I have just concluded 286 pages of "God is not Great: How religion poisons everything" by Christopher Hitchens, it has proven to be quite illuminating. Of course I'm not an atheist like him, having being raised the way I was, I'm quite certain some values have stuck with me, I suspect more out of upbringing than the weekly forced dragging to the cathedral,
through those forced weekly repetitions though, I have retained some Pavlovian conditioning, namely fear of Hell, I suspect some behavioral modifications occurred also, why else will I get chickenhearted about atheism, unconvinced about agnosticism and too scared to be an apostate. I suspect my consternation for hell is also a result of this, I will however give more credit to a dedicated father, a relatively stable family life and a home library full of books, some role models, Gods helping hand and of course later in life, college radicalization
Later in life though, Karma has being my faithful and indolent refuge, it tends to work for me, in addition to the occasional fear of hell, I will pick up my Bible occasional. I have to confess, I have read the Koran (Lazily), albeit like the Bible I find both of them extremely contradictory and equally confusing, not like the proverbial convenient "do unto others as you expect other to do unto you".
See how undemanding that was!
Any given Sunday (or Friday) the same question nags at me every time, how come these people are not equally passionate about their governance as they are about their "religion"?
Any given Sunday (or Friday) is/are the most confusing day/s for me in Africa. I have to say, its one of those few occasions I wish I had the intellectual answers like Avicenna, C.S Lewis and Kwame Gyekye all rolled into one.
I read a Gallup written piece that tried to analyze religiosity on a country by country basis, as part of the analysis, the Gallup poll was conducted about religion and everyday life, the question was and I quote "Is religion a part of your daily life?"
The answers of course were not too surprising, Egypt, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Congo, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Senegal, Djibouti, all polled 100% ( Egypt) to 98% ( Djibouti).
To clarify, 100% to 98% of people polled in those countries said religion was a part of their daily life.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the same question was posed to people from Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, Japan, France, and Belarus, "Is religion a part of your daily life? "All polled from 14% ( Estonia) to 27% ( Belarus). What is the commonality in the countries with the high levels of religiosity (with 1 exception of course) and the countries with low levels of religiosity? Azerbaijan was definitely a surprise for me, especially being close to Iran.
One could intimate various witty interpretations based on the polls alone, as a matter of fact,
I find one irresistible, What the Hell (Excuse me) will I be doing in Congo, if Denmark was a sure thing and conducive to my skin Color? Not a damn thing!
Maybe it's the world class health care system or the $62,000 nominal GDP or the lack of wars or tribal conflicts or the free "world class" education or the fact that Denmark was ranked in 2009 as the most peaceful country in the world (Global Peace Index) or the egalitarian nature of its society or the fact that its people are more interested in their quality of life than chasing the almighty Krone 24/7?
One of the questions Christopher Hitchens posed was "Does religion make people behave better"? I have my own non scientific retort drawn from various life engagements, I suspect you know this too, but I'm keeping them clandestine for now, or am I?
Because of Hitchens atheism, it is easy to dismiss his inquisition to having an anti climatic conclusion, but his examples proved very challenging. The crusades, southern USA Christian behavior during Jim-Crow, religious right "Christian" support for Apartheid, the Hindu caste system, Joseph Kony and the Lords resistance army, the madmen in SWAT valley, Sudan Muslim north versus Sudan Christian south, the overwhelmingly Christian Rwanda and genocide, catholic priests and boys, Sharia and barbarism, he had in me, a congregation after a while.
Where exactly is the common sense of people that they fail to see the hypocrisy in the people they call leaders or elder or ovasheeare (overseers), bishops, prelate, pralate, imam, caliph and what other agnomen they go by? Any given Sunday (or Friday) is always problematic for me. The costumes, the Gele (Head Gear), the cars (They sure bring them out), the inconveniences they go through, the devotion to the inconveniences, the religiosity and consistency of those days, the devotion, all the energy? The vigils, the isho oru, s (night prayers).
I once encountered a "prayer warrior" (in Nigeria) whose devotees I observed were mostly working class, market women, laborers, low income civil servants, all with no qualms giving away their life savings, and yet in the not too distant past when I accidentally(not really) visited a high brow estate in the US of A, I was taken to a house whose security alone would make Muhammad Abacha envious, no I'm not talking about Creflo dollar, this one is a Nigerian (Tunde) with the habit of prophesying and equally adjusting the prophesy as they became unfulfilled, the house had about 8 bedrooms, I had to hide my disgust as they were friends of a friend.
The prayer warrior owned the house. This Overseer has a habit of picking up fights and abusing a certain retired general cum head of state cum president cum failed president. He had no qualms though about putting all his children abroad having the best things in life on the back of his faithful stocks.
This shameless overseer had no qualms about taking religiously all his stocks money, buying a million dollar home and yet the nerve to want to give blessing and prayer fight, I find the comedy ironical.
Another "respected" overlord just purchased a plane on the back of his poor stocks, another insane one decided he hated everything western including its education (Hence Boko Haram), yet had fleets of SUV's and 21st century communications gadgets, and a big bank account to match.
There is another one in the UK who has mastered the art of marketing, to visit the East-End in London is to appreciate the ever dependable power of salesmanship, the marketing, the requests for souls, don't be 30 minutes late to Shaavish (Service), good luck to you finding a parking space.
What in gods name is wrong with these people? You know I can go on with examples from Idahosa to Oritshejafor to Reverend Ike, there is not enough space to cite the ever powerful owners of Sunday (and Fridays) What I cant understand is the people that follow them, the educated, supposedly enlightened, well traveled, well read.
Some I have to admit are my friends, every minute, Let us Pray, we thank god, to god be the glory, god will do it.
I understand cynically that they are looking the elusive expressway to heaven? One can sardonically understand the practicality of it. Those who you might say are basically looking for a Sunday to Sunday cleansing of the 6 days of constant sin; you know the rich, the corrupt, the compromised, and the child ritualist cum church builders cum lay readers cum mosque custodians. I mean, like the catholic (Mafia) I once observed in a movie killing people during the week and religiously confessing on Sundays, Slate wiped clean, maybe?
Not these raggedy looking ones though, looking like life is living them than the other way round, dying to get there, leaving work early, singing harmoniously in rickety commercial buses on their way to "revival", looking for the ever elusive miracle, the holy water, the manna from heaven, at the expense of everything else, abandoning the practical, the certain, like say for instance LIBERTY!.
I remember in my younger days, coming up in the corporate world, aggressive and (not toot my own horn), hardworking; I visited a high brow zip code in the anticipation of making a sales presentation in the zip code. I encountered a house that had a dollar sign on the gates, white, immaculate lawn, unpretentious in its ostentatious ness; I just had to ask who lived there?
A pastor of course, on whose money, on what salary?, By what moral code? Would Jesus live there? Needless to say, my moral code prevented a knock at the gates, I swiftly moved on.
This was not my first encounter with the ironies, I once had a popular US "overseer" in my office with a bag full of cash and I thought, would it not be easier if he just wrote a check for the transaction, but then I put 2 and 2 together-Ã Paper Trail! Somebody's ten % is being misused?
See, this is why I prefer the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the occasional alms given, my direct involvement in my benefaction, I like the empirical.
Anyway, back to earth, in addition to getting bemused any given Sunday (or Friday), as a political junkie, I often get bemused when the so called "religious right" of the United States gets on its self righteous podium castigating Iran, Saudi Arabia and other perceived "regressive regimes" and yet all things considered, I find out that intolerant religious zealots mostly in the southern USA have more in common with the Mullahs who find themselves about 300 centuries behind in applications of medieval religious doctrines.
The Gallup poll went ahead to compare religiosity on a state by state level in the US of A, naturally the most religious states were the worst humans to be around, here is the break down, "Is religion a part of your daily life?, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma, all polled from 85% (Mississippi) to 75% (Oklahoma). 85 to 75% said yes religion was an integral part of their daily lives, we know about their open mindedness and progressiveness, especially Mississippi 40 years ago, such lovely people! Guess which countries polled exactly? Iran, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Romania and Iraq, of course you'll like to live there?
The same poll, shifted north, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon,
Washington, Rhode Island, all polled, 42% to 53% said it was part of their daily lives.
Guess which countries polled exactly? Switzerland, South Korea, Taiwan, Slovakia, Singapore and Austria and Montenegro,
Any given Friday (or Sunday) above the Lokoja confluence is another reckonable bustle,
Kano and Abuja are my favorites, all the energy, the array, the allegiance, the symphony in the movement, THE POWER, THE POTENTIAL, the faithfulness, If you doubt, say something critical of the Koran, your doubts will be erased instantaneously.
I wonder loud, If 50% of the energy could be tapped and constituted into a form of civic enlightenment. An enlightenment that might lead to an outrage?,
What is been preached in this mosques and churches that these followers do not see their own collusion in being indifferent and passive about their own country?
Will manna from heaven just fall and change their situations without them taking matters into their own hands? The Hadith and the testaments say it loud and clear, it's all in your own hands!
Why would you burn your neighbor's house and refuse to take action against the Imam or the pastor that fails to lead by the example he preaches? How can you inconvenience yourself financially and deprive yourself trying to do the Hajj, come back to the only country you know and do nothing about the oppressor you see everyday riding with convoys and police security?
When I read Thomas Frank's book, "What the matter with Kansas", a book that tapped into the irony of appealing to peoples religious sentiments (among other things) and enabled them to do things against their own interests, while doing absolutely nothing about the issues that brought about those sentiments.
I came out of it, thinking , at least they (USA) have the luxuries of a developed society, a working government (For the most part), a functioning government, a technologically advanced society, good elementary schools, good high schools, good higher educational systems, good roads, a functioning economy, an orderly transfer of power, consistent uninterrupted power supply,
What's our excuse?
Any given Friday (or Sunday) is a day of contradiction for me in the North, but I love the north, I love the landscape, the food, the language, What I hate on Fridays is the untapped Friday potential, when I see the numbers and the people potential. When I travel to Lagos from Ibadan and I get past Shagamu, Sundays are not a good day for me, the denseness, the heftiness, the monstrous and cyclopean, Fire on the mountain, redeemers redemption, holy ghost, Latter rain and Harmattan, I stopped counting.
If some spiritual powers like say for instance "Patrioteer and Jingoist can muster the energy of these Faithfull's, say 50% of them, any given Sunday (or Friday), man!, that would be something.
The next you tell me let us pray, I'm hoping it's for the saints to protect us from bullets, while trying to take our country back!
Amen, Let us pray,
A Political Satirist