From the moment that man submits God to moral judgement, he kills him in his own heart. And then what is the basis of morality? God is denied in the name of justice, but can the idea of justice be understood without the idea of God? At this point are we not in the realm of absurdity? Absurdity is the concept that Nietzsche meets face to face
(Albert Camus, The Rebel: An Essay on man in Revolt)
Recently in the Nigerian context, it seems to have appeared "cool" for some people to come out in public forum and yell that they neither believe in God or Religion especially in the two great Religions - Christianity and Islam. Such utterances for those who utter them place them on the side of justice, decency and social harmony contrary to the manifestations of the two "supremacist religion." Tunde Fagbenle is the latest in his July 4th write-up with the title" Religion as culprit." These utterances in public squares may seem innocuous but they may have the force of moral exemplars for many especially those who are highly suggestible coupled with when such statements are made by influential characters. Therefore such statements must be met with counter arguments and forceful ones too.
The problem of denying religion in the name of justice and humanity is the danger of turning justice into a matter of state of affairs and derivatively a virtue or a character determinant. This is why in Okey Ndibe's article "The Toilet named Nigeria " his rage against a pissing individual was met with the retort: "I already started doing it outside. Next time I'll go to the toilet." Here we have a perfect example of one thinking that the decency of not pissing in public should be a matter of the state of affairs; since "I have started it and am causing no problem, ok next time I will do your bidding" To deny religion in the claim that religion is a culprit in social anomie is not only to misunderstand the concept of religion but to think following Camus assertion that the question "free of what" can be replaced by "free for what." Hence "liberty coincides with heroism" and thus becomes "the asceticism of the great man, "the bow bent to the breaking-point." Here the denial of the condemning weapon of religion is perfected.
Religion condemns its adherents as hypocrities, i.e., to say that they are not faithful to the being and demands of the deity. A contrary state of affairs is then seen as a dereliction of the teachings of religion and not the manifestations that follows from its being. To claim to be free from the negative state of affairs generated by followers of a religion who are simultaneously citizens and have other interests is to claim that such religion in justifying itself must as of necessity justify those acts and then one being free from those acts inevitably transforms into being free from religion.
Of course denying God or claiming irreligious is not the prerogative of Nigerians. Down the German line (of course they have to be Ger-mans!) Marx, Neitzsche and the Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer and co), all had earlier claimed irreligious based on social injustice in the world. Thus a world that manifests a lot of social anomie cannot claim to be the creation of a good God whom religion is instituted around. In Nigeria it seems to be the other way round. The argument becomes " a world in which the adherents of a religion commit so much murder cannot be a world in which religion should exists." The major culprits are Christianity and Islamic religions. Both are not only accused to be supremacist and foreign to Nigeria but they are also carriers of the tools of disorder.
In the Nigerian context, our own Wole Soyinka provides the perfect picture of the critic of these religions but also that of the irreligious. Soyinka will be the first to argue against the immodesty of these two religions in intruding into the lives of natives and like Fagbenle will claim "the two unfortunately dominant but oppressive faiths ÔÇô Christianity and Islam ÔÇô in the country" puts those of them " millions who belong to neither have" in harms way. In the mode of Omar Khayyam he will quickly argue that to believe and not to believe is his religion and when pressed further will claim that "selectivity is the key." The truth is that Soyinka like most critics of Islam and Christianity cannot justify their selectivity or double belief and unbelief or provide a coherent justification of their traditional religion without lapsing into absurdity in the mode of Nietzsche. Such justification can be found neither in Obatala's drunkenness, Ogun's irrationality, Sango's wilfulness nor Etsu's deviousness.
In such case then we reach a stage where religion is turned into an empty humanism. For people like Soyinka who affirms in The man Died that justice is the basic determinat of humanity, they cannot answer the question, whose justice? without lapsing into absurdity. Justice becomes the human justice based on human rationality and desires. Thus the religion of philanthropy is born. Religion becomes charity while in politics legitimate power in the end can only be justified by recourse to philanthropy. Secularism as the dethronement of religion in the political sphere becomes an empty search for interests that may not be fair to citizens. However that is not what secularism or a secular state means. (this is not the place for the argument for secularism). In the final analysis we arrive at that lamentation of Camus against Occidental thought in which "the principle of analogy is continually favoured to the detriment of the principles of identity and contradiction. More precisely, it is a question of dissolving contradictions in the fires of love and desire and of demolishing the walls of death."
The problem in the position of people like Soyinka and Fagbenle is not in their personal belief rather when the proclaim these beliefs in public discourses and as I said earlier such discourses and such characters can become moral exemplars for the feeble minded. A case in point here maybe that of Pius Adesanmi. Here is a self-aclaimed teacher and poet and most certainly a follower of Soyinka who in a prayer like session throws caution to the wind and chants:
Ah, Obatala! Grant me the gift of your error
That my verse may escape the tyranny of uniformity
Grant me the gift of your error
That I may rhyme some, free others
Grant me the gift of your error
That my art may sing the beauty of difference
Grant me the gift of your error
That my art may be rainbow
Firstly, the stupidity or call it absurdity of such poem-prayer does not lie in its being a prayer but in its demand. The error of Obatala lies in his drunkenness, and not serenity. Is this what Pius is praying for? Now the larger problem here is that Pius unlike Soyinka doesn't know that the Obatala Myth popularised by Soyinka have no conceptual apparatus for a prayer. It is here that I can hear Okigbo screaming:
Dumb-Bells outside the gates
In hollow seascapes without memory, we carry
Each of us an urn [un] of native
Earth, a double handful [fool] anciently gathered. (emphasis mine)
Pius thus perfects the prayer of the agnostic or philanthropist. Prayer becomes selectivity for my desire and not a cry for justice ;that perfect cry of "let thy will be done." Thus we arrive at the perfect Will to Power. As Camus puts it "Since the salvation of man is not achieved in God[be he a drunken or irrational god] it must be achieved on earth. Since the world has no direction, man from the moment he accepts this, must give it one that will eventually lead to a superior type of humanity." Now, is this not the perfect crime of man? One who thinks that, in the final analysis, he can bring justice or man-made order to the world? Is this not nihilism and absurdity that those who dissolve all religion want to lead us to. Nietzsche will finally exclaim that "the task of governing the world is going to fall to our lot" and elsewhere exclaims "the time is approaching when we shall have to struggle for the domination of the world, and this struggle will be fought in the name of philosophical principles."
In essence then, any social emancipation must provide a justification, "why must an Obatala-crippled demand a better treatment compared to the perfect creature?" nihilism by its inevitable logic provides a clash of arms. Camus pictures it perfectly "but he failed to perceive that the doctrines of socialist emancipation must, by an inevitable logic of nihilism lead to what he himself has dreamed of: superhumanity. Philosophy secularises the ideal. But tyrants appear who soon secularize the philosophies that give them the right to do so." Is this not the foundation of Boko-Haram and Al-queda?
Politics is basically a relationship based on interests. And when the unbeliever says, I don't believe in any diety, why must the believer say you are free to do what you want? He may reply you are free but our interests do not coincide so we either challenge ourselves to arms or we de-politicize. It is here that I hear unbelievers like Soyinka and Fagbenle dialoguing with Boko-Haramists in the words of Okigbo:
And he said to the ram: Disarm.
And I said:
Except by rooting,[routing]
Who could pluck yam tubers from their base?
The problem of Boko-Haram goes beyond detonating bombs. It is the problem of the Nigerian state. What interests bind us? What is federalism? In fact to use Soyinka's words "what mores define the Nigerian-state?" Some shallow thinkers believe that Boko-Haram or Biafra should just quit the scene. They are fools. They are combing the underbrush. More is coming. Who can even claim that religion shouldn't justify murder? We just make sentimental statements because we think murder is the perfect crime. It is easy for religion to justify murder and such murder may not coincide with crime. The laws and the police define crime but the mores we are elusively searching for define the state. If religion justify such mores and justifies murder, then the police will have a hard time.
But Islam and Christianity unlike the Obatala-like religion or belief have within it the tools for perfect peace and existence of interests. The intellectual and moral superiority of Islam and Christianity over the Obatala-like religion in the end lie in their myth (or history). Allah is pictured as the all merciful who revealed the Koran and Christianity provides the image of Christ as the spotless lamb and the perfect God-Man (goodman). On the one hand, we have a God who unlike the irrational Ogun is merciful to his followers and, on the other, the perfect man who is not a drunkard in Obatala's mode. Both religions also talks of brotherhood but whether it's taken as universal is another thing. It is only when brotherhood or creation from a God demands equality or "thou shall not kill" can murder start sounding nonsensical to believers of any religion. The effort towards justice, i.e., what is just becomes the striving to actualize the demands of such deity. It is a fallacy to think that religion and politics should not mix when both are seen as the act of men.
The Nigerian problem is not religion but what to do with religion and its influence on the interests of citizens. If religious demands influence the interests of certain groups of people to an extent where they cannot coincide with others, we will still get back to what we have now. Disarming can only be by rooting. In essence there is nothing inherently wrong if the nation-state is defined on religious lines. The context of arm between Boko-Haram and the police will continue to go on till one subdue each other or till to a manageable extent interests coincide. The blame I put on heads of religious groups is that most of them have allowed illiterates to take over the work of exegetes.