I saw a tweet the other day that said something like religion has become sort of like a culture for Nigerians. It drew my attention immediately. It went further to say that Nigerians thank God by default, for example, statements like: ‘thank God I was home when you came’, ‘thank God PHCN restored the power’…and many other instances. I am not one easily given to making generalizations, but sometimes they are necessary for simplification and thus a better understanding of some cases so I shall.
Religion is not an issue I like to bring up because, well, it brings out the crazed fanatic in a lot of us. Some people adopt the “Off with her head” approach to religious debates and I still like my big head the way it is. I’ve had it this way for a while now and it think it quite suits me. But I will just attempt to brush upon a few issues surrounding religion (deep breath)
First off, in my opinion, religion is NOT faith. Faith is belief, plain and true. It requires nothing but an unwavering belief in certain things, even (especially) without proof. A religion is supposed to be a set of principles or directives guiding a person’s behavior, habits and character. Being the ‘religious’ people we claim to be, something must have failed spectacularly somewhere because I do not see many Nigerians living like there’s any particular set of principles guiding any of our activities. Yet, on Friday afternoons and Sunday mornings, we troop out in our millions to our various places of worship to sing the songs, dance the dances, pray the prayers and perform the rituals which constitute our chosen ‘religion’.
Who exactly do we think we are deceiving? Our neighbors? God? When communities and countries that do not claim to be half as religious as we claim we are seem to perform better on the corruption scale than we do. Who are we trying to fool exactly? Excuse me if I’m wrong, but I believe one of the things religions claim is the potential to transform live for the better by giving them meaning and order and principles. Where then is this transformation our religions claim?
Just in the middle of that thought, I realize something. Religion, for a lot of us, is our means of escape. It is little better than an addiction, our drug; as the German philosopher and revolutionary Karl Marx once claimed, it is the “opium of the masses”. You know, when human beings go through hard times, they look for a means of escape. Some turn to alcohol, some drugs, some food, and in the process become addicts. In Nigeria, it seems we turn to religion. As with other addictions, religion is good in small doses, (in fact it works perfectly if we mix in a little true faith) but many of us, especially in Nigeria, overdose on it in its raw form and have to keep going back to our dealers for refills. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, we are in the church, the mosque, the synagogue, shrine or whatever place we have chosen as our place of our worship, begging for a hit.
One question you may ask is: “is it a good addiction?” True, some addictions are good or at least harmless, music for example; some are bad, like alcohol, drugs or even food. Addiction to religion can be deadly. Holding on too tightly to the rituals, procedures and dogma of a religion without any actual faith and understanding is what leads to religious abuse. Religious fanaticism stems directly from this abuse. Religious fanatics are the pawns that are manipulated in the many so-called ‘religious’ wars, we humans seem to engage in so frequently. Sadly, many of these wars and battles are more economic than religious but that is a debate for another day.
“What then is the solution?” you may ask. I will be the first to admit that I do not know if there is a solution in sight. I am pretty sure, however, that education sheds light in dark areas. So if we spent a little more time educating ourselves on what our respective religions actually entail: The origin, the faith, separating the true faith from the adopted culture of the religion and understanding that many religions are based on the same tenets and principles, accepting that we are human, fallible and all prone to fall from grace. This kind of education would help many of us realize that the faith is infinitely more important than the religion and hence we would be less likely to fall victim to this addiction. But then again this is just my opinion.
N.B: I wrote this in church (yeah, I know)
(This post was written by my friend @Nerdychique. I merely edited, christened and published it here because well…I agree with a lot of it and Its my blog and I can do whatever I like. )