I find it sad to continually read Facebook statuses that complain about fake friends, fake families and warn us never to trust or rely on anyone. It may be because of the people I follow on Facebook, but these comments come exclusively from Ghanaians. I don’t understand this level of mistrust and disappointment in others.
The comments are always from religious believers and often end with a statement claiming a dead person, who they never knew, and never knew them, is their only true friend.
Acknowledging the reality of these emotions, I wonder if there’s an unrealistic expectation of what can be expected from others? Are some unprepared for the hurt they will feel when friends mess up? The huge social expectation to marry and procreate, even though some Ghanaians are challenging this, may well be a factor in having unwanted and unloved children. But is this any different from the rest of the world?
I wonder whether the tendency to spiritualise problems by attributing misfortune to curses, witches, spells, etc has failed to encourage reflection and self-analysis? By seeing others as the cause of misfortune takes away personal responsibility for those problems, prompting them to lash out at those around them.
Perhaps they are finding their religious communities are not as genuine as they thought (friends of mine discovered many of their Christian friends were able to drop their relationships, with ease, when religious belief was no longer common)?
The result of these disappointments with others is a withdrawal into a fantasy world, believing in a special, father-figure friend. This retreat into solitude is not a bad thing if it involves introspection, analysis of what’s gone wrong, and some ‘time out’, with the intention of carrying on your life with increased knowledge and determination.
Critics have told me belief is a comforting crutch for the hopeless. They argue we shouldn’t take away people’s beliefs (they mean don’t ask people to question them) because it gives them hope. This does sound rather patronising to me. They recognise they are able to face the challenges of life but claim others cannot without reliance on artificial crutches which they will happily admit are not real. Not only does hope fail to equip one to problem-solve, belief may well be the very seed that created these problems.
According to Peter Boghossian
“they’ve misidentified the process that will allow their community to flourish because they’ve identified and used faith, not evidence and reason as a guide”.
“Only when our beliefs accurately correspond to reality are we able to mould external conditions that enable us to flourish”.
Instead of dealing with the realities of life, people are falling into a form of idolatry – seeing Jesus (someone they have never met and who doesn’t know them) as their only real friend. As the Christian writer Peter Rollins notes in The Idolatry of God:
“an idol can be understood as an object that we believe is the answer to all our problems, that thing we believe can fill the fundamental gap we experience festering in the very depths of our human experience.”
For those that have learnt additional skills, including how to think critically, they can be passed on to others, rather than leaving them less well equipped than they need to be.
Families and friends are real. Trust should be given to those with a proven record of reliability. All we have is each other in the brief time we are privileged to spend on this tiny rock in the cosmos. Jesus is not your friend but if you live your life with awareness you will find many people who are.