Letter to a Fictional “God-Fearing” Nation
Opening Prayer: Dear God, any similarities to actual persons or events in this piece are purely coincidental. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I am a non-believer: I prefer this term to atheist which has become a code word for the activities of privileged white European men who go around prescribing for others, and proselytizing how other mostly brown people in the world ought to live. I also realize that rejecting the existence of a god or of gods in Malawi attracts fierce expostulations more so than being caught stealing public funds intended for the construction of roads, hospitals, schools and for the provision of public services. Better a thief who believes in a god than a non-believing law abiding citizen who has stolen nothing. If one must rob and steal, embezzle and launder, let them do it professing some belief in a god; but we dare not suffer the upright citizen who adheres to all the legal and customary tenets for creating and sustaining a civilized society because she or he professes no belief in one or another deity.
And so, true to this rubric, another spectacle of decadent piety just came to a close in recent days: an electoral commission chairperson armed with a personal intercessor, buttressed by the habitual sanctimious practices of opening and closing prayers to obscure the rot and filth that so obviously inundates our pitiful nation. This is not unlike other spectacles to which we have gotten accustomed and numb. In Malawi we open and close with prayers events and forums in which thieves are shielded, murderers protected, corruption white-washed: indeed while prayers are sent up to the high heavens propitiating for interventions in one or another matter, Malawi’s true god who decides who lives and who dies, to gets an education and who doesn’t, who gets medical treatment and who doesn’t, presides over matters and settles them in dark rooms, along highways during police stops, in public buildings, at presidential and other prayer breakfasts and at lavish banquets. That almighty god’s name is money. In Malawi, the will of god is synonymous with the will of money. And the will of money, which ultimately is the will of god, is the will of those who have it (nevermind how they got it).
It is therefore not surprising that we pray to our leaders and we worship them. Not surprising that roads are blocked for hours for them to pass. Not surprising that the life chances of over 70 percent of our population are directly tied to the decisions made by the super elite who have god’s will in their pockets. Its not surprising that we live at their permission and mercy, that violence looms and death peers through the cracks in our walls, following our moves and scrutinizing our words, in case we dare speak against those who pray to an inept heaven with stacks of potent gods, emblazoned with dead heros, in their pockets.
Furthermore, who dares question god: and so the more they abuse us, the more we worship. The more they steal from us, the more we worship. The more they entrench us in paths that lead to oblivion, the more we worship. The will of the gods is perfect, and no mortal dares question it without retribution, serving as punishment to the offender and a lesson to the others who look on at the almighty’s ability to devastate and to destroy a life, a family, a community, a district, a region, a nation. There shall be no other gods except for them: you must worship not the idols that accrue from education, economic independence, sound health, good housing, adequate clothing, freedom of conscious. For such idols only demote and expose the arbitrary sanctuaries occupied by human deities who commission life outcomes through the god of money in their purses and wallets.
From a distance, I sense the fierce hostility towards my piece of writing: how dare he speak so disrespectfully about god? But this is precisely my point: you waste time defending a supposedly all-powerful and all-knowing being who, also supposedly, created everything we see around us (including the evil that ravages us, and the hell that is to lovingly follow for the likes of non-believers such as myself) instead of devoting your efforts to defend those who truly need interventions in this life: those who struggle beneath deliberate and systematized injustice intended to keep them desperate so that they might continue to worship their oppressors while being kept away from the idols of education, health, housing, transportation, economic autonomy, and so on: those idols that empower a people. Those idols that lead to “political atheists” or shall we say “political non-believers” who see through the gimmicks marshalled by the ruling elite, a priesthood of Malawi’s almighty money-god.
The world is an impersonal place, and impersonality entails a form of hostility especially to a satient and conscious creature such as a human being. This is the conceptual basis of all cognitive experience, the fundamental origins of the experience of suffering and thus the basis of what we might term evil. So I do not subscribe to the pointless debate of how a loving god allows evil. Rather, I say a godless world is an impersonal world — the paradox of which is the existence of empathy among satient and social beings who push back against impersonality (read: evil) in order to institute an order conducive for human community (read: good). In this argument, I am expressing this point: those who profess faith, the likes of those who sit in high offices including for instance electoral commissions and lord themselves over us, have given up on this most fundamental of struggles through the abstract profession of a god concept and a god rhetoric. Their profession of faith is merely a cover-up for their craven surrender to evil (read: impersonality).
In closing, I would like to thank her lordship (pun-intended) the chairperson of the electoral commission for allowing me to see once and for all that god is a rhetorical concept, bent to the whims and appetites of Malawi’s true god: money. When you have — or are given — money, you have god in your pocket, so powerful and overwhelming that even the will of a majority is thwarted and struck down.
May you have a great life. May the corpses of us and our dying relatives due to the corruption you have enabled not stench up your clean air. Cause surely you need it, in order to pray, to your god — money! money! money! Hallowed be thy name, and thy thiefdom come, in this country as it is in my pocket.
“Believers are too busy praying to care about justice” — Zefe, 1999.
Closing Prayer: Dear God, give us on this day, our daily money and then forgive us for the sins we are about to commit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.