Image: Jack Skett
Have you listened to religious messages recently? Are you worried about what these messages are doing to individuals and society? Because it seems the divide along religious lines in Africa is widening and the chasm is about to swallow us.
Whether it is Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism, all organized religion seems to be doing is spreading hate, intolerance, violence and an apathy for humanity outside of one’s faith. It is an irony because most religions hide behind a facade of tolerance and peace.
Few days ago, this Tafsir – a body of knowledge which aims to make clear the true meaning of the Qur’an, its injunctions and the occasions of its revelations – was on radio and the central message was that Muslims were better than everybody and Christians and Jews were people Muslims needed to be wary of. The Tafsir was playing in a plural society where both Christians and Muslims lived. Any Christian listening to that message would have been uncomfortable. If they had kept listening, they would have felt the gradual stirring of anger. Over time, the anger might turn to hate. Next thing you know, a need for vengeance.
Make no mistake; Muslims are not the only ones preaching these types of messages. Preachers in churches are equally guilty. It is not unusual to see some preachers talk about Muslims in a derogatory manner during their sermons. Furthermore, Christians are told that, by virtue of accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior, they have become better than others. They are taught to see anyone who hasn’t accepted Christ as unbelievers and some sects in Christianity even go as far as saying that Christians shouldn’t associate with Muslims. Hence, the society is made up of two major religious groups who think they are better than the other and who refuse to be led, or as they would describe it, ‘ruled’ by the other. Does this ring a bell?
This display among religious adherents raises certain question. Why do preachers feel the need to constantly tear other faiths apart? And since times are changing, shouldn’t the way scriptures are followed also change? In the past, it may have been okay to kill people who didn’t share your belief. Today, it sparks of human rights abuse.
Many people are quick to label Muslims violent. It has been said that anything said against Islam, its prophet and ethics usually ends in bloodshed. It is also said that any slight against one Muslim is a general strike against all Muslims. Many people conclude that Muslims are defensive about their religion, even unto death. What many do not realize is that the Christian faith is like that; or started out like that.
The Church has also caused many deaths in the world. During the Crusades, anyone not ‘accepting’ Christ was killed and their properties confiscated. The Catholic Church made a fortune in death and torture and while doing that, served up Jesus on a platter of silver. They killed people who had different views from the ones set by the church. Take what happened to the Cathar Movement for example. The movement were a group of gnostic Christians whom the church deemed heretics and a genocidal war approved by Pope Innocent III almost completely wiped them out in 1321 CE. The church also, between 1347 and 1349 blamed many Lepers, Jews, Muslims and witches for The Black Death epidemic. These groups of people were accused of poisoning wells and spreading the disease. From the 1430s, the church brought up trumped up charges against ‘witches’, blaming them for stupid reasons like male impotence and using the opportunity to go on killing sprees. For over a century and a half, a time known as the ‘Burning Times’, the church was responsible for the deaths of millions of people; the actual number is not known because of disparaging accounts between the church and independent historical sources.
Was that the worst the church, and hence Christianity, did? Of course not! Europeans were preaching Jesus yet robbing Africa blind, fattening her coffers and growing in economic strength! We still have ornaments in Europe that belong to Africa. But hey, they gave us Jesus, didn’t they? Let us not forget that the slave masters and traders were using and abusing their slaves because somehow, the Bible okays having slaves (Colossians 4:1, Ephesians 6:9). Fast-forward to today and we have ‘Christians’ who think it is okay to be racist and rid the world of ‘minority races’.
So when you want to jump down the throats of Muslims for being violent, take a deep breath and assess the violence Christians have perpetrated through history and in some regions, are still perpetrating. Not to condone violence or anything but non-Muslims shouldn’t be too quick to rant about having a peaceful religion when that religion murdered and pillaged people and towns to get to where it is today. Human beings are innately violent, and religion is just our excuse to be evil.
|Muslim Man Praying.
Image: Defender Network
One other major problem of religion is the issue of choice; or the lack there off. In most cases, people are not allowed to choose their own paths. They are either born into families that believe in one faith or in communities that are predominantly another. Many grow up just following the choices their parents have made. Maybe that is why many young people are not bothered with religion. Oh! They put on a show and what not but deep down, many do not care. Those who choose to follow their own paths, especially if it isn’t in tandem with what their parents or communities approve of, are often considered outcasts. If they are unlucky, they are threatened, brow beaten or even killed! The fear of death or being cut off by loved ones keeps more people in their religions than any other thing.
The older generation needs to ask themselves these questions: Are younger people interested in organized religion? If there wasn’t the threat of excommunication and death, would young people believe in what their parents and communities believed in? Do young people understand what their religion is about? Do they want to understand? If religion doesn’t preach blessings for obedience, pain for disobedience and a fitting afterlife for all our actions, will people even give religion a second thought? These are questions that religious proponents need to be asking.
This part is specifically to Christians. It is about time you get your head around the polity of the nation. While you are organizing soirees to welcome more people to church, the nation is tipping at the scales, ready to fall into war, famine and death. You cannot be so enamored of your church’s activities that you don’t take time out to address what is happening in the nation. Moses looked up from his palatial living to realize that the Israelis were suffering in the hands of the Egyptians. He could have remained untouched, but he addressed the issue at stake and helped get his people out of penury. Esther had to be reminded by her uncle that her queenly living would not prevent her from being eradicated (just like the other Jews) when the time came. Jesus Christ himself stood up for Mary Magdalene, people who were sick, demon possessed and even went as far as driving people out of the temple for corruption. Since He is your role model, you need to take a cue from Him and stand up. Stand up for Nigeria and the rest of Africa! Stand up for her unity, growth, development and advancement! Stand up for the end of corruption, for improvement in educational, technological and innovative ideas and better still, stand up for truth! You keep burying your head in church ‘activities’ and be rest assured that when you do lift your head, it will be to see you have no nation to worship in, no nation to organize church programs, picnics, conferences etc. It will be ineffective to ‘pray for the nation’ at that point.
And to Muslims, when murderous, rampaging terrorists go on killing sprees in the name of the God you live by, you should be the first to stand up to rally against them. Don’t wait until Muslims are in the casualty figures before speaking up. You should push for the advancement of education and the eradication of the Almajiri system which has been a good recruiting ground for terrorists. You should push for the advancement of female education and the protection of all females who choose to study in however capacity. After all, Khadija was educated and well versed in business before becoming the wife of your prophet. You should push for enlightenment of your men, women, children, and your communities on the essence of tolerance and the need for teamwork, regardless of a person’s faith. Go learn from what is happening in Dubai; an Islamic nation if there ever was one, but one which has opened her doors to all tribes of the world and which, because of this, has become a center of innovation, technological advancements, low crime rate and which has billions of vast foreign currencies going in. Dubai has shown that they can do all and sundry if they work with Muslims and Christians…and even maybe atheists and other non-religious people. That nation is a great example on how tolerance can further ideals and fatten the coffers of any nation. For the government of Dubai, your money is what makes you good, not your religion, race, tribe or belief!
Organized religion has not done much good for Africa. Instead, it reminds us how different we all are. And in a country like Nigeria, it has done so much worse. Isn’t it time we removed every iota of religion from our national polity? Don’t you think we are at that point where religion should be a personal thing and not an instrument for mass delusions? Can’t we see that organized religion has done more to disrupt the nation than any other combining factor in the entire history of this country? Religion might be the opium of the people but like the side effects of opium, the nation is constipated and being torn apart at the belly.
This delusion has to stop!