Contrary to scaremongering New headlines, Baltmore’s Bloods and Crips did NOT unite to kill cops but to unify the community and stop the violence.
Seun Kuti is one of the most politically vocal artists in the World. If you follow him on Twitter, you will get a steady supply of thought-provoking analysis, especially aimed at young Nigerians. In this video clip from SaharaTV, he speaks to his fellow Naija people regarding the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
He warns that “we cannot mirror the evil we want to change” and opposes any kind of economic retaliation against South African business or killing of South Africans in Nigeria. He emphasises the need for unity and cooperation between the people of the two biggest economies in Africa. He encourages people to look beyond the Rainbow Nation Mandela myth, and to instead realise that in fact, the same people who controlled the wealth under Apartheid, still control it now, and it is they who must be dispossessed.
The stand-out comment he makes is that “you don’t have to go to South Africa to find black people who want kill you.” He continues “At least in South Africa they say you are taking their jobs. In Bornu [state] they will kill you because you are not worshipping the foreign god like they.” These comments will probably make a lot of people uncomfortable, but they are words which must be heard to counteract the simplistic narratives that are spreading like wildfire over the Internet. Check out the full speech and the intro to Kuti’s song, aptly-titled ‘Higher Consciousness’.
Nigeria responds to South African violence against it’s citizens with diplomatic and potential economic measures
South Africa: Nigerian Senate Calls for More Action On Xenophobia in South Africa
Fallout from attacks on foreigners spreads to South African businesses
South African shops in Malawi shut in xenophobia boycott
Black people are probably NOT Vitamin D deficient – a recent study suggests.
Seven people so far have been killed in what has been dubbed Afrophobic attacks in parts of South Africa.
“Ghana Must Go” (Nigeria kicked out up to 2 millions Ghanaians in two weeks in the 1970s): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p013t60w
Katie Hopkins: Sun migrants article petition passes 200,000 mark: hhttp://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/apr/20/katie-hopkins-sun-migrants-article-petition-nears-180000-mark
The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the centrepiece of the Christian faith. This doctrine teaches that Jesus had to die in order that God could forgive the sins of mankind. In this post, I will point out some of the most obvious inconsistencies and flaws with this theory of salvation.
Forgiveness or Punishment?
One of the most dubious aspects of popular Christian salvation theory is the way it confuses forgiveness with punishment. If Jesus paid the price for our sins, then it cannot be said that God has forgiven those sins. If you incur a fine and then someone else pays it for you, have you been forgiven the fine? Of course not! Likewise, if Jesus has paid the debt that people owe to God, then God has not forgiven them this debt. He has simply found someone else to pay the debt. Christians can perhaps be grateful to Jesus for being punished on their behalf, but they can’t really claim to be forgiven in any sense.
Why didn’t Jesus go to hell for eternity?
But then we have to ask, did Jesus even pay the debt that human beings are said to owe to God? We are told that unbelievers will burn in hell forever and ever… and ever. But Jesus did not burn in hell for ever and ever, unless I’m missing something. He was killed and then is said to have come back to life some days later. So how can it be said that he paid the price for people’s sins?
I’ve never heard a coherent explanation of this problem. Usually Christian apologists will talk about how Jesus is God and so he is eternal, and so him dying is the same as him burning in hell forever and ever… or something on those lines. But the problems get deeper if you go down that road. If Jesus is God, then does that mean that God died? If it was only the ‘human nature’ of Jesus that died, then it was only a human being who died, and thus the problem remains, why didn’t he go to hell forever and ever?
To be fair, I should point out that some Christians (including Seventh Day Adventists) do not believe in the doctrine of eternal hell. They instead teach that the unrighteous will will cease to exist – forever. But if God’s punishment for sin is that people will cease to exist forever, and if Jesus paid the price for our sins, then surely he should have ceased to exist – forever. Whether you believe in eternal hell fire or eternal annihilation – Jesus did not receive either of those punishments. So the fine hasn’t even been paid!
The Old Testament shows God does not need sacrifice to forgive sins
Christianity claims to find justification for its sacrifice-centric salvation doctrine within the pages of the Hebrew scriptures, or Old Testament. It is true that there is a copious amount of instruction in the Torah concerning sacrifices and offerings for forgiveness of sin. But there is clear and unambiguous evidence that God of the Israelites could and often did forgive sins without sacrifice.
Yahweh would forgive people their sins if they confessed them or prayed for forgiveness. For example, in one psalm the writer says “I acknowledged my sin to you [Yahweh], and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5). Similarly, in Numbers 14:11-23, we see that the prayer of an individual (Moses) persuaded Yahweh to forgive the sins of the Israelites and turn away from the wrath he was going to unleash on them (Yahweh would try again later!).
We are told clearly in the Old Testament (and especially in the prophets) that Yahweh would
forgive people’s sins if they repented or turned away from them. I will give one example out of several. In Ezekiel, we read a long and explicit teaching concerning individual people’s responsibility for their sins and repentance. We read that ‘…if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live.’ (Ezekiel 18:21-22, see also 33:12-20, Isaiah 55:7, Proverbs 28:13 and Psalm 32:1-5, 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 is a good example of how this same principle worked on a collective level)
This being so, then according to the Old Testament, there was no requirement for someone to come and die for people’s sins. Yahweh was already forgiving people based on their own deeds and repentance.
For me, these are fundamental and fatal problems with the idea of Jesus being a sacrifice for sin. The theory doesn’t actually offer forgiveness, only vicarious payment. The theory fails to show that Jesus even paid that supposed debt. And the theory actually flatly contradicts the more reasonable message in the Old Testament, which is that Yahweh could and did forgive sins without the need for sacrifice.
Modern (western) culture shuns elders
One of the most unfortunate features of life in the western world is the way in which the elderly are treated. Such is the individualistic mentality which has successfully overtaken the European world-view (at least in the Anglo-world), many elders have little or no significant contact with their children and grandchildren. The old are almost seen as a hindrance, getting in the way of people’s enjoyment of life. Care for the old has been outsourced from families and is now largely carried out by professionals, often at purpose-built and somewhat ironically-titled ‘old people’s homes.’ I think it’s no surprise that many younger people have a fear of getting old. People want to look after themselves and the thought of having to rely on others for one’s daily care offends the individualist mindset.
Thankfully, Africans have not yet been fully absorbed into this way of living. For us, it is imperative that we look after our elders and it is a disgrace to neglect them. How can we treat our mothers and fathers and grandparents in such a way when they brought us into this world and nurtured us and cared for us when we were in need, as infants? I’m sure this is changing though, and particularly for those of us who are living in urban areas where it becomes much harder to maintain our traditional ways. But for now, it’s still rare to find families who openly fail to look after their elders.
Forgotten and neglected African ancestors
However, where we have fallen down is in our respect for our elders after they have left this realm. For thousands of years, African people gave reverence and honour to departed ancestors. These elders were not considered to be ‘dead and gone’, but were considered to be part of the family and involved in the life of the family and communities. This understanding is a central pillar of traditional African cosmologies and spiritualities. John Mbiti states in his African Religions & Philosophy that ‘African religious activities are chiefly focused upon the relationship between human beings and the departed.’ These activities differed from people to people, nation to nation, but typically included things like building shrines, pouring libations, offering gifts and even communicating directly with ancestors. Commonly, ancestors were seen as intermediaries between the living and the spiritual realm.
All of this has changed radically over the past century or so, primarily due to the influence of European Christianity and Arab Islam. The Christian theologians often had real contempt for the ways of the indigenous peoples they were helping to subjugate. When they saw the reverence that Africans and other peoples had toward their ancestors, they termed it ‘ancestor worship’ and condemned it. Africans and other indigenous peoples were required to give up any open participation in their ancient ways in order to be considered authentic converts to the newly-arrived religion. While this was partly due to genuine ignorance as to the true significance of ancestor reverence, I think it was also deliberately designed to weaken any resistance to foreign rule.
Abrahamic religions and ancestor reverence
Ironically though, ancestor reverence plays a vital role in Christianity of the Roman variety. Roman Catholics are taught to pray to other people’s ancestors (who they call saints) in order that they may in turn offer supplication to the Most High on their behalf. When Africans venerate and commune with their deceased ancestors, this is called ancestor worship. but when Roman Catholics do it, it’s pious and holy! This is just one of the many double-standards that religious apologists often when it comes to our ancient African spiritualities and systems. And in other so-called Abrahamic religions, you find Africans elevating and honouring other people’s ancestors (such as Abraham) who they call prophets, while their own ancestors are forgotten and even despised. These very same men and women sacrificed so much for us, and yet we now turn our backs on them.
How must all of this make our ancestors feel? How much resentment and hostility must they have toward their careless and ungrateful descendants? And how much of an influence could our mistreatment of our ancestors be having on our own lives, individually and collectively? I am a firm advocate of the concept of karma. It seems likely to me that as we neglect and turn our backs on our ancestors, we are planting seeds of discord, and enmity and all kinds of calamity in our own lives. Look at African history and you see that the onset and intensification of the Maafa (invasion, chattel enslavement, the middle passage, colonialism and neocolonialism) has occurred at the same time as Africans have taken on the ways of other people, and venerated other people’s ancestors and the expense of our own.
Ancestor veneration – a necessity for the African re-awakening
For a while now, it has been clear to me that the social, political, economic and cultural resurrection of African peoples globally will depend in part on us reconnecting the our foremothers and forefathers and the heritage they passed down us. At the very least, we can take time to remember them by name and let them know that we respect them and honour them and all they have done for us. Imagine how much of a blessing it would be for them after so many years of complete silence from most of their offspring. It can’t do us any harm, and we may in fact reap the benefits of having harmonious relationships with them. In fact, having a more harmonious relationship with our ancestors is the same as being more in touch with ourselves, because we are our ancestors. But that’s a story for another post!
Have you ever wondered where words come from? And why is it that different languages have different words for the same thing?
Creation & the Tower of Babel
If understood literally, the Hebrew Torah (aka ‘Old Testament’) suggests that the first human being was created as a fully grown adult who could speak a language. This man then used this language to give names to the animals, and to the first woman. And in the famous story of the Tower of Babel, we find that humans previously had one shared language until the Creator split them up into several different languages (or dialects?!) in an act of divine retribution. You might write these stories off as myth. But modern linguistics doesn’t have much more to add on the question of the origin of words the the multiplicity of languages.
Language is arbitrary?
The dominant theory on these questions was popularised by Ferdinand de Saussure in the early 1900s. It argues that the connection between words and meanings is essentially arbitrary. There is no natural connection between them. This is allegedly proven by the fact that there are many different languages, which would not be possible if each meaning could only necessarily have one word. It is argued that the only thing that gives any logic to the creation of new words is conventions of languages. But these conventions (syntax, phonology, etc.) are ultimately arbitrary because they are made up of arbitrary words and rules.
When I first came across this idea, I was quite underwhelmed. I wondered if linguists had done any real work to look into whether the creation and development of words and languages could be connected to human physiology. For example, could it be that objects or ideas prompt certain psychological responses in humans and that the words we create are reflections of those impulses? If so, this would mean that there is a natural connection between words and meanings. And I wondered if the existence of different languages could be because different people groups have different kinds of internal responses to stimuli.
Language is not arbitrary, but “embodied”
As I’ve been reading around, I’m happy to see that a small but growing band of academics are making these exact points. One such commentator, Robin Allott uses the term Embodied Language to describe this idea. He writes the following:
Words, syntax and speech-sounds are not arbitrary. They are determined by anatomical, physiological and neurological structures. For each language, the structures of the language are derived from and directly related to other major segments of human behaviour (perception and action). The selection made by a language-community of its specific syntax, words and speech-sounds is not arbitrary or purely conventional but a selection from a range of possible sounds, words and syntaxes, with the community’s preferences being determined by the pooling of genetic features of the population over time. Stability of a language is a result of stability in the genetic composition of the population coupled with the acquisition of a child’s particular language by a process analogous to imprinting in animals and depending on the special character of the language as human behaviour. [Source]
In other words, the words and conventions which comprise our different languages emerged from the biological make up of the different people groups. To support this proposition, Allott refers to a large scale study done in the late 1980s which pointed out the following: ‘Linguistic families correspond to groups of populations with very few, easily understood overlaps, and their origin can be given a time frame. Linguistic superfamilies show remarkable correspondence with the two major clusters, indicating considerable parallelism between genetic and linguistic evolution.’ [Source]
To me, these are much more convincing as possible answers to the origin of words and the multiplicity of languages than the theory of arbitrariness. They could also have some fascinating implications for how we understand the world.
Language and race
For example, if all of this is true, maybe languages can reveal much about the characteristics racial groups? I often hear it pointed out that different languages embody a specific way of looking at the world, of understanding social and familial relations, of relating to our environment, of our perception of the spiritual realm and so on. Perhaps these differences in worldview are not just learned, but are actually derived from our differences on a genetic level?
Language and our ‘true’ selves?
Less controversially, perhaps if our languages are actually based on our genetic make up, this could suggest that people who are able to speak their mother languages are perhaps more in tune with their true selves on a physiological level. And conversely, perhaps someone who is unable to speak their mother tongue, or any languages closely related to it, is biologically alienated from themselves.
The more I read around the subject of language, the more I realise that the study of language is in fact the study of humanity. Language is at the heart of what it means to be a human being. It is one of the things that makes us different from all other creatures on this planet. Some would perhaps say it is the evidence of a ‘divine spark’ within each of us. Language is the prism through which we understand the cosmos and the means by which we interact with each other. But before getting into all this, it makes sense to consider what we mean by the term ‘language’.
Signs, meanings and syntax
I find it useful to think of language in terms of signs, meanings and syntax. Signs are things like sounds, letters and gestures which are given certain meanings. These signs are necessarily limited, for example by the range of sounds that humans are able to produce with our vocal chords and this could severely limit our ability to communicate. But we are able to put these signs together into sentences and thus use them to express a wider and wider range of ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions. We call the system that puts these signs together syntax; “a mechanism that enables human beings to utter or understand an infinite number of sentences constructed from a finite number of building blocks.” [reference] Different languages have their own range of signs and meanings and their own syntax which have developed over time in different places and in different social, economic and cultural contexts.
Value judgements and armies
All languages are spoken but only about a third of them are written. For example, relatively few African languages have been written down and of those few, most were written in very recent times and using characters from other languages. The fact that a language is not written is sometimes interpreted to mean that its speakers are backward. Another closely connected, and equally arrogant, value judgement is the notion that oral spiritual systems and religions are inferior to those centred around sacred writings. This is just one of a number of fascinating discussions in the field of linguistics – the study of language.
Another interesting debate relates to how we distinguish languages from dialects. You might think that there are some clear scientific steps for doing this. Dialects are often thought of as ‘sub-languages‘, forms of communication which are not distinct or formalised enough to qualify as fully-fledged languages. But in reality, these labels depend much more on power relations between groups of people than on any technical criteria. For example, during the European colonisation of Africa, the colonialists decided that the languages spoken in Africa were actually just dialects whereas European tongues were the only proper languages. This has persisted beyond the end of regular colonialism in Africa. As you’ll see elsewhere on this site, there is much truth in the idea that “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy.”
The power of language
Another fascinating linguistic discussion centres on how language affects the way we see and understand the world and how does it shape our behaviour? Some argue that language completely determines these things, while others suggest more plausibly that the influence is only partially. Several studies have been done in this area. There is some evidence that speakers of Chinese languages may be less able to think in hypothetical terms because the grammar of these languages lacks a clear way of expressing such concepts. Another study suggested that speakers of east Asian languages may have an advantage over English speakers in mathematics because their numbering systems are more transparent.
With a basic definition of language, the next question to ask is where do words come from?