Imagine a cave in which there are prisoners whose arms and legs are bound, and their head is tied so that they cannot turn their head from side to side or to the back.
They can only look at the stonewall in front of them. These prisoners have been here since birth and have never seen outside of this cave. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between them is a raised walkway. People outside the cave walk along this walkway carrying various things on their head including animals, plants, wood and stone. As these people walk, all that the bound prisoners can see are the shadows of the objects being cast on the stonewall ahead. One of the prisoners manages to escape and leaves the cave.
He is shocked at what he discovers outside the cave and he does not believe it can be real. As he becomes used to his new surroundings, he realises that his former view of reality was false. As he begins to understand his new world, he discovers that the sun is the source of life, and he embarks on an intellectual journey where he discovers true beauty and meaning. He is amazed and enamoured with his discovery of reality. Feeling sorry for his fellow prisoners, he returns to the cave and tells them that they are trapped in this massive cave, and that everything they think is real, is an illusion and is false. They do not believe him and threaten to kill him if he tries to set them free. This is famously known as Plato’s allegory of the cave.
The African is living in a cave called religion. And he has been living in this cave as far back as 60 AD when the Evangelist Mark brought Christianity from Jerusalem to Alexandria on the Egyptian coast. And his illusions have progressively become more illusory. All he sees, hears and believes is what his religious leader pronounces as the tenets of truth. This is his reality.
He is bound by intentionally choreographed intonated words that cast shadowy illusions of wealth, health and status.
In the Southern African cave this week, the African saw a dead man brought to life. Dressed in all white attire, and lying in a white silk padded coffin, the resurrection specimen stared up with his mouth open, tongue wiggling, while the religious leader and his lackeys surrounded the open coffin, performing resurrection rituals to raise the not so dead man from the dead. Not too long ago in the Kenyan cave, news of another resurrected woman filled the air waves when a religious leader spoke ‘life’ into her dead body through modern technology.
Just like Plato’s cave, there are those that have managed to escape from this cave and discovered the illusion they have been subjected to. In their enlightenment, they have tried to free those still living in the cave, but sadly, they have been threatened with hostility, brimstone and fire, and branded with a ‘Thomas the doubter’ label.
As a last resort in freeing prisoners from this cave, the State in its characteristic fashion wants to impose State paternalism by proposing to regulate religious institutions. Paternalism is the limiting of a person’s liberty in an effort to protect them from some self-regarding harm, either through law or other forms of coercion. A bill is set to be tabled in the National Assembly that seeks to regulate the formation and registration of churches with the intention of ending the mushrooming of fake churches and nepotistic leadership. However, if we are true followers of the holy book, the nepotistic leadership should not surprise us; after all, among Jesus most trusted disciples, were two brothers, James and John who were the sons of Zebedee; and Moses was deputised by his brother Aaron during the Exodus period of the Israelites from Egypt.
I submit that the fate that befalls gullible religious followers is the same fate that befalls gullible political voters. And this sheds light to the fundamental reason why Jesus taught using parables and asked questions he already knew the answers to such as; Who touched me? Who do people say I am? Why do you call me good? Jesus was inviting us to apply our minds to interrogate his teachings; to comprehend his lessons by engaging our awareness; and to keep our spark of curiosity alive. It is no wonder that he proclaimed that unless we have faith like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. In today’s cave, the emphasis is placed on the faith of children, but we neglect to concede that children are curious beings. They ask many questions. A survey conducted by News.au.com found that children asked an average of 288 questions a day. How many questions have you asked your religious or political leader this year?
Sadly, through the education and religious system, the African has been conditioned on what to think rather than on how to think. And unfortunately, because of this conditioning, regulation of churches will not free the African from the seduction of shrewd religious leaders. Only his mind will. And he can only do this through critical thinking.
When we become critical thinkers, we begin to question things rigorously; we begin to form sound, well-reasoned coherent thoughts and arguments; and most importantly, we start identifying when politicians and religious leaders are selling us bullshit. Through critical thinking, we build a fortress of understanding and discernment. We become largely impervious to the lies and the nefarious manipulations of politicians, the media and religious leaders.
Finally, my unsolicited advice to all religious followers is; never trust a brain, especially your own, because the brain is the only organ with which we think we think. Learn to embrace people who disagree with your worldview because the day you do so, is the day you begin to grow and the day you free yourself from the African religious cave.
A lie, like a pill, is easier to swallow when you don’t think about it – Marty Rubin