5 Jun 2013

2) IDENTITY

Here is a table showing the different religious grouping in South Africa according to the 2001 national Census.

 

SA Census 2001 

Denomination
Adherents
Dutch Reformed churches
3,005,697
Zion Christian churches
4,971,931
Catholic churches
3,181,332
Methodist churches
3,035,719
Pentecostal/Charismatic churches
3,695,211
Anglican churches
1,722,076
Apostolic Faith Mission
246,193
Lutheran churches
1,130,983
Presbyterian churches
832,497
Bandla Lama Nazaretha
248,825
Baptist churches
691,235
Congregational churches
508,826
Orthodox churches
42,253
Other Apostolic churches
5,627,320
Other Zionist churches
1,887,147
Ethiopian type churches
1,150,102
Other Reformed churches
226,499
Other African independent churches
656,644
Other Christian churches
2,890,151
African traditional belief
125,898
Judaism
75,549
Hinduism
551,668
Islam
654,064
Other beliefs
283,815
No religion
6,767,165
Undetermined
610,974



I think when this is considered, and knowing a little about South Africa’s history of oppression and our stated goal of a “Rainbow Nation” we can see the value of living in a secular society.  Secularism in essence advocates that government Institutions, political decisions, legal principles etc should be neutral on the influence of any religious group as far as possible, especially one groups interests over another’s.  It will naturally be extremely difficult to be completely secular, but from I can ascertain we do a fairly good job of that element over here along with the racial element, possibly as a result of our past and carefully considered constitution.

Some parts of the world don’t work this way, like Pakistan for example, but I’ve learned from interaction on social media sites that idea’s on free thinking are spreading, and indoctrination by one group over another seems to be on the way out.  The events in the last few years regarding Egypt, Libya, Syria etc seem to re-enforce the notion that we are moving in a general direction where dictatorships and overt oppression are no longer tolerated by populations.  The more subtle forms of oppression will possibly re addressed next.  I’m fairly sure there will be fireworks along the way, but I’m sure we will get there or thereabouts.

Most of history has been defined by the spread and clash of civilizations and ideologies, crusades have happened and wars have been fought, the dust is still settling.  The future in a shrinking world, in my opinion, belongs to tolerance and co-operation rather than to division and war.

In order to get there each group has to look at its values and be willing and open to change if needed, and this cannot always be guaranteed if some or other absolute morality is perceived to exist unchallenged from an all knowing god. That would equate openness to new ideas with going against god’s word.

The very religious also cite lack of ability to disprove the existence of god as very good reason to require no evidence whatsoever.  Here “Faith” is seen as a quality of strength rather than as a weakness and the scientific method of requiring evidence and repeatable results is regarded with suspicion.  I am typing this on a computer, so I know that works and even though religion has never offered anything provable beyond some sort of intangible emotional solace, it will persist for some time to come, possibly as long as we are around.

There are two ways around this roadblock; one is by undermining the current understanding of our translation / interpretation of the holy texts.  This will introduce an element of doubt into our version of god’s word, rather than god’s ACTUAL word.  This might provide scope for compromise where there was previously none and I will devote a section of this blog to doing precisely that in an upcoming chapter.

But what if there is another way?  What if the power to bring us together and remove unwarranted prejudice lies at the level of the individual instead of the group?

This leads me to the central theme of this blog.  How free are WE to process information, make decisions and to know ourselves?  We may be legally free, but are we really free from other influences that may use coercion or duress or enforce a sense of community identity that may have values that are at odds with our individual identity? What about exploring aspects of another group that we are curious about because it inspires some sort of passion and belonging in us?


What I am proposing is that we are finally at a stage when we have constitutional backing to be more than just our inherited identities. It will serve us well to ditch unquestioned absolute morality to get in touch with values that resound with us on a personal level, even if it is at odds with defining values that we inherited through our cultural background.