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Opinions of Saturday, 15 April 2006

Columnist: Agbodza, Paul

Rejoinder: The Potent Force of Religion ...

... in Ghana?s Economic Development

I thank the great originator of Ghana web that gradually this forum is becoming the ?stadium? where all shades of Ghanaians can share their thoughts on how to create a ?heaven? out of Ghana.

Mine is a contribution to the debate started by Y. Fredua-Kwarteng which appeared on 10 April 2006 on GhanaWeb. That religion (here Christianity) has become a potent social force in every facet of Ghanaian life is as old as the African. Previous ethno-religious-philosophers like John Mbiti in the oft-quoted statement said: ?The African in radically religious?, i.e. religion permeates every aspect of his life. The current phenomenon of explosion in Christianity is nothing new. At best, the current explosion in interest in religion, all over the world including the developed world, described as a ?mega trend in spirituality? is being replicated in Ghana.

In the absence of empirical facts we may not hold the exponential increase theory of pastors; it might rather be a logarithmic increase or merely additive. And this is understandable because our population is growing at a rate of 2.7% p.a. so there is a proportionate increase in pastors. Ghanaian Development Economists need a model to work with, so we cannot blame them for any well established model they use. The challenge is now for young and coming Ghanaian scholars to develop a model that fits our social structure and Weltanschauung. We could begin with your article. Conduct research to support the general conclusions drawn in your article, publish it and work to develop it and we have a model to work with, a model which is peculiar to Ghana.

The new churches are by convention not part of historical Protestantism; they are a new phenomenon: New Religious Movements. The mainline churches: Catholic and main Protestant churches constitute about 33.7% of the populace in Ghana and the Pentecostal and New Religious Movements constitute 35.1% (ref. 2000 Pop. Census). Granted that the ?protestant ethic? is still a value in the mainline Protestant Churches then capitalism should have been established in Ghana by now. This means, it is still possible to achieve economic development and at the same time hold these Christian values.

The solution to prosperity theology is contained in the scientific subject called liberation theology which finds it roots in Latin American theologians. The breakdown of moral values in society can be traced to a certain pedagogical approach to the teaching of moral values in society. Morality has always been intrinsically bound to religion and God. Morality has been seen as commanded by God and the gods. If you do the good you would be pleasing to God and be rewarded with heaven. Such a model leads to the ?euthanasia of morality?. In traditional society the gods were potent and punished instantly. But the Christian God is merciful and forgives. In an unpublished study I conducted elsewhere, I concluded that when religious adherents (in this case adolescents) develop critical thinking and reject God then they would as well reject morality. This is why Kant for instance calls for a disinterested morality, morality as duty and not as commanded by a God.

Maybe the mental shift needed by Ghanaians is rather in our colonial legacy. Technical/Vocational Institutions or polytechnics are considered less superior to University education in whatever subject. And yet technical education is the main driving force of the economy of the Asian countries. The ?aban-mentality? ought to be replaced with what Prof. Dzobo calls the communal-feeling (wee-ism) of Africans. It is not for ?aban? but for us all. This calls for a moral revolution (courtesy Rev. Kudadjie).

Your Attribution theory is an acronym for psychological infantilism. This prompted one commentator to quote Marx who stated that religion is opium of the masses. Karl Marx ought to be interpreted in context. Marx was actually not anti-religionist. He said religion is the protest (or opium) OF the masses against what he called (?Die Entfremdung?) estrangement; but Lenin adulterated this to: religion is the opium FOR the masses. Politicians adopted the second reading of Marx to create Leninism or Marxism. The African is radically religious. The Akan say, using the oft-quoted Akan-proverb of the great Bishop Sarpong :?obi nkyere akwadaa Nyame?, i.e. the knowledge of God is inborn. Your ?religious rationality? I would call religious rationalisation. Indeed religious rationalisation is a disservice to religion. Kant for instance since the nineteenth century launched a Copernican revolution in the world of knowledge. The religious domain was no exception. He tried to use reason to give theology a place.

A leadership by church leaders would certainly offer the best form of management. These, especially the Catholic and Mainline Protestant ministers are among the best educated in Ghana and as well, in Plato?s words, Philosopher-Kings. Their level of education spans all fields of endeavour. Check on the educational background of the Catholic Bishops and find that apart from rigorous training in theology and philosophy for at least six years, they have extra training in Theology and Philosophy and as well some have extra training in the social sciences, e.g. Geography, Business Administration, Law, Anthropology and History. And these combine a great level of scientific explanation of religion as phenomena and as faith expression (reality). So a government by these and the great scholars among the mainline Protestant churches would have been the best form of government. But this model is an utopia.

The values mentioned as condition for creating a new Ghana are not accurately measurable; and are beyond econometrics or sociometry. These are attitudes to be developed. The phenomenon of New Religious Movements is that they appear to be NGOs and they probably get lots of money from Europe and America to undertake charitable work. So if you need money today, just start a new NGO and call it a church and there you go! And this is business now. And Ghanaians would continue to follow such people because they offer solution to their quest. Such solution the mainline churches with well established structures and highly trained pastors do not offer the people. In the developed world psychologists offer such services. If you went to a Catholic priest with a problem with witches, he would first suggest you go to hospital; he would analyse your problem more rationally before praying for you. But if you went to a wayside pastor he offers an instant solution which fits your need. The ordinary Ghanaian needs a solution to her or his problems. She is looking for instant solutions. She satisfies her conscience by going to any one preaching in the name of Jesus and cares less upon what authority that person is performing his wonders. The question of whether he is using magic or African juju is for her immaterial. In my estimation, we need just PATRIOTIC leaders who would use the several million dollars being pumped into the Ghanaian economy ?optimally?.

Unfortunately it is an illusion to have such leaders. Because like Kak Dee said some years ago, ?Patriotism is a hollow word?. Today we may cry in this forum, but if we are trusted with power, we shall be corrupted because power corrupts and time changes people. Only angels can manage the economy of Ghana successfully. That angel could be any of us ready to die for Ghana without ?chopping Ghana small?.

Paul Agbodza (Ghanaian in Wien)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.