‘If people are good only because they fear punishment,
And hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.’ ~Albert Einstein
The undeniable power, force, and influence of religion stand out throughout history. In historical retrospect, judging from the rapid development witnessed in Europe in the past millennia, religion was exceptionally important, because it had a great influence on everything from government to social order and family relationships; positive effects of religion such as unity, security, and a social order are still basic ideals in today’s world. The Islamic civilization and the golden age of medicine, mathematics, science and knowledge in general: The spread of knowledge and the rise of universities all over Europe and the new World. The age of inventions and diffusion of innovations; all were aided by big religion which acted as patron saints of the age.
However, religion also has its negative effects such as the conflicts that result in war and bloodshed, the separation of social classes, and the corruption throughout God’s kingdom, especially the recent sex scandal in the Catholic Church; or the radicalization of faith as witnessed by today’s Islamic insurgence and terrorism. It is these perceived negative effects of religion that has prompted many social commentators to condemn religion as an albatross on human development. Among the factors they site are the following:
·Religion divides insiders from outsiders. “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers,” says the Christian Bible.
o“They wish that you disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them,” says Quran 4:91.
·Religion anchors believers to the medieval age: The medieval period was a time of rampant superstition, ignorance, inequality, racism, misogyny, and violence. Slavery had God’s sanction. Women and children were literally possessions of men. Sacred texts including the Bible, Torah and Quran all preserve and protect fragments of medieval culture, putting God’s name and endorsement on some of the very worst practices.
·Religion makes a virtue out of faith. Besides exploiting positive moral energy like kindness or generosity, religion often redirects moral disgust and indignation, attaching these emotions to arbitrary religious rules rather than questions of real harm.
·Religion lends itself to be used by political leaders in spreading division and antipathy among their followers; most commonly in developing polities that are yet to get over primordial divisions. Like ethnicity, religion has become a recurring decimal point in the politics of emerging nations such as Nigeria. Even within the same religion, divisions have been the source of acrimony; such as between Shiites and Sunni, Catholics and Protestants.
However, religion has its positive side which includes:
·The formation of personal moral criteria and sound moral judgment.
·Enormous potential for addressing today's social problems, which is sometimes questionable.
·The religious practices of parents, particularly their unity on religious issues, powerfully influence the behavior of children; that is if the children do not succumb to peer pressure and other social influences.
Religious behavior, as opposed to mere attitude or affiliation, is supposed to be associated with reduced crime. This has been known in the social science literature for over 20 years: But not anymore, as we are witness to the most odious relationship between religion and crime in our present world. The so-called men of God today not only aid and abet crime, but are themselves practitioners of crime. The newspapers are replete with screaming headlines of one church or Moslem leader or the other caught in the warm embrace of crime or the underworld: From homosexualism and sodomization by prelates in the ‘house of God’, to avariciousness and criminal atavism, to abuse of Peter’s Pence’ and tithing, exploitation and abuse of the goodwill of congregants, fornication and unbridled sexual exploits, financial and moral recklessness and many other loathsome acts and shenanigan that are odious and abhorrent.
What happened last week in the little Anambra town of Ozubulu is a sad reminder of what the sages say about people keeping silent in the face of crime. The said Catholic Church which ‘gangland’ members invaded and gunned down worshippers was not a strange territory to the men of the underworld; nor were the gang members strange to the congregants who are mostly from the town; after all, the church was built and donated singlehandedly by a notorious ‘drug baron’ and member of the community who goes by the apt alias, ‘Bishop’; just imagine!
There is no doubt, various religious groups have sought to benefit from the corruption and nepotism of the Nigerian system when a member of their religion is in power as the president or as the governor or local chairman, et cetera. By so doing, religions in Nigeria put themselves in a position to be used at will, not only by the political class, but also by the criminal sub-culture: Just as it happened last week at Ozubulu. As Reuben Abati said in his column last Tuesday: “The love of money is destroying our lives. Not even holy places are spared.” Another commentator had put it more succinctly when he said: ‘We have only succeeded in turning religion into our technological achievement as Nigerian churches are spread all over the world with main beneficiaries as the prosperity pastors and we cannot ignore the pathetic contribution of the other religion in bloodletting and everything antithetical to civilization.’
May God forgive all of us; amen.
Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend
Last Line: If only she were alive, today’s Juma’at would have been a double. If only our mother, late Alhaja Hulaimot Atinuke Jose, were alive; she would have turned 90 today; but Allah knows best. We continue to pray for the repose of her gentle soul. May all our prayers on her for Allah’s forgiveness be accepted and may she be admitted to the perfumed garden of Janatul firdous.
We equally rejoice with her son and birthday mate, ‘the last brother’, Rabiu Jose who marks another milestone today. May Allah’s grace and mercies continue to be with him. RAB Happy birthday and many happy returns.