– The Sun News
RELIGION

Philosophizing religion and Nigerian nation part 1

“I want to share my testimony in your column because I am very convinced of the manifestation of the divine power of God via the use of some of your oils. I had total blockage in my business to the extent that to eat became a serious problem. I sold all I had and started borrowing to feed. My condition became very economically deplorable. All my friends that I assisted in the past abandoned me and none was willing to assist in any way. My life became a laughing stock and without hope. After reading your article in The Sun and consequent contact with you, I was asked to order your oil, which I did, and today the story has changed for good. I was so surprised that God answered me by sending a helping hand from an unexpected end. Today, my business is doing very well and all those that abandoned me have all come back and have contributed to my testimony today. I am most grateful to God for sending you to us in this part of the world.”

– Mr. Frank, 08022769151

 

In world history, the 20th century will be remembered for all the religious insurrections, rascalism and unrests it witnessed. In every continent of the world, there is a trouble spot rooted in religious intolerance. Europe has her own share of religious conflicts. In India, religious conflict is a perennial question and has led to the death of one of her Prime Ministers, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. In the Middle East, the war going on between the Israelis and Palestinians could be blamed on the Bible and the Koran and not on God. President Anwar Sadat was killed by religious fanatics for his romances with the people of Israel. Religious conflicts in Nigeria today have not been as serious as the ones witnessed in India and the Middle East. However, if not checked, it could assume a dimension comparable to the Middle East.

As if he was defining religion, Paul Tillich says that “the presence of the demand of ultimacy in the structure of our existence is the basis of religious experience.” According to Hegel, “the object of religion as well as of philosophy is eternal truth in its objectivity, God and nothing but God, and the explication of God” Karl Marx, a 19th century German philosopher was suspicious of religion and views it as the instrument of oppression and exploitation … “the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions…”

For convenience, let me briefly examine the term “Nation.” Chambers Dictionary defines nation as “a body of people marked of by common descent, language, culture, or historical tradition.” In other words, a nation should have a common culture. However, it is obvious that it is within the structure of culture that one locate religion, ironically a nation like Nigeria does not have a common culture or common religion. It does not have a common language either. Westernism and, for that matter, Arabism and Imperialism used Christianity and Islam as fronts in acculturising Africa. That is why we are talking about the need for peaceful co-existence and tolerance among religions. Otherwise the basis of Nigerian Unity is her traditional values, religions and cultures.

In any case, religion and ideology are parts of a wider culture of which politics, economics, science, arts and law are parts too. All these culture components must interact harmoniously to make a consistent whole otherwise known as nationhood. However, in Nigerian situation, not only that the indigenous religions, Islam and Christianity do not understand each other, the politics, economics, science, arts and law are Westernized. Islam and Christianity are in cutthroat competition for domination in national affairs. Consequently the legacy of our forebears, the indigenous religion, values of culture, is relegated to the background.

What I am saying in effect is that religion and ideology (economics and politics) should be part of a culture consistent within itself. But in Nigerian case, not only are the foreign religions fighting each other like political parties, the indigenous religion is hardly considered on important issues like foreign policies and so on. In what looked like a worsening of the national cultural crisis, the dominant ideology is the ideology of get-rich-quick and selfishness.

In Nigeria, political parties and social organizations are often organized along the line of one religion or another. Christianity and Islam have unduly influenced the course of political and social events. Whenever, for example, the choice of presidential or governorship candidate is to be made in any political party, petty-minded and selfish people are concerned first and foremost, with the religion the candidate professes. Religion as a disintegrating force is being taught and propagated with fanaticism and dogmatism. Adherents of some of these religious sects are being so brainwashed with various doses of dogmas and false ideas about other religion that they become fanatical and rascally and could go to any length to Maim and harm members of others religions.

In Nigeria, members of every religious sect claim to be the only righteous people on earth and to have the monopoly of the knowledge of God. Paradoxically, the Nigerian indigenous religion is regarded by the religions as having little or no knowledge of God. According to Bertrand Russell, the Jews developed these ideas of righteousness and knowledge of God during their captivity as a reaction against the attempt to absorb the Jews into alien population. To the Hebrew prophets what is righteous is what is approved by them and Yahweh. In the Bible, a new prophet could claim that his revelation was more reliable and authentic than those of his predecessors. In the medieval times, from the age of Constantine to the end of the 17th century, the persecution of Christians by Christians and by Roman emperors was partly due to the fear, conceit and hatred taught in religions. Prophet Muhammad was quoted as saying during his farewell pilgrimage, “ye men harken unto my words and take ye them to heart? Know ye that every Muslim is a brother to every other Muslim, and that ye are now one brotherhood.” If Muhammad is quoted rightly, he is saying that every Muslim is a brother to other Muslims and not to non-Muslim. I find it very difficult to believe that Muhammad could have meant this. However, some Muslims today are behaving as if only Muslims are their brothers and sisters. Christians too have this kind of attitude. But I think that the ancient Greek philosophy, the stoic doctrine of universal brotherhood is applicable to Muslims, Christians, traditional and so on.

In Islam, Muhammad is an ideal human being to be approximated in order to be godly. In Christianity, Jesus Christ is a model that, according to Christians, one must believe in to have eternal peace. As to the spirituality and Lordship of Muhammad and Jesus Christ there is no doubt. But one finds it difficult to believe that it is through only Muhammad and Jesus Christ that one can become righteous. Until this question is settled once and for all, the history of mankind will continue to be punctuated by religious conflicts. And God will and should never be blamed, for that is not what I suppose he wills.

 

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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

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