Jamaica Observer, Dec. 21, 2002
MICHAEL A DINGWALL
Rastafari, one of the world’s newest religions, has been gaining increasing acceptance around the world. Many people see it as a very good alternative to the established religions, especially to Christianity. Black people, especially, see Rastafarianism as their religion, complete with a black god and an African kingdom. Even though the Rasta uses the Christian Bible as its sacred text, it accepts the last Ethiopian Emperor, Selassie, as god. However, does this religion fit into a 21st century world? Is it already outdated?
One of the central themes of this religion is the call for us to go back home — to Africa. Talk to any Rasta and he will tell you that we must get out of this “Babylon system” and go back to Africa. This call, also associated with Marcus Garvey, had its roots in the view that we black people in the Western Hemisphere are aliens in a strange land. We were taken out of Africa and sent here – to work. This view was correct then. At the time, these nations that we now control were not ours. They belonged mostly to Great Britain, and other European powers. However, times have changed. Britain no longer control these nations. We, the black African people, do. We should no longer cling to an outdated view that we need to go home — we are already at home.
Then there is the central Rastafarian belief that its God, Selassie, is a direct descendant of the ancient Jewish king Solomon. According to Rastafarianism, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (now the modern state of Ethiopia), are Selassie’s ancestors. In addition to the fact that there is no proof (as with the pillars with most religions), who would want to be descended from such a tyrant? Most Rastas will tell you that Solomon was the wisest person ever. Most don’t know, however, that he was also one of the most brutal. He worked and taxed the Hebrews to death. Many were forced to build the massive structures that were devoted to his imaginary gods (Yes, Gods, as Jehovah was but one.) Young men, for instance, were forced to give three months free labour. His oppressive rule was the main reason why the ancient kingdom of Israel collapsed after his death. No one should aspire to be like Solomon.
The Rastafarian religion teaches its followers that ganja is important to their faith. Smoking the plant is good, and it is supposed to bring the Rasta closer to Selassie. While not too sure about Selassie, I am very sure that it, and anything else smoked, will bring one closer to death – and insanity. Anything smoked, including ganja, can cause serious internal damage, especially to the lungs. Smoking anything causes cancer. Ganja has been proved to do damage to the brain. This practice was started at a time when man did not know these facts. In our modern world, we know these dangers. Smoking ganja is not only an outdated need, but a dangerous one as well.
We black people are a very interesting lot, you know. At a time when we were oppressed with the might of Europe we were looking for someone to emulate. During the early period of the previous century, we found such a man – Emperor Selassie. For all his faults, he was probably one of the better ones. After all, one of his immediate ancestors defeated and humiliated an Italian army that was sent to capture Ethiopia. However, with all of this, this certainly does not mean that Selassie was a god. Instead of trying to rid us of the choking clutches of Christianity, our immediate Rastafarian ancestors decided to replace it with another system designed to control our minds.
This religion, with its own set of highly ignorant, Taliban-type fanatics, is a threat to organised societies around the world. In our time, it has become a great obstacle to the advancement of logical and critical thinking, especially among the black man. Its over-emphasis on the arts, Selassie and ganja, has resulted in the restriction of the development of science and technology for the black people of the world. And like it or not, it is science and technology that we must rest our future on.
In our time, and the world of the future, religion, with all of its fictitious gods, saints and lofty pies in the sky, are becoming less and less relevant. The future of our people rests with us. We control our destiny. We must rely on our brainpower, not dead and outdated gods like Selassie and Jehovah. Rastafarianism must reform itself to our time, or be buried along with the emperor.