I cannot help but eventually write about this topic. It is saddening to see the growing decline of faith in our Maker – our Lord God. People take it for granted nowadays to spill out one blasphemy or the other, either for the reason of free expression, or influence of the wrong projections in the film and other media, or simply to join an uninformed bandwagon propagating some inductive statements.
Religion is not spared in these invalidated statements. I have heard or read such things as: ‘we should eschew religion because it is not doing us any good’, ‘religion will make you blind to something you should spend time researching’, ‘Africans seriously need to prioritize science and technology over religion for us to ever move forward as a people’, etc. These statements only expose the fact that those who circulate them do not even understand the terms and concepts of their sentences.
But I will like to enlighten the propagators against religion by explaining as much as I can about it – Religion. I will start with the definition of the word by some authors. Religion is a system of belief in a Divine or superhuman power, and practices of worship or other rituals directed to such a power – Argyle & Beit-Hallahmi, 1975, p1. Here, belief is accepting that something exists or something is true whether with proof or not. The Super or Divine human here is certainly God for me. While the practices and rituals are activities performed in worship of God and as moral principles from God, and all directed towards a relationship with God. Kindly note that rituals are not just the activities of juju by idol worshippers as popularly perceived, but it is defined as ‘a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order’ – Google. Therefore, as a Christian I will say that, Christian Religion is the faith in and the worship of the Triune God [Father, Son – Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit] as well as living in the virtues and moral principles of God [as followers and emulators of Jesus Christ].
My particularized definition shows that religion is not an isolated term but has different types, and the popular ones are the Christian, Muslim and traditional religions. The Muslim religion also believes in one God, but that Muhammed is a messenger of God. While the traditional religion is the belief in various gods according to ethnicity, including a supreme unknown being.
If we examine many other authors, we will realize that their definition of religion includes the salient terms of belief in a supreme being and activities directed in honor of the supreme being. Let us see:
Ballah, 1970 – Religion is a set of symbolic forms and acts that relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence.
Clark, 1958 – Religion is the inner experience of the individual when he senses a Beyond, especially as evidence by the effect of his experience on his behaviour when he actively attempts to harmonize his life with the Beyond.
Dollahite, 1998 – A covenant faith community with teachings and narratives that enhance the search for the sacred.
O’Collins & Farrugua, 1991 – Religion is systems of belief in and response to the Divine, including the Sacred Books, and cultic rituals, and ethical practices of the adherents. Please note here that cultic is not exclusive to ogbonis and other diabolic practices, but means the worship or veneration [in the Christian case] of God.
I can go on with many more definitions of Religion, but we will make do with the above. And as you can see, it is just as I explained that they are all alike. It is also pertinent to note that human beings are prone to searching for God and the meaning of life; this is common sensical. It has always been so from the beginning and it is why God revealed Himself gradually to us in the Bible – through the prophets and Jesus Christ, and continues to do so till date through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in all sincere hearts that seek Him.
To those who think that religion should be relegated for science and technology, it is necessary that they are educated that science is not just the mixture of chemicals in the laboratory, but the knowledge acquired through observation and experiment. It is not an isolated term but has many branches of which religious science is one. While technology, on the other hand, is ‘the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry’ [and their examples are machinery and equipment] – Google. What this means is that, just as technology is a type of science, so also is religion. Hence, you cannot relegate religion for science because religion is also science. And you cannot ignore a science [Religious] which part of its study includes the origin or creation of technology or you will never know how to invent and apply technology. Many scientists have tried to debunk the existence of God, but have not succeeded and will not succeed in doing so, because every tool they use and the elements they experiment on, have basics that are created by God.
It might seem that I am taking this too far, but I am trying to explain the basics which the proponents of ‘eschewing religion’ are either uninformed about, or ignore, or may have even forgotten after leaving school for a long while.
Another reason people are beginning to condemn religion are the confusing differences in denominational doctrines, some of which are termed unreasonable, and others, unfathomable. That which is unfathomable, is why it requires faith. But faith is not unreasonable, and this is what people condemn. Doctrines vary for different denominations, but due to the indoctrination that goes with religion, followers of a particular denomination are blindly bounded by their doctrines.
Another, which I cannot entirely blame the proponents for, but also blame our religious agents for, is the abuse of their pastoral role for selfish desires that further worsen the hardships of their followers. These religious leaders are hardly different from our National Assembly members who have misappropriated their office to allocate public funds to themselves as allowances. In the case of the religious leaders, they blackmail their congregation with their ‘exaggerated’ interpretations and preaching of the Bible, thereby placing more burdens on the poor congregations – Matthew 23:4. Hence, when people see pastors flying in jets or building some castles in the air while their congregation and the mass of religious followers wallow in abject poverty, they come up with the above conclusions that religion is no longer relevant to society. Do not worry about these leaders, the Bible already says to them – woe; Luke 11:46. It is better for them to drown themselves than cause the little ones to stumble – Matthew 18:6.
Also worrisome, is the wanton killing, enslaving and destruction of lives and property, by certain religious sects and extremists, in the name of God. This should not be a surprise because even the Bible has warned about such events – John 16:2. The Bible’s manner of statement shows it is wrong to do this; in the eyes of the law, it is also wrong; reason and common sense knows it is wrong; and so, generally condemned. Therefore, this is not the fault of religion, but some mental illness, ignorance, hypocrisy and evil; it also happens among atheists. Such perpetrators of evil are dissidents who will always find something to hinge on to enact their unholy desires.
The most worrying of the cause of religious condemnation, are the movies and shows that counter faith in God and mock religious practices. The media, being a great influence on the mind, is used by people of one religion to mock or condemn another, or used by people who do not even believe in God [atheists] to deride and denigrate religious beliefs. These go a long way in negatively affecting those who are yet to mature in their faith or confuse others who are searching for the truth.
Now the question is, where there is no religion because of the above, what is? I have heard some people say, ‘I do not belong to any religion but embrace moral principles’, ‘I don’t need religion to show that I believe in God’, ‘some people live more Christian than the religious’, etc. To these, some judgmental people may conclude, are lazy excuses to avoid worship activities or are self-deluded; but not me oh! I simply think we do not understand the concepts we use. How can you practice moral principles that have its basics and end as God and claim not to belong to any religion? How can you not need religion to believe in God, when belief is part of religion? And how do people live Christian lives without worshiping Christ with others? How do you show your faith without worship, virtues and celebration of the body of Christ as commanded by Christ in Luke 22:19, for Christians? Who do you ascribe your moral life to if not to the origin and end – God?
We simply need more understanding of the terms we use, in order to better express ourselves. This is not to say that I do not understand what the proponents against religion meant to say. Their disaffection with religion should be better expressed thus: ‘I do not believe in your religion or certain religion/s’, ‘I do not accept your doctrines’, ‘I do not like or accept your manner of worship’, ‘I believe that your doctrine is wrong and detrimental to a life that can be saved if otherwise’, ‘I will leave your denomination for another my spirit is more acceptable with’, and like statements. In this way, you are not generally condemning religion, but certain aspects of it. Kindly note that, where you think that a denomination’s doctrine adversely affects a minor or helpless person, do report to the police for the court of law to intervene. There is freedom of religion, but where a minor’s life and helpless persons are involved, a third party can come to an aid.
For Christians – Jesus and His earthly family practiced the religion of the Jews by celebrating the Passover, going to the synagogue, performing the rites/rituals as stipulated in the laws, till He instituted the Church – Matthew 16:18, John 13, Luke 22:14-20, and Acts 2. So, although, Jesus criticized the practices of the pharisees – Matthew 23:13, He did not condemn the teachings but only explained them better; hence, He is not against religion. And Muhammed, the messenger of God to the Muslim is not against religion.
The truth is that, where there is no religion, there is atheism. While religion is the culture of those who believe in some Supreme Being, atheism is the culture of those who do not. We are not in a religion because of certain people – Matthew 23:3, but we are in it because we believe in God. People in religion may not be perfect, but the Holy Spirit will lead those with sincere hearts to His truth and life. And so, I appeal to all, let us not condemn ‘Religion’, and so, unknowingly deny or deride God, but be specific about what we do not like and refer to it appropriately.
Thank you for reading. This is my view; perhaps, you think differently, and so, I will like to know your view too. Kindly leave your comments in the area below.
By IfeanyiChukwu Oluwafemi Chukwudi, April 19, 2020