Not only has the late Nelson Mandela become a source of commerce (t-shirts, books, etc.) but now his name is also defiled by atheistic apologetics. Just read this article: http://freethinker.co.uk/2013/12/06/widely-understood-to-be-an-atheist-nelson-mandela-dies-at-the-age-of-95-hamba-kakuhle-comrade/. This article, that was retweeted (without comment, but probably with appreciation) by Richard Dawkins, claims that it is “widely understood” that Mandela was an atheist.
Another atheist, one Damian Mogale, states on his Facebook page that Mandela, because of his political role, could not afford to say out loud that he was an atheist. Like Obama, Mandela’s utterances about his personal faith were “for the show”. Again, others say that Mandela was an atheist because he is on the honorary membership list of the Bertrand Russell Society…
I don’t know whether these claims about Mandela’s atheism are true. A religious Dutch newspaper (Nederlands Dagblad) published yesterday a brief article on Mandela’s faith, in which it is argued that Mandela was quite silent about his religious faith, but that he more than once talked about him having faith. The conclusion of the newspaper article was that Mandela’s faith followed his way of life and not the other way around. That makes sense, but that definitely does not make him an atheist.
But does it matter what his beliefs were? Does it matter whether he was an atheist or a theist? His view was that one should rise beyond the differences that divide people, and look for the goodness in human beings that can be hidden but that never entirely disappears.
Whatever Mandela’s beliefs were, I am frankly appalled that atheists are trying to claim that Mandela was actually in their camp. First it was Darwin (who never confessed to atheism), then it was Einstein (idem), now it is Nelson Mandela. Such apologetic strategies are dishonest and simply don’t work.
Moreover, it is appalling to see that these atheists are actually arguing in opposition to Mandela’s ideals: they try to polarize society and to increase hostility towards religious believers, whereas Mandela – whatever his personal beliefs were – stood for reconciliation and mutual respect. By fighting religion and calling religious believers hypocrits, atheists defile Mandela’s legacy.
But don’t get me wrong, though. Christians who are doing the same thing – claiming that Mandela was “one of theirs” – in order to argue against atheism – to me are just as appalling, since they are going against Mandela’s vision just the same…