Prof Ben Nwabueze defined religion as a system of belief in the existence of some supernatural beings with power to change people’s lives for the better or for worse, whether it be God, a god (or gods or goddesses), the spirit of ancestors, etc. Religion has been a very controversial subject in Nigeria recently and people are increasingly becoming disillusioned in religion. This is very understandable because of the shabby, gluttonous and shameless way some religious leaders have conducted themselves and have portrayed religion as another way of self enrichment and self aggrandizement. Some denominations have been described as business centres where only tithes and offerings are now the main subject of preaching rather than the time tested subject of salvation through grace of God. These denominations utilise the tithes and offerings of their members to build schools and businesses which same members are unable to afford. They encourage their members to offload all their earnings into the church bag and trust God for their health, security and provision, yet they use the same tithes and offerings to buy the best food, doctors, and security men for themselves and their families. They even buy bullet proof cars for their safety while their members will not be allowed to use even their first salary of the year to cater for their families after the spending of their income in December to cater for all their travels to and fro their places of origin. The January salary must be ploughed back to the church as first fruit offering.

 

• Prof. Nwabueze

In all honesty, at times, one is tempted to assume that these men do not have any modicum of conscience. The most troubling aspect is that after stealing from their members through different cunning means, they set up their own children to take after them, even if their children are the worst sinners on earth. None of the people that started and suffered with them is holy enough to succeed them, thereby making it reasonable to conclude that from day one, they were setting up family business in the name of church. For the avoidance of doubt, Jesus Christ, the foundation of christianity, did not have a home, wife, children, and businesses. He lived his life sacrificially for others and made it clear that whoever wants to make it to heaven should carry his cross and follow him. He didn’t say anybody should carry his private mansion, jet, bullet proof cars and follow him. These modern preachers, prophets, apostles, have actually brought the gospel to public opprobrium.

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But a deep look at the teaching of the scriptures will reveal that Jesus warned the followers that they should be careful, because such people will arise and infiltrate the church and will cry his name louder, and perform miracles in his name, but they are all workers of iniquity. He even warned his followers to test every spirit to prove whether they are from God. Are you surprised to hear some of the men of God using every tactic to brainwash and frighten their followers not to question anything they do? It is all part of the manipulating tendencies. Please test every spirit, every doctrine or dogma, every prophecy, every request for tithes and offerings to know whether they are of God. Apostle Paul saluted the Berean Christians as noble for having the wisdom to always crosscheck whatever they hear from the preachers with the undiluted words of God to ensure that they correspond with what God said (Acts 17:11). Fake and dubious preachers will not want accountability and transparency, they want to bully or trick you to accept and believe them. Genuine Prophets will encourage you to ask questions, read the scriptures yourself and question any thing that is not in accordance with the word of God.

Religion is not a belief in man, it’s a belief in God. God even said that cursed be he that put his trust in a man, and Jesus warned that nobody should give himself to man because he knows what is in man. If you then decide to put your trust in your Pastor, Prophet or Apostle, you only have yourself to blame not God. A lot of people have been deceived by these “Prophets” by the verse that says believe your Prophet and you will prosper. The Prophets will not tell them that the verse started with believe God and you will be established (2 Chr 20:20). So the Prophets always deceive men who are not established in God first with a promise of fake prosperity in believing in the Prophets. Meanwhile the interpretation of the scripture is that your establishment in God is the basis of prosperity and the duty of the Prophets is to establish you in God through His words. When Paul and Barnabas healed the sick and the people ran out to worship them as gods, they were angered and commanded the people to stop because they were ordinary human beings like them, endowed with the power of God by grace, with which they performed the miracles. Unfortunately, today’s men of God will organise fake miracles and command the people to worship them as God. They will even curse anyone that refuses to so worship them.

The need for more religion is more evident in our public life. Let us be certain that as long as there are death, ill-health, and poverty, there will be religion. This is because, these phenomena have not been adequately explained by science and the only credible explanation lies in the assumption of the authority of a supreme being or spiritual beings who ordered them to be so. As long as people can go to hospital, not feeling well, yet the best of medical science cannot explain the reason, there will be religion. As long as people can not explain with exactitude when, how, and by what means they will die, there will be religion. As long as some people will remain poor, despite all their attempts and hardwork to be rich, there will be religion. So you cannot wish religion away. The only solution to our societal problems is more religion not less of it. All countries that forsook religion in their political public life, like China and Russia, had beaten a retreat and have accommodated religion. The reason was that socialism, communism, were not able to stop poverty, and the only way the state can quieten discontent is the restoration of supernatural belief in spiritual beings that are presumed to help people when the state cannot and where the situation is hopeless.

Religious beliefs have through the ages been the main anchor of morality, that it is said morality cannot exist without religion. To Will and Ariel Durant “there is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion”. Liberty, democracy and justice are all concepts with high moral content, requiring therefore the aid of religion to secure and maintain them. Hence the age-old maxim that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom,” that liberty is meant only for a moral people. The Bible says that where the spirit of God is, there’s absolute liberty (2 Cor 3:17). This is because the righteous and morally upright have nothing to be afraid of, since they don’t get involved in crimes. Morality, therefore, is the best security of law, and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom.

Alexis de Tocqueville attributed the strength and resilience of liberty and democracy in the United States largely to the religious and moral character of her people. The character of American civilisation, he wrote, is the product of two distinct elements: “the spirit of Religion and the spirit of Liberty. In the words of Senator Hatch, Liberty and democracy took root and flourished in the United States because, “the people were virtuous; they were virtuous because they were moral; and they were moral because they were religious.” This principled stand on religion promoted America to become the most powerful nation on earth.

Unfortunately, at the height of its power and prosperity, America forgot God and started removing religion from their public lives. The ten commandments which were hitherto engraved in stones in most public buildings were ordered to be removed by the courts in pursuit of state neutrality in religion taken too far. Men were allowed to marry men, prayers in schools no longer important, and so on. Of course, nature doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If you take Bible away from children, devil will replace it with bullets. A child in USA today picks a gun, moves to a primary school, and kills scores of innocent children in school. Mental health problems are rife. The quality of leadership in their country is degenerating with leaders lying to the people without consequences. Adultery was enough for any candidate to fail election in the past in America, but today, candidates commit adultery with porn stars and they still get chance to be elected. The only solution to these is a return to more religion, not less, or else America will go down with its godlessness.

It can thus be concluded that no society in which morality and religion are absent can ever attain and maintain liberty, democracy and justice. And religion needs encouragement by the state in inculcating among citizens morality, spirituality and piety. A developing country should not indulge in the rigidity of the state completely dissociating itself from religion.  There is really no contradiction in a secular state giving encouragement to religion, as by offering religious prayers at certain public occasions, attendance of the rulers at church services, the use of the Bible or the Quran in swearing oaths, etc. Nevertheless, state encouragement of religion must be on the basis that all religions are treated equally, with no favouritism, preference, or sponsorship of any kind for one as against the others. That is the essence of Section 10 of our Constitution.


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