Wassup James! Still an atheist?

Well, apparently that’s what Eddie Ssemakula thinks. He wrote a response to my Monitor article Religious Teachings Reinforce Belief in Witchcraft (dated Monday, April 26 2010), in which I blamed mainstream religions by perpetuating the belief that witchcraft was efficacious.

My central argument in the article was captured in the following paragraphs:

Every Sunday Christians are told that witchdoctors are agents of ‘Satan’, and ‘demons’ are the evil spirits witchdoctors use to place curses and inflict suffering upon believers. Many a church service is devoted to exorcisms and other rituals intended to ‘protect’ the flock from ‘demonic possession’ resulting from witchcraft. Why? Because believers have been told repeatedly that it is only by ‘accepting Jesus’ that they will obtain ‘protection’ from witchcraft.

One would think a rational person would easily dismiss witchcraft, and other fancy stories of ‘spiritual warfare’, as childish superstition. Astonishingly, many educated Ugandans believe that these things are real. They do so not because they have encountered any good evidence or have analysed it critically, but because their religious beliefs require them to accept such claims as true, if not highly possible.

Many believers feel that asking them to concede that witchcraft doesn’t work, is like asking them to denounce one of their core religious tenets. The same applies to adherents of Islam, and of any religion or belief system that includes as its core tenet the view that a ‘spiritual realm’ exists.

In his response published this past Sunday in the Monitor, amusingly titled Onen Needs To Experience Jesus Individually, Ssemakula starts immediately by misrepresenting what I said.

Before we even get to discuss the existence of witchcraft, Onen’s own faith in the truth and infallibility of the scriptures when it comes to the things of the spirit is very wanting. When he reduces the faith of a follower of Jesus to just belief in “angels” on one side and the “devil” on the other. That’s where we start to see holes in his argument.

Holes in my argument? Did I reduce ‘the faith of a follower of Jesus to just belief in “angels” on one side and the “devil” on the other’? Let’s see. I said:

Christian doctrine holds that there are forces of good and evil, with ‘God’ and his ‘angels’ representing the good side, and ‘Satan’ and his ‘demons’ representing the evil side. It is believed that that ‘Satan’ is constantly attempting to thwart the will of ‘God’ through demonic possession, demonic harassment, by attacks on a person’s thoughts, relationships, or life with ‘God’.

I was referencing Paul, who in Ephesians 6:10-12 wrote:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

So does Ssemakula see holes in Paul’s claim here? I was, after all just paraphrasing what he said! Of course, my intention in citing Paul was not to present a fleshed out account of Christian doctrine in its entirety. I cited only the part of the doctrine that was pertinent to the topic at hand, which was the belief in the efficacy witchcraft, which religions like Christianity to a good job of reinforcing among its adherents.

Indeed the passage is pertinent to the topic. Every Sunday in charismatic churches believers are ‘delivered’ from ‘demonic possession’ accruing from witchcraft – well, that’s what they’re repeatedly told by the pastors who perform the exorcisms on them. These religious figures cite passages such the aforementioned one in Ephesians to scare people into believing that they are constantly being besieged by demons and evil spirits, courtesy of witchcraft.

Then, he questions my  ‘own faith in the truth and infallibility of the scriptures when it comes to the things of the spirit’ which he found it ‘very wanting’. Well, perhaps he will set me straight by providing evidence to prove to me that ‘things of the spirit’ are real.

No such luck. Instead, I got a sermon:

Like he quoted in Ephesians 6:10-12, my friend Onen should first have the faith to believe that the scripture he quoted is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness… 2 Timothy 3:16”. I mean, when he quotes Apostle Paul talking about the spiritual forces in Ephesians, he as an individual should welcome that passage in faith.

So if I quoted a passage from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita would Ssemakula ‘welcome that passage in faith’? What if I  quoted from the Qur’an, especially the part that suggests that Christians are going to hell? Would he ‘welcome that passage in faith’? This is what annoys me about these kinds of apologists. If you want to use religious scriptures to make a case for anything, you need to start by making a case for why I should take seriously what that scripture says. Forgetting that there are many scriptures of very many religious traditions, he assumes that I will automatically grant that the bible’s claims are true. What nonsense. Besides, we’ve already seen that the bible isn’t all that trustworthy a source anyway.

Since he is asking me welcome the Ephesians passage in faith, it seems he agrees with its contention, that ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (a.k.a. demons, evil spirits, et al). My argument is that believing such passages is what makes people prone to accepting that witchcraft is efficacious even if they’ve encountered no good evidence that it is. He does not dispute this.

The rest of his response was irrelevant sermonizing:

The central message of the Bible is that mankind; and yes, all of you reading this article, have all fallen short of God’s glory. This happened in the Garden of Eden when we chose our own way. Our relationship with God was lost. But thank God for his mercies, he decided to dress in human flesh and walk our earth for 33 years, he was killed and he rose again so we may personally experience abundant life when live believing that. Unfortunately, many of the 80 per cent Ugandan Christians Onen talks about in his article seem to carry this message as just a religious thing and not a personal relationship with God through his son Christ Jesus.

Many of them have been raised in religious families, they know what we are supposed to do on Sunday morning, they own a Bible and even find it easy to say “Praise God”. But what many have never experienced is a daily personal relationship with God through Jesus.

LOL @ the Garden of Eden – but that aside, this is largely irrelevant to the central issue.

Many of these people living double lives in churches and traditional shrines are doing so probably because they have been swallowed up by the pressure of materialism that rules our post-modern society today. Kingdom living seems to be less of a priority in today’s church.

Not relevant.

However, these do not in anyway rule out the fact that there are Christians of sound doctrine in our generation.

Not relevant.

The first evidence Onen and others should ask is not that of the existence of witchcraft but the evidence of the resurrected Christ working among the lives of genuine Christians in Uganda.

But the POINT of my article was that religions like Christianity reinforce the belief that witchcraft works, yet there is no evidence that it does.

I am not interested in knowing whether people believe in the resurrection and how believing this makes them happy. I know it does – even though a belief resulting in one having a positive outlook towards life is no test of the validity of its claims. After all, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Alien abductees, etc.. also live happy lives convinced that whatever they believe is true. So what? Does it mean all their claims are true? Not in the least. A belief can be based on a lie, yet still make whoever believes it happy. But this really is besides the point anyway.

I will personally be very grateful to offer my testimony first –one of how my life was regenerated because of Jesus Christ.

Save it. facepalm *Sigh*

No, Eddie, I do not need to experience Jesus because I do not have imaginary problems. Next time, present evidence if you want your arguments to be taken seriously.

  1. Is it true that Christianity perpetuates the myth that witchcraft is efficacious? YES
  2. Is is true that witchcraft works? NO

Religion remains guilty as charged.

My argument still stands.