Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Ugly Side Of Religion: A Review Of Mankind Abuse Of God And Religion

Few days ago, a friend Deinde Falase made a comment after my Facebook status update and that comment prompted the writing of this article. The Facebook status update in question asked, “Do You Really Believe That God Made the World in Six Days by Mere Word Of Mouth and Created Man out Of Clay? Reasons?” After a lot of intellectual lucubrations that went back and forth between us, he posited, “Indeed. I’ve been wondering about the high standard of living here in the UK where they are not religious and the poverty and hunger back home in Nigeria where everyone claims to be "born again"”.

In my reply I said to him, “On a very sincere note, do you really think that what we practice in Nigeria is a true religion? By their fruit thou shall know them. I do not want to answer the question but then your guess is as good as mine”. However on a second thought I decided to tackle the issue in detail. The following article is therefore a detailed response to that discussion.

However before proceeding, I would want to clearly state that this article does not in any way diminish my belief in God nor does it suggest any iota of doubt in the goodness of religion and the existence of God. Another reason am highly interested in writing this is because of numerous experiences both personal and circumstantial that has proved to me beyond reasonable doubt that some unscrupulous elements are hiding under the cloak of religion to commit evil. Religion, if hijacked and used this way could be turned into an evil force and effectively used as an instrument of hatred which could potentially undermine the virtues of tolerance, respect, accommodation and whatever democracy stands for.

The misinterpretation of the holy books to achieve personal gains is as old as the holy books themselves. It is never stopping and it will never stop so far the words greed, wickedness, exploitation, brainwashing and indoctrination still exist in English language. There is no end to it and the events of the recent past attest to that. Probably because of this, Karl Marx was left with no other option but to conclude probably out of anger and frustration that religion is like opium which when injected into a person makes the person to behave not according to how he would have loved to but according to the dictates of the opium which has taken control his system. Opium of the people! Religion when recklessly and callously used this way achieves exactly the same aim too. It works as opium on the unsuspecting victims by making them high like a person under the influence of drugs, making him to lose his compos mentis temporary or permanently and to begin to act in the name of the drug he is under. It could be ecstasy, opium, marijuana or cocaine.

A good friend Ndekwu Ogani while reacting recently to an unrelated Facebook status update captioned, ‘It Does Not Worth It Defending Your Blind Religious Convictions...But It Worths More Than Silver And Gold To Defend Fundamental Human Rights And The Virtues Of Tolerance, Respect And Accommodation!’, said, “The world is fucked up because religious nutters are going around with crap beliefs believing it is the gospel. What happened to critical reasoning and logic?”

And he is not far from being right. Religion is today part of the major reason we do not have peace in the world. The Muslim extremists notably the Taliban and the Al Qaeda use it as an excuse to foment troubles now and then in the name of God. It is the source of the never ending controversy in Northern Ireland. It served as a coal that invigorated the fire of hatred between the Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda which led to the worst genocide of the 20th century. It is one of the contributing factors to the monumental corruption in Nigeria today. In Saudi Arabia it is used as a cover to deny freedom of religion and worship to other religions except Islam. In Iran, the Ayatollah and his cohorts hid under it to rig an election. Israelis hide under it to victimise the Palestinians while it played a crucial role in the invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush.

From the above, it is therefore safe to conclude conveniently that religion could be a formidable instrument of actualising evil intentions, indoctrination and brainwashing. In fact, religion is one of the easiest and quickest means of brainwashing the faithful. Religion has more to do with emotions and sentiments and playing on people’s emotions and sentiments turn them on easily. For instance, those who carried out the September 11 attack in the United States of America and that of July 7 in the United Kingdom did what they did not out of political or economic reasons but purely based on religious motivations and convictions as a result of long process of brainwashing. The September 11 group were so stupid to believe that after the attack they would be welcomed into heaven by virgins who would be their wives. Their common sense failed to tell them that heaven is not a brothel where people go on holiday of orgy! Where has reason, logic and common sense gone to?

When George W. Bush, a half Episcopalian and half Methodist, for the first term as the President of United States, one of the first things he did was to stop the funding of all agencies that promote abortion or the use of condom as a means of contraception or in the prevention of the transmission of HIV and AIDS. He did this on his first day in office in January 2001 by reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy-known as the global gag rule to critics-that bars US family planning assistance for organizations that use funding from any other source to provide counselling and referral for abortion, lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country or perform abortions except in certain cases. Those exceptions are a threat to the woman's life, rape or incest. George W. Bush insisted that the fight must be biblical by buying and endorsing a religio-centric campaign of abstinence which he forced down the throat of millions of Africans not considering their stand on religious and faith issues. This is very akin to what the Talibans can do and it is a clear sign of bigotry, delusion and lunacy.

In Nigeria, members of a radical Islamic group called the Boko Haram were brainwashed into believing that western education is the source of all evils and corruption in Nigeria and just one morning they let loose their madness and began a campaign of slaughtering their neighbours who do not share the same stupid and idiotic convictions with them. The carnage lasted for months until the Federal Government of Nigeria intervened with a military action that brought the madness to an abrupt end. Most of the young men including their leaders lost their lives. The young members of the Boko Haram were brainwashed into believing that what they were doing was very pleasing to Allah.

This incident echoes a similar one that took place in Jonestown, Guyana where the founder of the People’s Temple, Rev. Jim Jones brainwashed his congregation into believing and drinking poison to prepare them for the life after since according to him the world was coming to an end. The massacre was horrible. About, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown, 276 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning. According to escaping Temple members, children were given the drink first and families were told to lie down together and take theirs. The reason for the death of children first is that when their parents see that their children are gone, they would have the courage to die too. It worked and they died en masse like animals because of their blind religious convictions and inability to distinguish between madness and delusion and reality and voice of God.

Also in Nigeria, the Primate and the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Anglican Communion, Peter Akinola played a very crucial role in supporting a bill that sought to criminalise same sex relationship with up to five years imprisonment. The Archbishop despite his high level of both secular and theological education threw caution to the wind and openly supported the bill out of his blind religious convictions. This is regardless of the fact that what he believes in maybe exactly what others do not believe in. He went on with that bigoted belief and ended up making it one of the official creeds of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. This in turn led to the brainwashing of millions of unsuspecting Nigerian Anglicans who today view homosexuality not only as evil but as something to be fought by all means including the use of threat and intimidation. Unfortunately, one thing they do not realise is that they are stupidly fighting their own brothers and sisters in the name of God while outsiders laugh at them.

The Archbishop did not achieve this feat alone. In fact he was strongly supported by the conservatives in the Anglican Church of the United States of America otherwise called the Episcopal Church. They gave him the financial backbone he needed to achieve his ulterior motives and evil objectives. The American conservatives financially brainwashed Akinola into fighting his own flock and people in the name of God. The same conservative group and the Pentecostal churches in America are also responsible for arming the State of Israel against the helpless Palestinians. The two groups are convinced that Jerusalem is the eternal city and the land promised to the Jewish people by God. As a result of this ridiculous belief and the stupidity of using an over 4000 years old theology to explain the 21st century democracy, the two groups have blindly, ignorantly and wickedly contributed billions in donation towards the Zionist cause that has resulted in the murdering of thousands of Palestinians. All in the name of God! When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.

Similar development is also repeating itself at the moment in Uganda where the Anglican bishops instead of bringing to the awareness of President Yoweri Museveni the human rights implication of the homophobic speech he made in a church where a new Anglican bishop was being consecrated, actually issued a press statement in support of the speech. The president had earlier during the consecration service condemned the homosexual lifestyle and reminded them of the consequences of being one in Uganda. Sadly, the bishops who are supposed to shield the children of God from persecutions are now joining hands with the government to engage in this orgy of homophobia. Is that not making a mockery of the merciful and ‘vengeance is mine’ attributes of God?

And to compound the whole problem the two leading Anglican Primates, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu have refused to speak out against this evil in Uganda. Regrettably, the Archbishop of York is also a Ugandan and he should have known better. The reason for their refusal to speak out is because they are afraid of what would be the consequences on the already fragile and divided state of the Anglican Church as well as being afraid of provoking the state of Uganda. These are men of God who are called to be on the side of the poor, the vulnerable, the downtrodden and the marginalised at all times. If religion has decided to keep mute over what is evil, then I think it is high time we began to question the relevance of religion in the 21st century. If the church refuses out of fear to be on the side of the poor and the marginalised where then do we expect the common man to run to? What has happened to the Liberation Theology and ‘Be Courageous For I Am With You’?

Apparently due to the silence the State of Uganda moved a step further. In connivance with the church leaders, the State of Uganda is presently seriously surging forward with stiff sanctions including death penalty against homosexuals. The proposed legislation would impose the death penalty for gay Ugandans while their family and friends could face up to seven years in jail if they fail to report them to authorities. Even landlords could be imprisoned for renting to homosexuals. The measure was proposed in Uganda following a long period of meddling between some Ugandan politicians and leaders of a secretive American conservative Christian group called ‘The Family’. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.

Membership of The Family includes the high and mighty of American politics of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The group which dates back to the 1930s recently came to the limelight for the tomfoolery surrounding the extramarital affair of Nevada Senator John Ensign at the Congressional boarding house on C Street. According to Jeff Sharlet, author of ‘The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power’, The Family is connected to the proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda. Prominent members of the group include Senator John Ensign, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Charles Grassley, Governor Mark Sanford, Representative Bart Stupak and Representative Joe Pitts among others. Interestingly Senator John Ensign, a Pentecostal conservative born-again and married father of three does not see anything wrong with extramarital affairs-he had an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton who was married to one of his top aides-but sees everything wrong with homosexuality! He is the only Pentecostal in the American Senate.

The Family, also known as The Fellowship, was founded in the United States in 1935. The founder Abraham Verene claimed that God came to him one night in April 1935 and told him that Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people, the poor and the suffering, "the down and out" and therefore commanded him to be a missionary to and for the powerful, the "up and in", who could then pass off the blessings to everybody else. The group has no website and does not allow its members to speak about its activities. The group which is now being led by Doug Coe also sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast that has been attended by all Presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower. One of the Ugandan members of parliament who introduced the bill to the parliament just returned from one of the National Prayer Breakfast meetings before introducing the bill to the Ugandan House of Assembly.

In a recent interview Sharlet who detailed the decades long connection between The Family and Ugandan politicians noted that David Bahati, the Ugandan politician who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is a member of The Family who "organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees an African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda."

Mr. Bahati, a parliamentarian from the ruling National Resistance Movement, has in the past said that homosexuals do not deserve human rights. Sharlet, who has spent years researching on The Family, describes the core agenda of the secretive but powerful group as one that is intent on fighting homosexuality and abortion, promoting free-market economics and dictatorship, an idea they once termed ‘totalitarianism for Christ’. The Family recruits people in positions of power and influence to promote its agenda and according to Sharlet, the group has had Uganda on her agenda for over 20 years and its recruits include Mr. Bahati, President Museveni and Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo. President Museveni as far back as 1986 was identified as their ‘key man in Africa’ says Sharlet.

Poor Ugandans! Their leaders are being bribed by Americans to kill their own brothers who are homosexuals. The question we should ask is why American conservative Christians are only interested in killing the homosexuals in Uganda and never the ones in America? Why the interest in Uganda? I bet that by the time Ugandans realise what they are doing, it would have become too late. There is also the possibility of an anti-American sentiment in future not only in Uganda but everywhere in the sub-Saharan Africa, when Africans begin to realise the harm they have done to their own brothers as a result of American manipulations. And to think that all these is because of religion makes the whole story a painful one.

One fact worthy of note is that religious brainwashing does not respect boundary, age, class or nationality. It is a weapon that could render the mighty useless in a matter of seconds. In Jamaica, once a famous rapper, Shaba Rank was interviewed about his opinion on homosexuality and he openly expressed his hatred and condemnation of the gay people citing Jesus Christ and the bible for up to 10 times within 5 minutes to justify his stand. Shaba Rank who was living with various women at the time of the interview did not see anything sinful about his own lifestyle but he was quick to point out that of others. Probably his own version of Christianity endorses living with series of women or he must have forgotten so quickly that passage in the bible that advised us to first remove the log of wood in our eyes before looking for the speck in that of others. This behaviour is very Jamaican. Jamaica despite being a booming centre for Pentecostalism is today one of the most homophobic nations on earth with killings of homosexuals being recorded every now and then. The fact is that Shaba Rank has got a right to the freedoms of speech and opinion but those rights do not implicate the right to hatred. He was not aware of that due to his blind religious conviction that he knows better than the bible to know that Jesus Christ and the bible condemned homosexuality.

In the face of these ugly scenarios, one is left with just one option of asking if there is still anything good in religion at all. Well the answer is yes! Religion is good since it could serve as a source of solace to man. It is a medium that brings him closer to his creator. I am not an atheist. In fact I was born a Roman Catholic and still professes the faith even though I have stopped being active in its activities. I prefer being a believer in God to being associated with any religion at the moment till all this madness is over. Part of the reason for my decision is because of the negative influence religion could have on people. For instance the religion I was born into, the Roman Catholicism has on various occasions described homosexuality as being ‘intrinsically immoral’ and ‘the homosexual inclination’ as ‘objectively disordered’. Such crude remark does not conform to my belief as a Christian and I refuse to believe and accept that my brothers or sisters are ‘intrinsically immoral’ or ‘objectively disordered’ just because they are homosexuals. God has a purpose for every living creature on earth including the homosexuals. If He does not want them, He could wipe them off the face of the earth. But since He has not done that yet, it means that they are still his children, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image!

Once again, I prefer being a believer in God to being associated with any religion at the moment till all this madness is over. One does not need to belong to any religion to go to heaven. In fact religion could be an obstacle to going to heaven if the adherents become victims of indoctrination and brainwashing.

There is no doubt that what most Christian pastors teach today mostly deviates from what our Lord Jesus Christ taught them. They teach the bible to suit their needs, circumstances, whims and caprices. The bible noted that Jesus Christ was so poor that he had no place to lay down his head. Today pastors are one of the richest people on earth. They have the best cars, private jets, mansions and have surplus of ladies and concubines attending to their various needs including spiritual and temporal. They live a life of opulence that is obviously incompatible with the good news they were mandated to go and preach to the poor. Most of these pastors minister in the poorest parts of their countries and yet their life does not in any way reflect the environment they are working in. They are simply scandalously rich in the midst of poverty and that is not compatible with their call and ministry.

The life these pastors live nowadays has become an eyesore that Jesus Christ would weep uncontrollably seeing them in this type of opulence. The life is openly egoistic, egotistic, self-centred and materialistic with much emphasis being placed on material wealth and accumulation. My original parish is in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha in the South East of Nigeria and you dare not come there when they are having their monthly meetings or recollections. However if you dare to come you must be sure of being sadly confronted by the sight of newest cars in towns. Their meetings and recollections have become the greatest show in town for the poor parishioners. This is very ridiculous in the sense that these pastors serve in areas, states and a country regarded as very poor. These people are very rich and therefore cannot genuinely identify with the plight of the poor they are called to serve!

The poor whom they are called to minister to bears the highest brunt of their extravagant and opulent life. They have to pay their tithe otherwise they are accused of robbing God or owing him and therefore must end up in hell. These are people who are so poor that they cannot even afford to eat and how they are robbing God is what am yet to comprehend. That is brainwashing. The pastors simply need the tithe to keep maintaining their extravagant lifestyle and the unsuspecting poor people gullibly believe everything they are told without using their sense of logic or reasoning as my friend I mentioned earlier noted at the outset. This is not religion. It sounds more like an intimidation and extorting money from the people of God in the name of God using religion as a cover. The only justification they have is that it is God’s command and therefore justified because it is done in the name of God. It is just like a pastor sleeping with your wife and telling you that it is justified because he is a man of God and therefore should be seen as an act mandated by God. Onanism! An Opus Dei! Frankly, that has happened before.

This group of dodgy men of God are ever ready to justify their evil deeds using religion or God and that is evil. They are everywhere and they go around stepping on people’s toes in the name of God and religion. They do not have respect for others. It is just about them because they think they are messengers of God on earth. The other day in Bus 12 going from Oxford Circus to Dulwich Library, a young man was busy preaching on top of his voice the imminent end of the world around 5am despite the fact that people were going to work and needed some breathing space to relax, meditate, surf their notebooks or blackberry and read their books. To the young man, he is preaching the word of God and no matter whose Ox is gored that preaching must continue because the Bible mandated him to go to the rest of the world and preach the good news of Jesus Christ to the gentiles.

At the same time the young man was preaching, somewhere in Nigeria the Primate and the Archbishop of Nigeria, Anglican Communion is finalising one of his early morning meetings with some members of the Nigeria House of Assembly in his residence in Abuja on how to impose a very strict punishment on those who profess to be, associate, promote, advertise or have anything to do with homosexuality even as the nearby Roman Catholic pastor is already telling his parish how abominable it is in the sight of the lord to be a homosexual using carefully crafted sermon and highly selective passages from the Bible to justify his argument. He does not care about what would be the impact of his homily on his congregation. The fact that this type of hate-filled homily could lead to homophobic crimes including murder and lynching never bothered him. He is only interested in preaching blindly what he wants his bible and faith to say. His own religion is completely ignorant of the need of other people and that is one of the main issues with Islam in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, the version of Islam we have does not accommodate the needs and feelings of other people and their faith. In fact an average Nigerian Muslim would want to islamise the whole nation by force. Is that not an arrogant madness? The fact is that issues revolving around religion is a personal one and is actually one of the cardinal pillars upon which the fundamental human rights revolves. The implication is that people should be allowed to make decisions regarding belief and religion personally and privately. It is a personal and private matter and should be dealt with as such. This right to make decisions regarding religious matters should also include the right to decide to be an atheist. That should be protected constitutionally and nobody should be victimised for being an atheist. All religions, beliefs and philosophies should be allowed a level playing ground in this quest to acquire converts. They should make their creeds available to the public so that the public should have the choice and freedom to pick the one more suitable and sensible to them. Religion should not be by force, coercion or compulsion. It is therefore a pity that these unscrupulous elements have completely thwarted the meaning of religion that they now use it solely for their selfish and personal aggrandisement including forceful conversion and persecution of those who do not buy their doctrines or share same beliefs with them. Others use it as a medium to achieve their political aims and other ambitions.

For instance, about 10 hours drive from the parish of the Roman Catholic pastor mentioned earlier, another war was raging in the town of Oko in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State. The Roman Catholic Chaplain of the Federal Polytechnic there is on a verbal battle with his Anglican counterpart over who will be the next Rector Magnificus of the polytechnic. The Anglican chaplain took a vow it must be an Anglican while the Roman Catholic priest vows that if his candidate, a Roman Catholic is not appointed, then there would be fire and brimstone in the polytechnic. Now the question is what has religion got to do with the appointment of a rector of a federally owned higher institution? Even employment in Nigeria is premised upon religion. A Muslim is 99 percent unlikely to hire a Christian and vice versa.

Sadly, this is the level we have reduced religion to. It has been reduced to the level of an object of mockery and caricature that people could easily invoke the name of God while committing evil. In Nigeria, a country that has prided itself as a godly nation, It is not uncommon to hear God and his various names in various languages of the world, yet this country has been described as the most corrupt country in the world and a haven for internet scam. What happened to the religion and the God we shout His name all the time?

Personally, shouting the name of God all the time is tantamount to disrespecting God. Taking the name of the Lord in vain is one of the evils that are forbidden in the bible but that evil is very Nigerian. Ask a Nigerian, how he is doing, the reply would certainly be, ‘by the grace of God am doing fine’. Ask him how old he is and you are sure of hearing ‘By God’s grace I am 30’. The name of God is today so common and frequently used even when reaching an orgasm that a times we begin to doubt if God does still exist. It is getting out of hand that most people take some very stupid decisions and justify it with faith and hope in God as if God is an iPod to be manipulated at their own whims and caprices.

For instance, just four months ago I was chatting with a friend on the Facebook. He was planning to come to the United Kingdom to pursue his graduate studies and when I asked him how he intends to fund the remaining part of his school fees, he told me that there is God and that God is alive and that by His grace, the money would be ready in four months time to conclude the payment which is actually a conditio sine qua non before he could resume the course. A week before the deadline, he is still looking for the money. Not that I do not believe in miracles but the fact is that stupidity does not bring about miracles, only sane judgements and wise decisions, after all it is said that heaven help those who help themselves.

Back to same Nigeria, a country that is still struggling 49 years after independence to have a steady power supply, good health care, quality education, motorable roads, pay workers salaries and wages, provide security of life and property for the citizens and pension for retired workers, the government still has the gut to sponsor people on religious pilgrimages. This is the greatest insult and affront on the sensibility of Nigerians. They claimed that there is no money to meet the demands of teachers and health workers, to construct motorable roads and provide Nigerians with security for their lives and properties and yet there is money to sponsor people going on pilgrimages to Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem. Is that not the greatest and stupidest thing in the world?

Religious is a personal and private affair and should be treated as such. The state should have no hand in it. There should be a very thick line between the state and religion. I suggest a line as thick as the Berlin wall! How can you as a good Christian or Muslim accept to be sponsored with money meant for our schools, roads, shelter for the homeless, water for the thirsty and good health care for the dying in the hospital to go on pilgrimage? It is only a mad 'god' that would be happy to see that happening and answer a prayer that came out of it or even bless the venture at all. No wonder things get worse as soon as they come back! These people are not worshipping God. They are satisfying their personal aggrandisement and God would eventually come to judge them all. No person, no matter how religious and spiritual you are would accept to be sponsored on a religious pilgrimage when people are dying because health workers are on strike for not being paid. That is evil and the beneficiaries are condoning it in the name of God and religion! That is not religion and it has nothing to do with God!

My dream is therefore to let people know, appreciate and fully understand the boundary between the word of God and the word of men. This is a dream so dear to my heart. I have witnessed many of my friends abandoning God and religion in thousands due to misinterpretation of the holy books. I have homosexuals friends who told me that they are leaving God and religion since their religion made it very clear to them that they are going straight to hell to burn to ashes and if they are going straight to hell to burn to ashes what then is the need of believing and going to where you will end up burning in hell. The word of God is filled with love, tolerance and accommodation while that of man is filled with hatred, bigotry, division and indoctrination and it is very vital that we all understand this. God does not encourage or support discrimination. We are all equal before him and there is no way He could love some more than others.

It is therefore quite unfortunate and a big time shame that some could be excluded from the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit as a result of malicious interpretation of the holy book by some ignorant unscrupulous elements. It is based on this ground that I am eagerly looking towards the possibility of endowing a professorial chair to be called 'The Chukwunwikezarramu Okumephuna Professorial Chair For The Public Debating, Questioning And Understanding Of Religion’. That is still a dream and I seriously wish that the dream could be achieved soonest. We need to let people know how important they are in the sight of God despite their circumstances in life.

3 comments:

  1. According to Robert O.Keohane " Many fundamentalist religious people do not share- indeed, reject secular ideals such as those of pluralist democracy.Indeed one reason that democratic values are not spreading universally is that dogmatic religions claiming exclusive access to comprehensive ultimate truth contain fundamentally anti-democratic elements"
    My own view is that in order to maintain teir authority ,particularly in deprived nations,religious leaders foster intolerance bigotry and hatred.Where please is the injunction to "Love your neighbour as your self" or " Judge not,lest you be judged"
    Need I say more?

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  2. this is a good article.... it is not our giving right to judge any man for their deeds, but God to decide.
    nice work...

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