It never really surprises me when I come across an article in public media that rails against religion (even less so when the article vilifies Christians). It was, therefore, not exactly shocking when I was presented with an article by The Times columnist, Fred Khumalo which does just that. To be fair, it was a bit of a struggle to figure out where he stands at all when he writes both, “those of us who are of the Christian faith … ” and , “Issues of faith or religion, are constructs of the human imagination”. I came to the conclusion that the former quotation was crafted to keep the reader in suspense as to where the author stands but Mr Khumalo can hardly be accused of vilifying Christians. His article is entitled, “The Darkness that zaps us from the sky” and assumes the Dennet-like arguments that religion is a construct from our evolutionary past and he complains about the fact that some people still hold on to these myths. His complaint was, I admit, understandable; the MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs in KZN told a family, some of whom had been killed by lightning, “We will do an investigation with a view of trying to identify the causes of the recent upsurge of fatal lightning incidents in the province.” But the idea that atheism somehow solves the world’s problems was too much for me, so I wrote a letter to Mr Khumalo.
Good day Mr Khumalo,
I have just been presented with your article on “The darkness that zaps us from the sky”. It led me to consider the way in which intellectual climate of our day has changed the weather. You are of course, quite correct in your assertion that lightning and thunder are natural phenomena. I found the idea of lightning hawkers quite amusing. Of course, the idea is not far from the indulgences peddled by the Roman Catholic Church not long ago (which could, for example buy time off purgatory). What disturbed me about your article is what you overlooked.
As a naturalist should, you affirm, “Issues of faith or religion, are constructs of human imagination.” Faith and religion are mere concoctions of our evolutionary past that have helped our ancestors to survive and with the likes of Daniel Dennet and Richard Dawkins you argue that we should move beyond them. The only thing that I would add to this is that we should move beyond our ethics too. After all, any notions of morality are only constructs of human imagination. Moral absolutes are for those who, in their cowardice hide behind religion – an antique of our evolutionary past. The call should not be merely to stop thinking that lightning had anything to do with a supreme power who could call to account for our ethical decisions but also to abandon the idea of ethics.
Sir, your worldview doesn’t work but I am more than willing to continue the discussion.
And I sincerely hope that the discussion will continue.