Monday, April 05, 2010

The Nation Of Gods And Earths

I came across this religion/not-religion, depending on the take, when researching Erykah Badu (some sources suggest that she is or has been a member of the group). It is also called The Five Percenters because only five percent of humanity are argued to understand the truth.

It appears to be an offshoot from Islam in the U.S.:

The Nation of Gods and Earths was founded by Clarence 13X after he left the Nation of Islam's Temple Number Seven in Harlem, New York (the same temple where Malcolm X was a minister from 1960 to 1963). Multiple stories exist as to why Clarence and the NOI parted ways: some have him refusing to give up gambling; others have him questioning the unique divinity of Wallace Fard Muhammad, whom the NOI deified as the True and Living God in person; or questioning his position due to the fact that Fard was part-Caucasian. The story states that Clarence was then disciplined by the NOI and excommunicated in 1963, but another version of events says that he left on his own free will along with two others, Abu Shahid and Four Cipher Akbar (known in NGE circles as Justice),[1] who agreed with Clarence's questioning of Wallace Fard Muhammad.[2]

In December 1964, after leaving the NOI, Clarence was shot in a basement gambling den called the Hole. He survived the shooting, assumed the name Allah, and, according to some, boasted that he was immortal.[1] He then began to teach others his views based on his interpretation of NOI teachings. Clarence found success with the disenfranchised youth on the streets of Harlem, which, unlike the NOI, included whites and Latinos.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Clarence taught the NOI lessons to his group of young followers (who came to refer to him as the Father), but instead of teaching them to be Muslims, he taught them that they were God the same way he was. The women who came into Clarence's growing nation to study along with the males were taught they were symbolic of the planet Earth, because it is the planet on which God produces life (hence the female practitioners using Earth as their title).

Representatives of the Nation of Gods and Earths view themselves (men of their Nation) as their own God (both individually and collectively as the Original Man).[4]
Gods and Earths sometimes refer to themselves as scientists, implying their search for knowledge and proof, and not beliefs in theories.[9]

Black men are gods. Black women are the soil into which black men sow their seed. That's my translation, of course, but the official website doesn't seem to contradict it:

What We Teach:

7. That the blackman is god and his proper name is ALLAH. Arm,
Leg, Leg, Arm, Head

I can appreciate the power of a religion like this for an oppressed group such as black men. But note that the women are not gods. Indeed, it appears that women, because of being women, cannot rise to the highest levels of knowledge in the religion. Those levels are numbered from one to seven, seven being the highest, and women can only reach level six:

According to Five Percent beliefs, only a man can achieve the level of perfection symbolized by a 7, whereas a woman can only reach a 6. Gods refer to Women members as Earths, or Queens.

Peace to all the Queens
Submitting to the sevens

-- Poor Righteous Teachers, "Can I Start This" (Holy Intellect).

Just as Earth revolves around the sun, woman is subordinate to man.19 A Queen or "Earth," must cover 3/4 of her body, just as 3/4 of the earth is covered by water, and so 5% women wear head coverings and long loose-fitting garments. A female Five Percenter is known as a "muslim," unlike the male God, because she witnesses to the fact that her man is Allah (Nuruddin 1994: 128). According to Sincere Allah Merciful God, "God is not a Muslim. God does not submit" ("Why We Are Not Muslims"). So although Five Percenters tend to treat women with respect, their orientation creates little space for female 5% rap performers or the articulation of women's issues.20

This is most likely a very small sect, the links I find don't look terribly reliable and the whole topic might not be worth writing about at all. Except for two reasons:

First, it's an example of the fact that one oppressed group doesn't necessarily want to end the oppression of other oppressed groups, just their own oppression. Human beings tend to be like that, wanting to climb the societal ladders onwards and upwards.

Second, it seems to be the case that The Five Percenters have quite a bit of say in rap and hip-hop. This means that their influence might be greater than the numbers indicate.

At first sight the idea of the men being gods appears to be a novel one. But the Mormons have been argued to believe something rather similar, at least in terms of what happens after mortal death. So in many ways the Nation Of Gods And Earth is just another very patriarchal religion, however recent.