forces? Are evil forces only restricted to our part of the world? Are we underdeveloped because of the very high concentrations of these spirit beings on our continent or we have not really appreciated and understood the origins of our sufferings? These questions, I admit are difficult ones, and to address them means that civil society, religious leaders (the enlightened ones), educators, advocacy groups, and of course, the government have to properly interrogate them.

The problems that people attribute to religion might not be correct if we properly analyze these questions by engaging both common sense and rationality. The problems might just be outside the equation or box. When little children are accused of being witches and wizards, especially those from poor homes, as well as those living in poor neighborhoods, doesn't it ring a bell in our ears? Doesn't it tell us that something might be wrong somewhere? Why don't we normally locate some of these “poor” school going children who are always alleged to possess evil spirits in affluent homes?

So you see, the problem might reside, as I have said earlier, outside the realms of religious practices; it could be ignorance. As we know, science is based on two principal philosophies: rationalism and empiricism—i.e. the use of knowledge, the intellect, and reasoning as well as the observation of nature. What we observe in nature, in our environment must be subjected to critical thinking and analysis. God bless Ghana!!

Source: Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, Educational Psychologist, Accra ([email protected])

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