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Part 7: 10 Assumptions that New Comers to ATRs should Not make

#7 Everyone in the ATR communities is well read, stable and trustworthy.

Knowledge takes devotion and studying

There is not one religious group with a congregation that will homogeneously possess or manifest these 3 attributes: Education, stability and trustworthiness. Every religious congregation will be formed from people with different levels of education, and the African Traditional Religions (ATRs) are not the exception. African Traditional Religions base the core of their knowledge on oral tradition; therefore, anyone can claim expertise, stability and trustworthiness. After all, who is there to police them?

The availability of books on a myriad subjects on ATRs and the increasing reduction of the digital divide, has made increased exposure to knowledge that before was only transmitted from godparent to godchild, and only as newcomers were considered ready to learn. Does this make our religions any better and our leaders any more educated? We can make arguments on both sides of the fence. Quantity and availability of educational materials not necessarily imply their quality and not everyone can assimilate and analyze theology and theosophy at the same level, nonetheless apply it or for that matter, teach it.

Another interesting fact is that the age of the initiate, coupled with their level of education and years of initiation also has a bearing on their trust in books and other sources of information outside from their elders. Over all orisha senior initiates, those who were made in the 1960s or earlier, are less likely to be found on Facebook or poking about the Internet. Whereas the new breed of orisha initiates are more likely to ‘share’ knowledge online.

What does this say about the stability of our community or our initiates? The increased amount of resources has brought with it mixed blessings. It is my understanding that we have always had shysters in our mist, however, there is an increased proliferation of those since the Mariel Exile and now, with the growth of social media and the increasing hunger of editorial houses in search of material to print on ATRs.

The same way that more information helps us to have better ways to make up our mind in religious subjects, it can also bring a destabilizing force because not all materials published are exactly great. This coupled with the fact that there is an increase trend of abandonment of initiates, of initiates breaking off with their elders, a proliferation of new initiates with an entitlement mentality and people who come to ATRs with the sole purpose of setting up shop and making a living out of our religions, makes it a challenge to keep stability in the fabric of ATRs.

It is possible that upon reading this, you may think, why bother with ATRs? Why would I expose myself to such a mess? Well, my words are meant to make you think carefully before you jump to accept a godparent when trust has not been tested and relationships are well, disposable. When it comes to finding a religion, one must have vocation, love for the religion and overall, a great deal of common sense to select who will be responsible for your religious upbringing. If after all, religion is meant to preserve and help you grow your spiritual life, a life that should be longer lasting that your physical shell, then, take your time to select allegiances with great care. Trust is as important of a word as education and stability are.

Omimelli Oni Yemaya Achagba

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