Posted by: John Adams | January 2, 2009

An Atheist Explains Why Africa Needs God

This is an astonishing article from a British newspaper:

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

… We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was 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. They stood tall. …

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.”

Read the whole thing.



  1. Wow! But not entirely unexpected or unprecedented.

  2. This fellow is more perceptive than so many Christians! Do you not see Haiti in all that he commented on as well?

  3. Definitely. The fatalism and passivity that he mentioned are present in Haitian society as well.

  4. I read this article again. There’s an interesting contrast between what he observed in Africa and what Marx observed in Europe. Marx called [the Christian] religion the opiate of the people.

    For the Africans in this article, Christianity relaxed them and gave them motivation. But for the people under Europe’s Christendom, they were relaxed to the point of apathy. Marx was frustrated with carelessness observed in the state-endorsed Lutheranism and the abuse of the individual by capitalist institutions (like steel manufacturer Krupp, and others).*

    I think the reporter of this article alluded to a similar danger to genuine personal faith in Christ. “Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.” In particular, the attractiveness of western conveniences which promise a more comfortable life.

    I’m not saying that the west and Christians in particular should stop bringing practical aid to African villages, but that the Christian message is not married solely to western supplies and values.

    * Of course, Marx didn’t offer anything better. He himself was a very lazy person constantly bumming off of relatives in order to feed his family.

  5. What do you know of the book, “On That Day Everybody Ate: One Woman’s Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti”, by Margaret Trost (Koa Books, 2008)?

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