(By Igbokwe Uche)
“There I understood –patriotism, the unconditional and unflinching loyalty, devotion and love for an institution, in this case, the church. The willingness to sacrifice and serve left me wondering whether religious faith was just another time bomb waiting to explode. You know the story I tell is between churches with the same faith but different doctrines. I wonder the intensity of a full blown religious war between two conflicting faiths“.
I WILL like to say that I am a Christian and a respecter of all faiths. A wise philosopher once said that religion is the opium of the people. Opium is a plant from which heroin and cocaine etc are derived. Thus if religion has the same metaphorical effect as opium, it can be asserted that a religious extremist acts on a high dosage of sentiment in his belief as opposed to logic. This makes him irrational and unreasonable in his faith. On the other hand, freedom is the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. However, a person’s liberty is limited to the extent the law permits or rather regards as intrusive.
One can deduce from the foregoing points that the acts of a faithful (extremist) is not free from external coercion i.e. (from the teachings of the religious). Another point being the undeniable fact that religion has become involved in the politics of the day. A while ago, a primary school building used by the Anglican Church was demolished in a tiny village in Anambra State. Minutes later the Anglican Church, expressing how unhappy they were, blamed the Roman Catholic Church because the official who spearheaded the demolition is a catholic. They asserted it had to be the Catholic Church flexing its political muscle in a quest to extinguish the Anglican Church which they saw as their arch rivals in the bid for spiritual dominance over the state.
This story blossomed with the aid of well-prepared sermons delivered by powerful men of pastors whose oratorical prowess is second to none. We were told that the governor, being a Catholic, had marginalised members of the Anglican Church in political appointments. Instances where some other Anglican churches were demolished were cited. To top it all, a video display of the demolition site was shown during a sermon. The preacher kept on urging the church members to get more involved in politics. After this invigorating sermon I remember feeling pumped, willing and eager to do something, anything to help my church bring the perpetrators to book at whatever cost. It took a carefully and well-delivered piece of advice from my parents to dissuade me. The following day after church experience, a day was fixed for a state-wide demonstration.
On that fateful day young and old people, all abandoning their tasks and responsibilities, embarked on a citywide demonstration, carrying placards which had written on them things like;” Arise, O’Lord and fight for your people” and “This injustice must stop.” This act (the demonstration) put the whole state in chaos. Everywhere you went you could hear people arguing, relentlessly for their faith. While all this was happening, the governor tried to assure us that he would set up a panel to review the reason for the demolition, but alas, even his admonition had become so insignificant. His voice was merely that of a prophet in the desert to which no one was prepared to harken. No one listened. It was then that I got to witness firsthand the power of religious faith. I couldn’t understand why people were willing to do so much for an idea. Yes an idea. That’s all it was and still is.
Planted so vividly in their minds enough to make them believe they had a cause worth fighting, even worth dying for!
There I understood –patriotism, the unconditional and unflinching loyalty, devotion and love for an institution, in this case, the church. The willingness to sacrifice and serve left me wondering whether religious faith was just another time bomb waiting to explode. You know the story I tell is between churches with the same faith but different doctrines. I wonder the intensity of a full blown religious war between two conflicting faiths.
A regular visitor to the cyber world or even a well informed person must have, at this point, understood why I called religion the opium of the masses. Pastors label people of another faith as pagans; the Imam labels others as infidels—all gradually fuelling the rage and maintaining a feud between groups whose relationship has been nothing but strained through time. A bad act is no longer criticised purely for what it is, the individual’s religious belief takes much credit for his indiscretions. Take for example, a man who kills another, who professes a different faith, his neighbour. I do not blame religion entirely, the media have a share in it—playing a heavy role in branding. Maybe to gain high readership they brandish spicy and attractive headlines not minding the effect on the minds of people.
Once I came across a video footage online that discussed religion and terrorism in Saudi Arabia. There was this rather distinguished speaker. He made some interesting points which caught my attention and had me glued to my phone. He blamed illiteracy and poverty as the major causes for religious crisis. He argued that the men used to perpetrate those dastardly acts had little or no knowledge of the value of a life, neither would the hunger let them think for themselves. The so-called religious leaders (chauvinists) capitaliseon this and exploit these weaknesses with promise of a better life the Beyond. These people have been dependent for so long that they barely recognise the existence of their own thinking faculty; they have been brainwashed. This is a very delicate matter.
Wars have been fought over mere trivial issues. A wise man once said that every man values his own opinion and belief; therefore to convince him otherwise would take a practical example and another cause worth fighting for. Tackling this issue would need twice the amount of their devotion. What we need are not religious leaders, what we need are true humanitarian leaders, people who have an unwavering and inflexible conviction towards the preservation of humanity and who understand the need for peaceful co-existence. How I wished we could commit and devote our minds and hearts to the welfare of humanity and preach one faith, ‘‘LOVE.” I doubt if there would be need for diversity of religious faiths which has left our tender nation with unasked questions such as: Does the preservation of our diverse faiths really benefit our social co-existence or rather has it been a fulcrum to the unending terror and chaos our society has been facing?
• Uche is a Law graduate and about to go for National Youth Service.
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