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Ghana 2002

Passion for Religion

Britain is not a Christian country. The fervent and enthusiastic Ghanaians shame even our noisiest charismatics and evangelicals. A walk around the old area of James Town in Accra gave me my first real culture shock. Every shop had a religious truth on its sign board.

"Jesus Loves You Beauty Salon", "God is Life Telecommunications Centre". Either people are very religious, or adding God's word to your business is good advertising. Quite soon I'd eliminated the cynical option, I'm convinced everyone genuinely believed.

Which is the answer, Coca-Cola or Jesus?

Africa is unique in having one absolute God in all her indigenous religions. This makes it much easier to convert the natives to monotheistic Christianity or Islam than, say, Asians, or the native peoples of the New World. These newly arrived religions feel to many Africans like an extension of their existing animist beliefs, extra detail about how the universe works rather than a complete change.

Nearly every person in Ghana believes in one God; whether animist, Allah or Jehovah. Later in the trip, Sylvester from the Bible translation project was very curious about my agnosticism. He had never met anyone who was either atheist or agnostic before.

Wa mosque, a place of stillness.

This made me realise just how much our beliefs are a product of our environment. Overall, my trip in Ghana cemented my agnosticism - how can anyone have a concrete belief when it is so clear that many other's beliefs are from the cultural background of their childhood?

This is of course slightly ironic, and very fitting. That our beliefs are a product of the circumstances of our upbringing also applies to me. I come from a post-Darwin, post-Hegel, postmodern country. Otherwise, would I really be agnostic?

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