ATR produces poverty.
“The Limited Good” is the economic theory of animism. Should we think about wealth as a bag of apples or as an apple tree? ATR commonly approaches wealth as if the apples were all taken out of the bag or violently taken from their hands. Now they have no hope, except some form of stealing such as political revolution, socialism, or crime in order to enjoy prosperity. This is the default—not explicit—worldview of ATR. Why are people so quick to be jealous of others who have more? Why are they so hopeless about their own poverty? The religion does not have moral laws about planning and work because it does not have a God who planned the world and governs it providentially.
In fact, a Tsonga proverb illustrates ATR’s contribution to poverty: “Vusiwana i vuloyi.” (Poverty is witchcraft.) The religion has a direct tie to the economic status of the people. As Christians, should we not expect false religions to produce poverty? Does not the book of Proverbs promise wealth in accordance to Christian virtues such as hard work, planning, and patience? Yes, criminals or greedy politicians may hinder someone who is obeying the commands of Proverbs, but as long as it is not hindered by other people’s sins, the religion of Jesus Christ does eventually produce wealth.
ATR promotes ignorance.
As an adherent to the traditions, life’s goals are entirely focused on this world, so there is “no impulse for any higher life” from this religion. (Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, delivered in 1898, reprint 1931, page 35.) The religion cannot answer the main questions of humanity.
- Where did we come from?
- Where are we going?
- Why do bad things happen?
- What is our purpose?
ATR has has no texts so it is inherently non-intellectual. Why were there no schools, writing, books, or science 300 years ago? Why are there no bookstores today in areas influenced primarily by ATR in the past? As someone who works with language with more than a passing interest, the orthography of Tsonga, Venda, or Shona are amazing accomplishments. Those first missionaries took sounds out of the air and produced an alphabet and phonics so that African thoughts could be recorded. They labored for years at this task producing dictionaries and textbooks so that the people could read the Christian Bible and be saved from the impoverishing demons of ATR.
ATR prohibits discernment.
Discernment is a spiritual virtue, so we should expect Satan to discourage this work (1 Cor. 2:15). ATR transfers to all knowledge a changeful, fickle character because the religion has no final authority above all others. Science is impossible because no single, great Spirit made the world by laws that reflect His character. Philosophy and theology are impossible because contradictions are not necessarily wrong. It is only wrong to steal if you get caught. Logically this means: It is wrong to steal, and it is not wrong to steal. It is only wrong to lie if you hurt someone that you did not want to hurt. History is not important because the nature of mankind can change and the future may not be like the past anyway. It is a way of viewing life and the world that sinks the soul over centuries into a dank mental prison. This is what we would expect from a false religion since the job of a missionary is to “turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18).”
ATR propagates dictators.
Those who write historical accounts of African states often blame the problems on leadership. When the country breathes easily after one dictator is deposed, the man who brought them freedom from the last tyranny commonly turns out the same or worse. It is superficial to finger the leaders as if an epidemic of bad leaders caused itself. As Christianity produces all goodness, truth, and beauty in society, so we should expect that false religion will produce all badness, falsehood, and ugliness.
ATR promotes power as a virtue irrespective of moral safeguards. Who is the quintessential Zulu still remembered with airports and public attractions named in his honor? The same man who waged brutal wars against the Ndebele and Shangaan (Tsonga) people, Shaka (to say nothing of his aggression against the Afrikaaners and Englishmen). Since the religion has no recorded teachings, it has no unchanging moral restraints. Once grown in this garden, kings naturally strive for all the power they can achieve. By lack of religious prohibition, ATR fertilizes and waters the latent lust for control in the heart of men.
- Thorough understanding of ATR so that we will see where its teachings and customs are different from Christianity.
- Willingness to discern and think carefully about the complicated issues ATR has produced today.
- Pity and love for those still confused and experiencing the pain that this demonic system has caused.
- Doubt, uncertainty, and skepticism toward mysterious traditions.
- Hatred of the false doctrines and Satanic power that have bound us in lies for so many years.
This cycle has already happened in Europe. Evidence of superstitions and polytheism come from most countries including England when Julius Caesar arrived and Germany after Boniface. ATR has been a tool working against the people who follow it—a vicious circle. As the “futile way of life inherited from your forefathers” ATR bears the responsibility for most of the poverty, ignorance, and failure of this continent. If we would all fight African poverty, we must fight this false religion, and for this task, our weapons are not carnal. Churchplanting, evangelistic, prayerful, discerning missionaries are the great enemies of African Traditional Religion and the only enduring hope—in God’s usual means of grace—for Africa.
Other articles in the series on African Traditional Religion:
African Traditional Religion 1: Africa’s God
African Traditional Religion 2: The Gods Never Sleep
African Traditional Religion 3: Similarities with World Religions
African Traditional Religion 4: African Christianity has the Same Theology as ATR.
African Traditional Religion 5: ATR is Uniquely Used by Satan