By David Maillu
Published September 12, 2023

I recently published a question on Facebook asking, “What criteria would
you consider best qualities of a wife?” One of the first persons to answer
was a man who said, “To me, the first qualification is that she be a
God-fearing woman.” There is a commonplace statement saying, “Man’s wisdom
starts with his fear of God.”

The big question is: do I have to fear God or simply respect God? What is
this fear all about? Must a child fear her parents or he must simply
respect them?

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In the African sense of God, the question of fearing God doesn’t come in.
Because, whether you like it or not, God exists and, after all, you are
not anything else other than an element of God. You don’t have to fear
God. To fear God is to fear your beginning and ending. You can’t please or
displease God because you are an element of God. The best you can do for
yourself is to forget about God and live your life because that is what
God wanted by creating you.

The fear of God has been created by man-made religions which present God
as one who manages their life. As such, God becomes in charge of human
morality against immorality. God who appears to give you endless orders:
Do this. Pass there. Don’t do that. I will not let you do that. If you do
that I will punish you. If you don’t love me I will destroy you. If you
want to prosper you must do this. You must preach to everybody that he
must fear me. Compose songs in my praise. Praise me in e very occasion you
make. Don’t eat before praying to me. Nobody wrongs me and gets away with
it. You must listen to nobody else but to me. There is nothing you can
achieve without my help. I can make you sick if I want. I can kill you if
I want.

That kind of God makes the individual live with many fears about himself
and his world.

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The force that created the earth, the moon and the starts, can’t have
created them and demanded, “You should obey me.” A music composer does not
require the music to obey him or do whatever else other than make the
sound the composer wanted. When you plant seeds and they germinate, you
don’t demand the plants to behave in a certain manner. You don’t even want
the plants to think about you if they have got brains.

God is the creator of everything – human, animals, birds, insects, germs,
both the living and the dead, the atom and the universe. For all that is
what God is all about. Fear of that being to God is irrelevant. That fear
doesn’t alter anything.

You don’t know the origin of the material out of which God used to create
you. Where God got it, for what purpose, and where you will will go after
your death is none of your business. BUT your realization that there is a
force behind everything is good for your balanced survival.

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Traditional African religion is not there to please or displease God. It
is there for individuals to acknowledge that there is a Supreme Force out
there. That Force is a universal energy into which you can plant your
socket for charge. It is your business to choose or not to choose doing

When Africans are gathered at the shrine requesting God to give them rain,
they are simply plucking their socket into the universal energy for their
benefit. They do not go to the shrine to praise God. They don’t compose
special songs with which to please God. They compose songs to help them
reach God spiritually. But they live with the realization of the right and
wrong of things in the manner the universe operates. There is sunshine and
sunset; day and night, just the manner in which things should operate.

The only forces Africans interact with most in their religion are their
ancestral spirits, whom they think still remain their companions but in a
different form. They live with the awareness that those spirits can react
to wishes of the living. There is something with which to please or
displease them. They can punish you if you misbehave. They are superior to
you because they live closer to the Supreme Spirit.