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Challenge of Technologizing Divinities in Africa

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Mapping Africa

In a previous article, I urged Africans to draw lessons from the Indian space mission especially how the Asians mobilized the Hindu religious icon in executing their historic technological program. They named their first space-based mission to study the Sun after the Hindu Sun God, Aditya. I shared the article with a philosopher and transhumanist, Chogwu Abdul, who sent me the following response: “I think the path to this is somewhat easier for Indians than Africans. For Indians, the majority have continued over millennia with Hinduism, which is intrinsically interwoven with Indian culture. Hence, the contemporary technologization of religious metaphors shouldn’t take much of a rigmarole for them as compared to the largely Christianized or Islamized Africans who, on one hand, may not easily see the possibility or even acceptability of technologizing Christian or Islamic divinities. On the other hand, many African Christians and Muslims have been severed from or are now made to see African religions and the gods as fetish and demonic. This situation I suspect would keep impeding the creative imagination needed to reconstruct those divinities/spirits/ancestors in African religions to serve as mythic metaphors and inspiration for the desired technological innovations”.

I believe that Mr Abdul made some salient points that deserve further reflection. I agree with him that the path may be easier for Indians because they have millennia-old Hindu culture to draw from. But let us get this from the beginning. No path is easy and will be easy for any country or society. No society gets a free pass to technological excellence. Every country or nation has to discover its unique part and follow it. Each country has to find its technological destiny and realize it. The challenge is not whether the path will be an easy or a difficult one. But whether a country or society can muster the will to discover its unique path and follow it. That is the real problem. That is a real issue. So, that the path to technological breakthroughs will be difficult is not enough excuse and justification. African cultures have existed for a long time. Haven’t they? African religious icons are much older. Aren’t they? Even though Africa has undergone centuries of christianization and Islamization, local divinities have not lost their significance and value.

Local divinities are rich in cultural substance and symbolism. Many African Christians and Muslims reckon with their traditional gods and deities. Many practice a hybrid Christianity, a mix of Christianity and indigenous faith, or a hybrid Islam, a mix of Islam and traditional faith. And the religious situation is not different in India. Like Africa, India was christianized and islamized. Millions of Indians profess Christian and Muslim faiths. So if the presence of these religions has not prevent Indians from technologizing their divinities why should the presence of christianity and Islam in Africa become an excuse for technological inadventurism? Why should religion be used to hamper technological emergence? If Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other muslim majority countries have embarked on emerging technological programs, why should African Muslims refrain from doing so? If Europe and America. that introduced christianity to Africa, are key players in cutting-edge technologies, why would African christians relent and refuse to embark on these projects?

As Mr. Abdul stated, African christians and muslims regard traditional religions and gods as ‘fetish’ and ‘demonic’. That is correct. He suggests that it would be a challenge to rally and mobilize the divine accessories to further technological innovations. Agreed, many African christians and muslims would not want to associate or participate in projects named after Sango, Amadioha, Osun, or Ahiajoku because these religious icons are linked to what many regard as ‘fetish, false and demonic religions’. And if for some reason, the mission fails or some accident happens, they would say that it was an expected outcome of a devilish and ungodly scheme. Many misguided religious Nigerians have continued to excoriate former military head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo for staging the FESTAC event in 1979. They claimed he invited demons and occult agents to Nigeria and at the state’s expense. The same situation exists in India. Many Indians with similar religious inclinations exist in the country. And if these christian and muslim Indians did not stop the technologization of the Hindu god, why should African Christians and Muslims refuse to mobilize local divinities for technological purposes?

So, Africans need to deploy their ‘creative imaginations and reconstruct those divinities/spirits/ancestors in African religions to serve as mythic metaphors and inspiration for the desired technological innovations’. Because they stand to benefit from these programs. Africans should mobilize local divinities and religious imaginaries to inspire scientific and technological research. They should technologically harness the transcendental essences of deities, divinities and spirits. Africans need to muster the political will, discover their technological destinies, and realize them.

It is tragic that Africans allow religious ideas, local or foreign, to blind and stop them, to prevent them from exploring technological possibilities. Meanwhile, Africans of various faiths make use of these technologies after they have been invented and produced. Their faiths do not stop them from using satellite phones, and hearing aids, doing virtual transactions, and watching satellite television channels. Their faiths do not prevent them from harnessing other emerging technologies, from traveling to distant lands for cutting edge surgeries and medical procedures, and paying or spending fortunes to access innovations inspired by other technologized divinities.

Leo Igwe holds a doctoral degree in religious studies and has a research interest in religion and transhumanism

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