Religion: Help or Hindrance to development in Africa.
“Nearly all religion was brought by people and imposed on people by conquerors and used as the framework to control minds. When you accept a picture of the deity assigned to you by other people, you become the spiritual prisoner of that other people” – John Henrik Clarke
Religion is as old as the invention of writing. Religion in its simplest form is the belief in a supernatural being. Then how does a nation’s economic and political development affect its religiosity?
There are enough evidences to support the secularisation thesis which holds that with increased income, people tend to become less religious (as measured by religious attendance and religious beliefs)
The overall development of a nation, measured by its GDP, tends to reduce religiosity of the citizenry. As the GDP increases, the value of time increases. We know from economics that economic development and participation in the workforce raises the value of a person’s time thereby reducing their participation in time-intensive activities (attending religious services).
Conversely, younger and older people (and people with low value of time) will tend to participate more in religious activities. This simply means that, as more and more people participate in economic development, fewer and fewer people will participate in religious activities and the economic state of the nation develops faster.
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The relationship between religion and economic development is inversely proportional and, according to John Wesley, economic growth is detrimental to religion.
The more educated a person is, the more likely he is to turn to science for explanations of natural phenomena, with religion intended to explain supernatural and psychological phenomena for which there is no rational explanation. The higher the levels of educational attainment, the less religious the people will be.
As science and technology makes groundbreaking discoveries in medicine, the average life expectancy of the general populace tends to increase. With people living longer, fewer people will participate in religious activities while more people will be involved in the workforce.
Urbanization, another aspect of economic growth has a significant effect on religious participation. This is because there is a competition that is created between religious places and places of work. As urbanization takes place, more hands will be needed to maintain and continue such development in places like offices, hospitals, banks, police stations, libraries, museums, government houses, manufacturing plants, ports, universities, and so on.
Even though research shows that an increase in core religious beliefs – notably belief in hell, heaven, and the afterlife – tends to increase economic growth and individual productivity by fostering individual traits such as honesty, work ethic, etc., increase in religious attendance tend to reduce economic growth.
According to the Gallup poll and other research, the more religious a nation is, the less economic development the country will notice. In fact, all the poorest countries of the Third (or developing) world are extremely religious, likewise, the most developed countries of the world register low religiosity among their citizenry, with the exception of the USA which somehow balances religion and economic development.
Terrorism is another social ill that thrives because of extremism in religion. In as much as suicide bombers are usually from the middle class and educated, they view terrorism and violence as a religious goal that can only be well achieved by gathering enough education and intel.
Hence, to them, education is a means to a religious end. The position is absolutist. Deterioration in economic conditions is also associated with the likelihood of educated men becoming terrorists. Economist Alan Krueger concludes that terrorist activity on the part of educated males is a response to political conditions and long-standing feelings of indignation and frustration fueled majorly by religious beliefs.
This leads to secularisation. As the poorest countries tend to be highly religious and less developed, fewer women are involved in workplace activities that contribute to the economic growth and wealth of a nation.
One obvious example is that, with women having access to divorce, abortions, and family planning methods, more women have been included in the workforce over the years. A BBC article shows how Arabs are turning their backs on religion. Projections show that if Zimbabwe, a poor country, continues at its present growth rate, it will be regarded as a rich country in 2722.
MONOPOLY ON RELIGION
When there is a state monopoly on religion or an oligopoly among religions, one will find zealousness and the imposition of ideas on the public.
Where there is an open market for religion and freedom of speech, one will find moderation and reason. It is very apparent that conditions in England prior to 1760 were in many respect similar to those in developing countries of the world today.
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Nigeria is Africa’s top Oil producer and Oil is the government’s major source of revenue, but the economy struggles with increasing levels of poverty. The 12th biggest producer of Oil worldwide has slightly less than half of its population living in extreme poverty. In Nigeria, with a predominant Northern ruling class, a Religious constitution (The Sharia Law) is practiced up north, less development has been noticed.
The north still has the highest number of out of school children (mostly the Almajiris), child marriage is still a major practice with high numbers of VVF disease cases reported. The area is home to the most impoverished people in Nigeria, with high numbers of death reported recently without any probable detected cause. Recently, a Fulani man was arrested for insulting the President. Another man, a journalist was charged with blasphemy.
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The less people believe the richer they stand a chance of being. According to the Gallup poll, 19 of the richest countries of the world have more than 70% of their citizenry saying religion is not important to them. Religiosity is connected with the idea that the here and now cannot be improved so you should focus on the afterlife.
In the rich countries of the world, people are great believers in their capacity to alter their destiny through effort, hard work, and talent.
Development, industrialization, and technology do not thrive where religiosity is endemic. A shift away from religion may, therefore, make African third world countries more prosperous.
Religion: Help or Hindrance to development in Africa? Share your thoughts below.