Christianity, child murder and witch hunts in Africa

I was perusing John Loftus' blog Debunking Christianity today, where I saw this disturbing post about witch hunts in Kenya. Readers mentioned an article published in October over at The Huffington Post that discussed the rise in evangelical Christianity and its connection to the rise in accusations of witchcraft. It's a disturbing look at what happens with the spread of religion in developing nations. While Christianity is growing the world over, it is on the decline in developed nations such as the United States and Britain. It is growing the most rapidly in developing nations like Nigeria and Kenya, and the consequences of converting ignorant, superstitious people to a new religion can be dire.

I can already hear the chorus of Christians claiming that the Christian pastors who murder (or sanction the murder of) children aren't "true" Christians. This is the classic "No True Scotsman" fallacy. Of course they are Christians. That does not mean that all Christians believe in or condone such things (of course not!), nor does it mean that Christianity inevitably leads to such morbid outcomes.

The problem with religion is that it is based on a set of ridiculous ideas that are regarded as immutable truths and shielded from criticism precisely because they are religious beliefs. This is problematic enough in a developed nation like here in the U.S., where we at least have well-organized laws prohibiting cruelty to others and guaranteeing freedom of speech. But in developing nations, people don't have access to the education that we do, nor have they remotely reached a comparable point in their sociocultural evolution. They are ignorant people ruled by superstition and fear, and many of them lack the ability to discern objective reality from religiously motivated delusions.

The responsibility here in no small part falls upon the evangelical Christians spreading their religion. In the fervor to save the souls of the lost, missionaries often overlook the sociocultural norms that will affect the way in which people integrate religion into their lives. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as converting them to Christianity and watching them transform into a prosperous democratic nation. Most poignantly though, these missionaries are not teaching these African peasants the importance of reason, evidence and critical thinking. They're not teaching them about the scientific method, or how to objectively critique claims about the nature of reality. Instead, they're merely replacing one set of dogmatic, irrational beliefs with another set of dogmatic, irrational beliefs. It should be no surprise, then, what kind of atrocities these uneducated, superstitious people are willing to commit in the name of their newfound faith.

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