False religions are known by the fear they create. ATR creates a dreadful fear—a habitual nervous condition; an inability to look at the facts because of constant uncertainty; a worldview of hopeless, helpless resignation to “fate” as controlled by a body of random disembodied ancient people. But the demons were clever enough to offer the people a kind of hope. If there was no hope maybe the absolute despair would drive them insane too quickly. A student of African voodoo and witchcraft realizes that there is a “solution.” Some men and women have been given unusual powers to communicate, see, and persuade this invisible, numerous parliament of souls that decides the fates of millions. These men are called sangomas in many Bantu languages or witchdoctors in common English.
Voodoo deals almost entirely with earthly problems such as how to accumulate more than your neighbors, how to protect yourself from sickness, and how to solve family problems. In every case the believer learns from childhood, helped onward by his naturally sinful heart, that the spirits must be feared because they are directly causing all our discomfort. Witchdoctors aid and abet this misplaced, sinful fear by shouting the implication that they alone can deliver the poor person from his fear and uncertainty.
Fear is a powerful psychological force. It has driven decisions throughout history bringing about needless divorces, violent assassinations, and pointless wars. Every demonic religion capitalizes on these fears, but the most base deprive their adherents of any eternal consciousness. False religions can be judged by how narrowly they bind their people. If a dark power is able to keep millions of people from even pondering eternity, though God has set it in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11), then how evil must that power be!
Islam and “orthodox” Judaism are both terrible religions because they come right up to the Lord Jesus and then disown Him for who He really is. Yet ATR is far worse because in this vile system, the horizon of man’s interests never rises to something beyond himself unless it were an invisible spirit somehow blocking him from getting a more comfortable lifestyle. By trapping humanity apart from the great concerns of humanity, by blinding their eyes from any hope of relating to and adoring something outside themselves, ATR dehumanizes the ones it enslaves. This single factor explains the endemic poverty of Africa. The proverbial problems of the continent speak to the baseness of the religion. Thus, Christian love for anyone trapped in that error will labor to cut the cords binding the poor sinners even though the bonds may be ever so many or even if the one bound has an irrational affection for the dark ropes that hold him fast.
The majority of Africans are still bound today. I just returned from speaking with a few Venda women who were watching via a smart phone a false pastor as he said among other things, “You are the Word of God, the living and breathing Word of God.” When I asked them why they were watching this particular pastor rather than any other pastor, they explained that even though he has a “church” 5 hours away, they would prefer to drive to him because he has the power to help them. One of the ladies then explained, “Sorcery is alive among we black people, but not among you white people. That is why we must find the most powerful prophet. He can heal me when I’m sick because I can’t afford the doctor.”
Could any other bond except fear hold them to this commitment? Though they are both poor, they will find transport and then give offerings because they are afraid that otherwise they will meet an early death, or lose a child, or a job, or a spouse. When I told them that Jesus was a Prophet who said that “Many will seek to enter and will not be able,” they were unimpressed. Immediately they diverted the conversation. When I asked them to read, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire,” they dodged the topic again. Neither the terror of fire nor the warnings of our Lord could awaken even a moment’s interest in these self-professed Christians. Our conversation went on for some time, but it was like Christian trying to awaken the three sleepers as he walked to the Celestial City.
Those who follow ATR are driven by fear, but not the fear of God. Their capacity for being awed at transcendent glories—even their own prophesied, imminent, eternal demise—is lost. In its place is the shallow worry about moving to a larger house. The fear of God requires thought about His Person and an accompanied dread about meeting such a Judge with such a heart as he knows himself to have. If you think that is similar to a modern American who cares almost nothing for eternity, you might justly see a similarity because all false religions distract men from the most vital themes. But the religion of spirits and ancestors and voodoo is lost even more deeply in the woods. Not all false religions are equally damaging in this respect. They may all lead eventually to damnation, but the walls built by some are higher and thicker than others.
Southern Africa’s Christianity is the old religion with makeup. It is a demon with a painted face. It is the chief cause of poverty. It is the dominant religion commanding respect over South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Botswana. It should call for your pity and prayers if you have been awakened. Africa is not the dark continent because African people are inferior, but because the religion that has held sway here for millennia has not been in a substantial way replaced by the one true religion. As Paul told us about the Jews and Greeks outside of Christ, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”