I have complained about the strain of anti science animus that permeates Ghanaian society, perpetuated by, of course, religion.
And here we see it in full flow, being spewed by one of the most respected people in the entire country.
Ghanaians, the ultra religious ones anyway, have never liked gays and never would for a long time to come, so saying Ghanaians should be against gay marriage is nothing new. But when you use the argument that research should not be trusted, simply because you do not like what it says- then you get into the realm of the anti science animus which never leads to any progress- as this country, and several others across the continent, are ample proof of.
Anyway, during his sermon to his church on Valentine’s Day, the head pastor of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Dr Mensa Otabil, told his congregation that Christians must oppose gay marriage with all their might, even if research shows that gay people are not sub-humans, like Christians would like all of us to believe.
“It [the world] talks in very high, sophisticated language and very polished words and they throw out all kinds of big-sounding words that we haven’t heard before and they say: ‘This research said that, and that research said this and this analysis said that.’ And when they end up with what they say the research said, you’ll say: ‘So, with all the research, this is what you ended up with? That a man can become a woman and a woman can become a man and then they marry? That a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman?’”
No Dr Otabil, I don’t think any research ever said a man can marry a man or a woman can marry a woman. It just says gays are humans like ourselves, you know, homo sapiens sapiens. Ergo, they are entitled to equal rights, like the right to get married and ask themselves- ‘why the hell did I just tie myself to one person for the rest of my life?’ Gays have the right to be miserable too, you know.
He continued “Let me tell you: No matter what research proves that, common sense – I’m not even talking Bible, leave the Bible out, common sense, the sense that is common – tells you that a man marrying a man doesn’t make sense.”
Exactly which part of common sense is that? The common sense that has made so many people like yourself believe that snakes can talk and people can walk on water? That one? If there’s one thing many humans are not capable of, it’s using that brain embedded in their skulls.
But leaving that part, let’s go to the part about if you don’t like research, ignore it. He said, ‘no matter what research proves that’. So hypothetically, even if research managed to prove that men must marry men, it has to be discounted, for the sole reason that the bible does not support it.
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He framed it in the realm of common sense, but of course, he’s saying that due to his religious beliefs.
That’s the problematic mentality we’re consumed with in this country, and many other fundamentalist Christians suffer across the world. See, the way the world works is, you look at the evidence, and follow where it leads. That’s how scientists work, and that is why the world has seen incredible progress in science and technology the past two centuries. We would still be in the dark ages if not for science- you know, the method Pastor Otabil so nonchalantly dismisses.
But religious people, they just take a book and say it is right by definition. How do you know it is right, because the book itself says it is. It is maddening, puerile, circular logic- and based on this bit of insanity, anything that contradicts the book must be wrong.
How do we not see how that is a problem? It is a trick the religious use, to immunise the flock from things like facts and scientific knowledge. It is why people continue to believe the fairy tales in the bible in an age when the species should have matured out of it. The bible is right, and anything that contradicts it must be wrong- the central pitch of Christianity.
If we had decided to stay within that mindset, nothing would have been accomplished. Why search for discoveries when the bible has the answers for everything? Following the evidence wherever it goes, that’s the cornerstone of science, and that is what Mensah Otabil is saying we specifically should not do.
It’s the same thing they do when you’re growing up and you start learning about the world. As a curious person and an avid reader, my parents knew how wide I would read and the sort of things I would encounter. So one day my uncle sat me down and lectured me on the ‘high and mighty’ scientists who think they know everything, and that I shouldn’t believe what they say. It is a survival mechanism, is what it is- to ensure you don’t let things like facts and evidence shake your belief. It is harmful, and it permeates every fibre of Ghanaian society.
Mensa Otabil just proved himself an enabler of that same mindset, the one that continues to hold our country in the grip of ignorance, superstition, desperation and stagnation. We wonder why people like Obinim has so many followers, but we do not realise that the kind of mindset we have breeds unquestioning loyalty, and then it is a short step from believing water can turn into wine to believing pastors can turn into snakes.
We have to be taught to question, investigate and see where our curiosity leads us. And it has to start from childhood. You cannot train people to not believe in science when it is not convenient, irrespective of the evidence. You cannot train an army of sheep who must obey the word of God without question, and then wonder why some would let their pastors talk them into drinking gasoline.
Dr Otabil is one of the better preachers this country has, and he steers clear of a lot of the controversies most pastors revel in these days. But this kind of talk is a weakness, and it betrays the faulty programming religion embeds in all of us.
If these are our ‘respected’ leaders, it is easy to see why we have no future, as I like to drum home all the time.