So many thoughts have been racing through my head about the many aspects of religion and these thoughts have grown to become huge questions needing answers. So let me walk you through some of these nagging thoughts;
On ‘The True God’:
There are over 4300 religions in the world, with Christianity, Islam, Nonreligious (which in itself is a religion), Hinduism, Chinese Traditional religion and Buddhism as the six most popular; in that order.
Each of these 4000 plus religions believes that their god — or plethora of gods — is the ‘true god’. Monotheists like Muslims, Christians, Jews and others swear that their god is the truth; even though Muslims don’t believe Christianity is a monotheistic religion. Is Allah the true god and Mohammad his messenger? Is Jehovah the true god, manifesting himself in human form as Jesus and remaining with people as the Holy Spirit? Is the true god Buddha, Ahura Mazda, Haile Selassie, Shango, Aganju, Amadioha, Aleku, Bumba or the other (very many) gods of Africa and the world?
Thing is, each religious adherent believes that THEIR OWN god is the only true one. Why is that? Where do people get off believing that their chosen paths has to be the RIGHT ONE? And even though NONE OF THESE gods have been PROVEN to exist, adherents of these religions believe that their way has to be the right path. Yes, none of the existence of these gods have been DISPROVED either but that still leaves us in a clutch.
If one religion is the right path, then at least 4299 religions have to be ‘wrong’. Which brings me to the next thought.
Most religious people, regardless of their faith and beliefs, believe that our lives were predestined before we were born and we are just living an already prepared script. This script is supposedly written by the one true god who basically dictates our lives from the moment we are conceived to the moment we die.
This has always set me on edge.
If this is to be believed, then this one true god deliberately writes some people NOT TO WORSHIP HIM so that he can punish them. This has to be the logical conclusion because, of the 7 billion people on earth, only 2.1 billion are Christians and 1.3 billion, Muslims. Even if we ignore the 1.1 billion who are nonreligious (atheist, agnostics, secular), we still have a whopping 2.5 billion who do not believe in either of these most popular religions. So if Allah is the right god, has he deliberately written that 5.7 BILLION PEOPLE go to hell? Or if Jehovah is the true god, has he destined 4.9 BILLION PEOPLE to eternal condemnation?
Someone once told me that while our lives are destined, we have to CHOOSE TO walk in our destiny and choosing otherwise is what gets us thrown to hell. Isn’t this a contradiction in itself? If my life has been scripted out, doesn’t that mean that I am DESTINED to be for or against god? Even if I choose that path?
And whether we like it or not, there are some people who WILL NEVER HEAR about any of these religions. So does that mean that god deliberately doesn’t give them the chance to choose him or their destiny?
You can see why this has me in a fix.
On ‘Holy Books’:
The most popular ‘Holy Books’ are the Bible and Qur’an. These books are said to be the ‘incorruptible word of god’ by those who believe in them. As similar as these book are in terms of morality and storytelling, these books are widely different.
Most people will tell you their god is the real deal because their ‘Holy Books’ tell them so. Christians and Jews say that the Bible and Torah (respectively) are the holy words of god because it was written by lots of people who were inspired by god and the stories are in tandem, all leading to Christ or Yahweh. The Muslim says that very reason is why the Bible/Torah is unreliable as the Qur’an was only written by one person. While Christians and Jews do not recognize the Qur’an as a holy book, Muslims accepts bit of the Bible that are similar in teaching to the Qur’an. Also, where many scholars may read the books that are contradictory to their faith, many religious faithful do not.
So we have the Bible saying that Jehovah is god and the Qur’an saying that Allah is god. The Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas tell the Hindu that his way is the truth and the Buddhist swears by the Triptaka, Mahayana Sutras and the Tibetan book of the dead. Each of these books proclaim a true god and denounces others as false.
So how can one book be right and all others wrong? And better still, which one of them is right?! Quite honestly, apart from our ‘faith’ in whatever ‘word of god’ we pick, do we really have ANY PROOF that these words are right and true? Because I can find god in the Harry Potter series and even a way of life in them. Does that make it a holy book? And why is it okay to assume other books are wrong when most of us never even bother to read them?
I guess what I am asking is what gives us the certainty that the books that tell us how to live our lives are the ‘infallible word of god’?
Each of these religions teach that god only blesses those who follow the tenets written in their holy books. It goes further to imply that people can only be successful when they follow these books to the smallest tittle. We have seen that this is absolutely false. If anything, it seems that people are the ones who make their own blessings. But before I get to that, let me finish this line of thought.
If the Bible is right, then The Vatican — and hence the whole of Europe — should be the richest regions or nations in the world. But that isn’t the case now is it? In fact, the richest nation in the world is Qatar, a Muslim nation. And there are three other completely Muslim nations in the top ten list; Brunei Darusalam, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
This in turn plays into the belief that Muslims have about being successful. They believe that Allah makes nations successful but if that is the case too, we shouldn’t have an entirely non-Muslim G8 nations list; G8 being the largest industrialized democracies in the world consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, The United Kingdom and the United States. Anyone who knows world politics knows that these nations basically determine what happens with the rest of the world.
And individually, Christians pray and say god Jehovah answered their prayers. Muslims pray and say Allah answered their prayers. Who is answering the prayers if there is only one true god? Who is blessing the other if only one path is the truth? And who is making the Atheist successful when he has no belief in god?
When this is brought up, religious people are quick to mention ‘good successes’ and other successes; that good success only comes from worshipping the said true god. My response to this is always; what makes your own success ‘good’? Is it because it has the seal of approval from your god? Is mine somehow tainted because I don’t believe in your god? And if a god says he is the only one that gives success and it has been proven to be wrong, doesn’t that make that religion questionable?
But before I rile you up further, let me get to my next thought.
Proselytism is the act of attempting to convert people to another religion or opinion. A proselyte is one who attempts to convert people to their own thought or religion.
Every religion encourages proselytism; EVERY SINGLE ONE.
For some religions, it is a choice. For others, it is compulsory. We are supposed to work hard at trying to ‘save’ our fellow humans from the fiery pit of hell. If we help save one human being, oh! The rewards we will have. If we don’t, their souls are on our head.
But…if our lives are predestined, it means that we were destined to preach to some people and try to ‘save their souls’. Why then do we get rewarded? And furthermore, some lives were predestined NOT to convert to your religion. If that then is the case, why should their souls be on our heads? Why should we have any responsibility either way? It just seems like the god needs to punish someone for something.
On ‘Religious Extremism’:
And then there is the forced conversion. The major religions of the world have gained followers by being notorious blood sucking dictators. While many people consider Christianity a peaceful religion, the truth is, it isn’t. Christianity was built on the foundations of wanton murder for trumped up charges; the crusades, witchcraft, female sexuality, eating chocolate or a perceived refusal to follow the church’s dictates and doctrines. Christianity thrived on African slave trade and ALL the inherent consequences of it. Even today, some of the most Christian nations are the most racist nations, doing all they can to physically harm people who are not majorly white. The evangelicals massively voted for Donald Trump, a self-proclaiming Christian who has no qualms inciting racism for his own agenda and who has said nothing about the increased number of attacks against non-white minorities since he won his election. The same thing can be said of Russia. Till today, Christian nations attack smaller nations in the guise of giving them freedom and human rights. We all know it has nothing to with freedom or human rights but a chance to pillage nations of their resources.
And why is nobody holding the Jews accountable for the Palestine lives that are being wasted every day? Yes, the Hamas are doing their best to thwart any peace attempt but while not excusing war and carnage, oppression is a sure fire way to have people broiling in angst and hate.
China has almost no tolerance for people who do not believe in express communism and hence, the Chinese Traditional Religion. The Chinese communist party routinely crackdowns on Christians and even went as far as banning Islam.
And with Islam, there are clear passages in the Qur’an on the place of Jews, Christians and non-believers in the society. The prophet started his campaign with war. Today, we have even more wars. Globally, people are killed for refusing to adhere to the tenets of Islam. Like their Christian counterparts, people are killed on all sorts of charges; for blasphemy against Allah and his prophet, for believing in your own brand Islam (Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Wahabi, Korani, Ahmaddiya or whichever one you choose), for being a woman with her own mind, for looking at a man that is not your husband and so many more. Many terrorist insurgencies claim to have Islam as their agenda.
Adherents of these religions all swear that their religion is peaceful and tolerant. In broad terms, these statements are lies. If they are peaceful as they are said to be, why are there not more people condemning acts of violence and wanton abuse of human rights perpetuated by said followers of these religions? Why is it that the people clamoring for peace and world stability are usually those NOT associated with any god?
Isn’t it time that religious adherents admit that part of their mantra is dominance and where impossible, a need for violence?
On ‘Intellect, Reason and Logic’:
I keep wondering why a god who is supposed to have created the universe and all that is in it, has followers who are the least intellectual in the society. I mean, look at the complexity and sheer brilliance of the universe! But…some of the most intellectual people, the people who drive innovations and technological advancements, rarely ever associate with a god. From Leonardo da Vinci to Mark Zuckerberg, a belief in god seems to be unimportant and yet, they have achieved more from their unbelief than many religious people are doing now.
Religious people are content sharing ‘the word of god’ when other people are improving the world. It is not unheard of that highly intelligently people will drop all their knowledge to be religious figures. They would rather be preachers than say, politicians, innovators, policy makers and the likes.
How come doing god’s work isn’t finding the cure to cancer or diabetes or HIV/AIDS? Why isn’t doing god’s work creating technology that runs on solar energy and biofuels? Why isn’t doing god’s work ensuring that everybody, male or female, has access to quality education and healthcare? Why isn’t doing god’s work ensuring that our nations — OUR CONTINENT — becomes a first world continent, with great human capital development and sustainable advancement? Why must god’s work only be about building and managing huge religious edifices, preaching his word and saving souls? Has anyone thought of how many souls will be saved if they don’t have to die from cancer? Or HIV/AIDS? Or common malaria? Have we wondered how many people will be saved if we have societies that care for their poor and ensures equity and equality?
And when religious people go deeply into reason and logic and science, they seem to shake off the clutches of religion. Does this beg to reason that religion is in itself illogical? That when faced with the glaring fact of reality and science, religion CANNOT hold its own?
And though I know there are millions of religious people who are making huge impacts in society, they are still few and in between in comparison to those who aren’t.
On ‘holy lands’:
Most religions actively encourage pilgrimage to their respective ‘holy lands’. In Islam, pilgrimage (or Hajj) to Mecca and Medina is one of the five pillars of religion. In Christianity, it is a culture to go to Israel if you can. Judaism also has a couple of pilgrimages, most notable of which is The Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Buddhism, Hinduism, Baha’I Faith, Skihism, Zoroastrianism and even our African religions urge pilgrimages for festivals and the likes.
It is estimated that 3.7 million people attend hajj each year. This year, the pilgrims paid 350 Saudi riyal for visa fees and there is even talk of increasing it to 2000 Saudi riyal to reduce the number of pilgrims going for Hajj. But for Nigerian Muslims however, who numbered around 20,000, the full package cost was ₦998, 248.92 (If you are a Northerner) and ₦1, 008, 197.42 (if you are from the south). Of the 3.5 million people who visit Israel annually for tourism, 40% are pilgrims; close to 1 million people from across the globe. The package cost for a Nigerian pilgrim spending 11 days in Israel is ₦461, 440. This year, more than 20,000 Christians went for pilgrimage.
This makes these countries uber rich from what is best describe as tourism slapped with a tag of holiness.
So my question is, how come only these lands are ‘holy’? Why is it necessary for me to visit these lands as part of my religious devotion? Why is none of my African religion considered holy enough to warrant major tourism pilgrimage? Could it be because we were colonized and cannot think outside our masters approved ideologies?
All these thoughts have been swirling in my head for the past few weeks. It makes me wonder whether our attachment to religion is why we are the way we are. Africa is so blessed and beautiful yet we are the most backward continent in the world. Where some countries have used religion to enrich themselves and better their global standing, we only seem to use religion to discriminate against, fight, maim and kill ourselves. While I want to believe that it is a slave mentality, we cannot continue to excuse our unwillingness to be better.
I believe that religion has nothing to do with god and everything to do with dominance, political power and wealth generation. This is because every time a religious group conquers a place, they enforce their ideologies, culture, dress code and even language on the people. The Jews believe that Hebrew is the language of Heaven. Muslims believe that Arabic is the language of paradise. At a time, Christians used Latin but realized they could get more people by telling them to seek god in their own languages. And Islam, trying to catch up, has now allowed translations of The Qur’an into other languages. This comes with a stern warning that reading the Qur’an in Arabic is still more notable.
I also believe that religion is used to keep the masses compliant. The thought of heaven and hell as a reward for life lived on earth ensures that most people tow the approved societal line. But like god, there is no definitive proof that THERE IS LIFE AFTER DEATH. Again I agree that there is no definitive proof that the reverse isn’t the case but for people who have no proof of an after-life, we spend all our lives trying to ensure the unknown is secure. It is that fear that keep us lifting holy hands in prayers or doing the Salat five times daily. THAT FEAR keeps us hating people who have differing opinions from us, even though we all have no better proof of the existence of our god than our faith.
So I have a couple of questions for you.
· If Jesus wasn’t sold to us as this white man with blond hair, blue eyes, straight nose and fierce cheekbones, and we weren’t told we were slaves needing salvation, would we have accepted him as savior?
· If the Arabs weren’t these exotic conquerors, would you have accepted Islam?
· If you weren’t born into your family, community, country or region, would you practice the religion you profess today?
· If there was no compulsion in religion, would you believe in god?
· Would your god mean anything if the ONLY THING he could offer was himself; no blessing, no happiness, no wealth, no salvation and no punishment either?
· If there was no hell, no heaven, no afterlife, would you worship the god you say you love? And finally;
· If you died and realized everything you were taught were lies, everything you believed about your god was false, would you be proud of the life you led or would you be filled with regret?
I am studying Christianity, Islam and even Atheism and I am still puzzled by these questions. But if you are absolutely sure of your path, I want you to ask yourself these questions too. And please, you do not need to answer these questions out loud. Just be true to yourself.
And if you have the answers to help clear up my confusion, I am willing to learn.
PS: This post is not to malign any religion but to share my confusion about the role of religion in humanity’s advancement.