Confusion About Religion

Note: This post is not to malign any religion but to share my confusion about the role of religion in humanity’s advancement. So many thoughts have been racing through my head about the many aspects of religion. These thoughts have grown to become huge questions needing answers. So let me walk you through them. On ‘The True God’: There are over 4300 religions in the world, with Christianity, Islam, Nonreligious (which in itself is a religion), Hinduism, Chinese Traditional religion and Buddhism as the six most popular; in that order. Each of these 4000 plus religions believes that their god – or plethora of gods – is the ‘true god’. Monotheists like Muslims, Christians, Jews and others swear that their god is the truth; even though Muslims don’t believe Christianity is a monotheistic religion. Is Allah the true god and Mohammad his last messenger? Is Jehovah the true god, manifesting himself in human form as Jesus and remaining with people as the Holy Spirit? Is the true god Buddha, Ahura Mazda, Haile Selassie, Shango, Aganju, Amadioha, Aleku, Bumba or the other (very many) gods of Africa and the world? Thing is, each religious adherent believes that their own god is the only true one. Why is that? Where do people get off believing that their chosen paths have to be the right one? And even though none of these gods has been proven to exist, adherents of these religions believe that their way has to be the right path. Yes, none of the existence of these gods have been disproved either but that still leaves us in a lurch. If only one religion is the right path, then at least 4299 religions have to be ‘wrong’. This brings me to the next thought. On ‘Destiny’: Most religious people, regardless of their faith and beliefs, believe that our lives were predestined before we were born and we are just living an already prepared script. This script is supposedly written by the one true god who basically dictates our lives from the moment we are conceived to the moment we die. This has always set me on edge. If this is to be believed, then this one true god deliberately writes that some people WOULD NOT WORSHIP HIM so that he can punish them. This has to be the logical conclusion because, of the 7 billion people on earth, only 2.1 billion are Christians and 1.3 billion, Muslims. Even if we ignore the 1.1 billion who are nonreligious (atheist, agnostics, secular), we still have a whopping 2.5 billion who do not believe in either of these most popular religions. So if Allah is the right god, has he deliberately written that 5.7 billion people go to hell? Or if Jehovah is the true god, has he destined 4.9 billion people to eternal condemnation? Someone once told me that while our lives are destined, we have to choose to walk in our destiny and choosing otherwise is what gets us thrown to hell. Isn’t this a contradiction in itself? If my life has been scripted out, doesn’t that mean that I am destinedto be for or against god? Even if I CHOOSEthat path? And whether we like it or not, there are some people who will never hear about any of these religions. So does that mean that god deliberately doesn’t give them the chance to choose him or their destiny? You can see why this has me in a fix. On ‘Holy Books’: The most popular ‘Holy Books’ are the Bible and Qur’an. These books are said to be the ‘incorruptible word of god’ by those who believe in them. As similar as these book are in terms of morality and storytelling, these books are widely different. Most people will tell you their god is the real deal because their ‘Holy Books’ tell them so. Christians and Jews say that the Bible and Torah (respectively) are the holy words of god because it was written by lots of people who were inspired by god and the stories are in tandem, all leading to Christ or Yahweh. The Muslim says that very reason is why the Bible/Torah is unreliable as the Qur’an was written by only one person. While Christians and Jews do not recognize the Qur’an as a holy book, Muslims accept bits of the Bible that are similar in teaching to the Qur’an. Also, where many scholars may read the books that are contradictory to their faith, many religious faithful do not. So we have the Bible saying that Jehovah is god and the Qur’an saying that Allah is god. The Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas tell the Hindu that his way is the truth and the Buddhist swears by the Triptaka, Mahayana Sutras and the Tibetan book of the dead. Each of these books proclaims a true god and denounces others as false. So how can one book be right and all others wrong? And better still, which one of them is right?! Quite honestly, apart from our ‘faith’ in whatever ‘word of god’ we pick, do we really have any proof that these words are right and true? Here is the thing; I can find god in the Harry Potter series and even a way of life in them. Does that make it a holy book? And why is okay to assume other books are wrong when most of us never even bother to read them? I guess what I am asking is what gives us the certainty that the books that tell us how to live our lives are the ‘infallible word of god’? On ‘Blessings’: Each of these religions teaches that god only blesses those who follow the tenets written in their holy books. It goes further to imply that people can only be successful when they follow these books to the smallest tittle. We have seen that this is absolutely false. If anything, it seems that people are the ones who make their own blessings.

Attacking Christians?

I have always believed in, and respected the rights of every human being, as I expect my rights to be respected. Though I treat all basic human rights as the same, I am partial to the rights to life, freedom, dignity of person and freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression. I believe in the fundamental principle that my rights should not impinge on another’s and vice versa. You can imagine why the list I am about to make is seriously bugging me.      1.     BRIDGET AGBAHEME: Bridget was a 47 year old Igbo woman living in Kano who was attacked in front of her shop in Kofar Wambai, beaten to death and paraded around the streets. Bridget was married to Pastor Mike Agbaheme, who is a senior Pastor with Deeper Life Bible Church. She was a mother of one. This happened on June 2, 2016. Her offense: allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad      2.     REVEREND JOSEPH ZACHARIAH KURAH: was a 47 year old senior cleric with Evangelical Church of West Africa or ECWA as it is popularly called. He was killed by two people in Obi Local Government area of Nassarawa state. He was on his way to inspect a roofing project when he was killed. The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nassarawa state chapter, said the Reverend was attacked and dismembered, with his two hands cut off so he could bleed to death. The date of this incident? June 30, 2016. His offense: unknown      3.     FRANCIS EMMANUEL: is a 41 year old carpenter who works in Kakuri, Kaduna state. He went to buy wood and on his return, bought food to eat. As soon as he started eating, some hoodlums approached him and asked if he was a Muslim or Christian. He did not respond. Another asked why he was eating during Ramadan. He said he was not a Muslim. That statement was greeted with a slap. This was followed by being pounced on and stabbed multiple times. His Offense: eating during Ramadan.      4.     EUNICE OLAWALE: was a 42 year old deaconess with the Redeemed Christian Church of GOD, Kubwa, Abuja. She was married to a senior Pastor of the same church and had a routine of setting off in the morning to preach to her community; in what was called ‘Morning Cry’. She told her husband she had been threatened around a mosque one day and after promising to be cautious, she went out on the 10th day of July, 2016, at about 5: 30am. She never returned home. Her body was found with her throat slit and her head resting on the Bible she used to preach. She was a mother of 7 children. Her offense: preaching in her community.      5.     THREE PEOPLE: The Independent Nigeria reported that three men in Niger state were, like the case of Bridget, accused of blaspheming against Islam and were summarily executed by their self-appointed judge, jury and executioner. Their names were not released, hence the broad category. Their offense: allegedly blaspheming against Islam.      6.     CATHOLIC CHURCH ATTACK: the most recent attack happened on the 16th of July, 2016. Thisday Newspaper reported that a group of Muslim youth attacked St. Philips Catholic Parish,Baki Iku, close to Zuma rock in Niger state. It was also reported that the security men and resident Seminarian were beaten to a pulp and women who had gone for prayers were chased away. Properties of the church were destroyed and the community was in shock. This attack reportedly happened after the Juma’at prayers. The youth reportedly said Friday was their day of prayer and that the Christians only had one day to pray, which is Sunday. The church’s offense: praying on a Friday All these incidents happened in the space of less than two months. Taken individually, they can be seen as unrelated and unconnected but looking at them as a whole, one cannot help but see the connection between these events; radical ideology. When you add the recent killing in Benue, Jos and Taraba from herdsmen, the connection seem clearer. In most of these cases, the attackers have called themselves Muslims and have based their actions on what they have interpreted from the Qur’an. Some might even call it righteous indignation at a perceived slight to Islam and her tenets but is that reason enough to take the lives of people and destroy properties? And in such gruesome manner? It is disheartening to see the continual wanton disregard for human life on the guise of upholding religious beliefs. Each person is entitled to hold whatever belief they choose to have, without fear of repercussion from those who do not share their beliefs. The extrajudicial ways these cases have been handled makes me wonder if there was no better way to handle the situation. If the people above had blasphemed against Islam in one way or another, couldn’t they have been taken to court? And if the conventional courts were not good enough, couldn’t they have been taken to a Sharia court? The problem is, with every case of jungle justice, just few of the killers are caught and the majority would continue live their lives, waiting for the next perceived offense to unleash their inner hulks and kill another person. This then brings back the question of whether the lives of Christians, especially Christians in Northern Nigeria, are considered less human. Governor Nasir ElRufai of Kaduna state was quick to respond to the attack on Francis Emmanuel, saying that the state wouldn’t tolerate religious intolerance of any form. I applaud his resolve to protecting the lives of citizens of his state and that is something worth emulating. The Supreme Council for Sharia, Kaduna state chapter, also responded by saying it was un-Islamic to attack people for not fasting. Nationally, the President reacted to some of the killings but is that enough? Is there more the president should be doing? My belief

Organized Religion: Instrument For Mass Delusions

Prayer.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

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