Bringing together non-believers
Author – Kennedy Karuga – The article was published in the Star Online on the 14th, January, 2015
As we move deeper into 2015 and 2014 recedes into the past, it helps to review the lessons of the past year. With respect to religion, 2014 was a year that will forever stand out as one marked by intrigue and unexampled revelations of fraud and deception. Yet notwithstanding, the religious contours of Kenya remain virtually unchanged in 2015. Evangelical preachers still draw colossal crowds and our thirst for miracles is as strong as at any time in the past.
Perhaps the most important event in this regard was the revelation of the intrigue perpetrated by Evangelical pastor Victor Kanyari. The excellent investigation by the Jicho Pevu team brought to light the ‘unbelievable’ shell games and barefaced duplicity behind the pastor’s pious charade. Aside from exposing Kanyari’s liberties, the documentary brought the entire evangelism business under the microscope, even prompting the government to consider taking action – not just against Kanyari – but against other ‘false prophets’ as well. Not surprisingly, nobody gave us any criteria to separate the false prophets from the real ones, or – as importantly – to separate real miracles from staged ones.
There are those of us who were surprised that Kenyans were surprised by these revelations. Those of us who knew all along that there was more than met the eye. Keen newspaper readers will remember that Atheists In Kenya challenged Prophet David Owuor to show up at the Kenyatta National Hospital on July 19 last year to verify his miracles.
Quite in line with our expectations, the prophet neither turned up nor gave an explanation for not doing so. We were of course in the minority, his followers and many other Kenyans could not have cared less about the veracity of his miracles. In April, the streets of Eldoret were scrubbed clean in anticipation of the prophet’s triumphant entry into the town. The event was patently choreographed to mimic Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, although the prophet elected to enter Eldoret confined within his Sh20 million Range Rover as opposed to riding his way in on donkeyback.
Owuor came into focus again on the first day of 2015, but this time under less spectacular circumstances. It was reported across the press that at least five people had died at his New Year’s rally in Nakuru. It was further revealed that among the dead were critically sick people who had checked themselves out of hospital against the advice of their doctors. If anyone believed that Kenyans had learned something from the Kanyari scandal, Nakuru proved them wrong. Furthermore, you can be sure that the events of January 1 will do no more harm to Owuor’s reputation than the revelations of Kanyari’s duplicity did to his standing.
The obstinate refusal by most Kenyans to acknowledge the waywardness of crooked evangelists is symptomatic of a greater underlying problem: the willingness to believe things without evidence. The average Kenyan is quite content to believe anything that sounds good, without reference to its factual merit. From quack herbalists to astrologers, from sorcerers to love gurus, Kenyans will not hesitate to patronise anybody who promises to grant their desires. This volitional gullibility is what we must focus on, not protecting adults from the consequences of their own actions.
As long as people are willing to believe things without demanding to see the evidence, no amount of legislation will protect them from the likes of Kanyari. As long as Kenyans retain the preference for hearing what sounds good as opposed to what is actually true, no law or policeman will be effective in taming the Charlatans. The only protection against fraudsters available to Kenyans is the application of logic and reason. This cannot be induced by an Act of Parliament.
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