Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
At every corner in Nigeria, there is a church, a mosque or a religious organization. Every hour of the day including at nights there is a religious service taking place.
The problems of people, families and the nation are attributed to enemies in the village and demons controlling spiritual principalities. Nigerians are so lost in the invisible realm dominated by nobody such that in the physical realm, they take responsibility for nothing.
They are practicing a faith whose power they deny.
For if they were to truly believe in the God professed by their religions they will accept that faith without works is dead.
They will realize that tithes paid from stolen money is a curse and that building of massive edifices in the name of religious centers while leaving church members starving is hypocrisy.
Why do religious members rush in to donate or as used in their words- sacrifice to help their religious organizations buy up properties? This is done in glee, yet they will fail to collaborate in their neighborhoods to take care of the destitute dying on their streets.
This is no faith. This is no service to God. The religion practiced by many in Nigeria is idolatry. It is accepting as the word of God without questioning, statements issued from the pulpit by charismatic public speakers called men of God. Yet real faith is not the type that fails to question authority. It is not one that leaves problem solving to prayers only. It is not one that seeks to repay and win God’s blessings through rigorous often showy dancing and offering giving during service days. It is not one whose adherents fight one another in the vicinity of their religious premises just after leaving their services.
True faith is different from the syncretic religion Nigerians practice today.
Yet, much as the current state of religion in Nigeria is despicable, it has served many uses. It has been effective in providing succour albeit minimally to thousands of people neglected by the failure of government and the educational system. Many destitute people have received clothing and feeding from time to time by religious organizations. Many unemployed youths have received training in informal vocations from religious bodies. Many families have been saved by pastoral counseling. The call to hope, fate and faith by religious ministers seeking to line their pockets has ensured that Nigerians do nothing about bad ineffective governance; after all God and prayers will bring positive change. This has saved us from civil war no doubt.
Since religion in Nigeria has served some good, the challenge therefore is to reform it and expand the good it does while limiting its negative aspects.
Religion in Nigeria serves as justification to do nothing in changing bad leaders and as motivation to kill in furtherance of political aims.
The various ways to reform religion in Nigeria are:
A) Religious adherents should accept responsibility in knowing the God they serve:
When the bible was made available to more people in Europe in the middle of the last millennium, the apostasy of the catholic leadership was exposed and their wide deviation from the teachings of Christ was revealed. At that time the faithful made payments in cash or kind to receive forgiveness of sins. The understanding of the gospel by the people enabled them to practice what was close to the true faith. This led to the age of renaissance and ultimately to the spread of wealth in most of Europe and the colonies in America and Australia.
The Calvinists, the Burghers, the Quakers believed that all labour done was to the glory of God and believed that they could serve God through their works. They realized that the teachings of ascetism and the irredeemable nature of the world from sin was falsehood and the improvement in the conduct of their various workings through conscientiousness, diligence, honesty and faith led to inventions, trade expansion and ultimately prosperity.
The Uthman dan Fodio jihad was done also to rid Islam of apostasy – the mixing of the Islamic faith with idolatrous rites- in 19th century Hausaland. The increase in societal organization that it brought shows that true faith uplifts.
It is therefore inconceivable that poverty is increasing with the rise of religious penetration in Nigeria. This can only mean that the true faith is not what is being taught in the various religious organizations that hold meetings on Sundays and Fridays. The spread of violence, immorality and crime in Nigeria is surprising, given the number of Nigerians who profess this faith or that.
No religious overseer is more called of God than you and none of them should be given the reverence due to God only. Offerings should be to keep religious overseers comfortable and tithes should be used to carry out programs that reduce poverty in the community.
Nigerians should know the God they serve.
No God will reward you for killing the works of his intelligent design. There will be no virgins or mansions awaiting you for killing the innocent whose only fault is that they do not practice your faith.
In the place of revenge in true faith is forgiveness. In the place of conflict is dialogue. Using this basis, it therefore becomes clear that organizations whose aims are spread through killings e.g. Boko Haram are not of the true God.
B) Tax all religious organizations
‘‘…lest we offend them, thou shalt find a piece of money, give unto them for me ’’
Matt 17:24, 27, The Holy Bible
The Lord Jesus Christ paid the tribute asked of him by public officials in Capernaum. He even said that what was Caeser’s should be given unto Caesar.
Why then is it that religious organizations do not pay tax in Nigeria today?
With the disruptions thay cause to traffic during services, with the high rate of use of energy from the public grid to power extensive sound and light systems, it is only moral that they contribute their part to the public good.
If the Lord Jesus paid what was due from him and his diciples to the then ruling power, why then do Nigerians try to shield their religious bodies from contributing to the public good?
You do not fear God less if you make these religious bodies pay their taxes, rather you show that you understand the relevance of such faith organizations in serving as role models of responsible citizenship.
You also provide a framework through such approach that will help to trace illegal funds that are probably being laundered through faith based organizations.
C) Reform teachings
No doubt above all, God wishes that his creation prosper and be in good health. To however hype this portion of the faith in the guise of wringing funds for a lavish lifestyle from religious members is the greatest scam of the last twenty years in Nigeria by religious overseers.
Teaching God’s will, tolerance towards all people, the virtues of diligence and honesty is more imperative now, so as to return our society from the brink of chaos occasioned by the rise of desire for money rather than value contributed amongst Nigerians. The focus on the prosperity message has reduced the value for hard work and increased the lust for lucre at any cost. This has contributed to the breakdown of the social fabric whose very basis is integrity and this has led to the turning of Nigeria to the Hobbesian state.
People should be made to realize that they are responsible for what happens to them and that neither fate nor faith is the cause of happenings.
When a mast falls because of heavy winds and kills somebody, it is the fault of the company that shoddily erected such a mast and not the destiny of the person who was killed by its falling.
Let them realize that God blesses works and does not create supplies from the blues for lazy people.
Religious overseers should ensure that people realize that children have a right to be raised well rather than suffer deprivations in the pursuit of religious education.
D) Exclude religion from state functions
The functions of state deal with what is and not what is hoped for. The issue of governance is not that of faith but of reality.
Exclude all religious activities in state functions because any of it that is done, infringes on the rights of non-practitioners who have or do not have their own faiths.
Religion in government also aids sentiment and prevents a culture of objectivity from developing. It also implicitly states that religious overseers are superior to the state and gives them undue influence over political leaders.
Nigerians have to question their respective faiths and differentiate the true faith which liberates from idolatrous religion which enslaves. They must question why in spite of wide spread religious activity; there is increase in societal decay.
They must realize that God will not do for them or cause their religious leaders to do for them what he has already given them power to do.
We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable’s hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order.
Church of England Clergyman
It is only when the vast majority of Nigerians have come to this realization that they can then start to approach liberty from the mind enslavement of the doctrine of fate and hope propagated by religious overseers who are in alliance with the ruling elite,. Until such a time, Nigerians will remain in opium like sedation while before their very eyes their political and religious leaders cart away their nation’s resources for personal benefit.