´╗┐Whose Story Does Religion Tell?

As long as man has lived, man has lived with some form of religion or belief system. Over time, the prevalence of various belief systems has changed. Different religions have come and gone, always bringing their stories with them. While these stories vary widely, they collectively serve one purpose. Religion, much like history, tells the story of the winner.

This winner, or hero, varies greatly depending on which story is being told as well as what lens it is told through. Okonkwo is the hero in Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart because he refused to bend down to the conformity that much of his village was succumbing to. He remained dedicated his religion and culture, and wouldn't give in to the White man's ways. In the end, he believed death was better than giving up his identity for a stranger's. However, Achebe recognizes that Okonkwo's story is not the one that won in the bigger picture. European colonization of Nigeria demolished years of religious culture. While he's not characterized at all as a hero, The District Commissioner is the actual winner in Things Fall Apart. After Okonkwo's death, he walks off pondering the events, and decides he may write a chapter, or just a paragraph, in his book. He also mused that, "He had already chosen the title of the book...The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger." (Chapter 24).

European colonization was highly destructive to the Nigerian culture.

In contrast, the European's viewed their colonization of Africa as an economical success.

Although it is painted negatively in Achebe's novel, Christianity does have its fair share of respectable heroes. From Adam and Eve's "original sin", Christianity has been full of stories about various heroes overcoming evil. Whenever the fight against evil got a little too rough, it's believed that God tried different methods to help and fix man, one of which was sending his son to earth. It is also believed by Christians that God's son Jesus died in order to save everyone from their sins. Someone who sacrifices themselves--a truly selfless act--for the good of everyone around them is truly a hero worth respecting.

Jesus depicted doing modern day "awesome" things because of his heroic nature.

What we have blamed as evil has changed over time. The Europeans believed they were colonizing Africa because it was their burden. They felt they were bringing civilization to Africa and fixing a broken culture. The "white man's burden" was a battle against a dark evil. Marlow, the narrator in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, witnesses the colonization of Africa first hand. While describing it to fellow sailors, he says it was just a way for Europe to harvest the land, however, "What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to." (passage one). Marlow's view of colonization as something rough around the edges but still respectable extends the belief that, at its core, pushing white man's civilization and religion on another culture was a battle meant to be won for the good of both sides.

Religion has always been a cornerstone for man, and it has been fought for for thousands of years. It tells stories of heroes trapped in a battle of good versus evil, but depending on whose eyes you look through, those playing the roles of good and evil are always different. Ultimately, religion functions much like history. Whether it's the winner of a holy war, or the winner of the ultimate battle between good and evil, religion tells the story of the victor.

Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. William Heinemann Ltd., 1958. Print.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Blackwood's Magazine, 1902. Print.

Robinson, Bruce. "Religions of the world." Christianity: The world's largest religion (1998): n. pag. Web. 12 Dec 2010. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/christ.htm>.

"A History of Evil." Youtube. Web. 12 Dec 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6c-umQ_hlc>.

"Extreme Sports Christ." Explosm - Cyanide & Happiness. Web. 12 Dec 2010. <http://www.explosm.net/comics/1738/>.

"In the Rubber Coils." Wikimedia Commons. Web. 12 Dec 2010. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/Punch_congo_rubber_cartoon.jpg>.

"Rhodes Colossus." Wikimedia Commons. Web. 12 Dec 2010. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ec/Punch_Rhodes_Colossus.png>.