Even arch-atheists like Ludwig Feuerbach and Friedrich Nietzsche agree that religion has a converging and utilitarian role for the society. But Nigeria has, in many ways, tried to prove these anti-religious philosophers wrong. Let me say it right away that it is always necessary to be careful why quoting a master of doubt like Nietzsche when it comes to religious issues. In his ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, Nietzsche made a very important nuance that motivated my interest in examining the role religion in Nigeria. According to him, even though religion has this capacity of creating a bond in the society, it is, sometimes, also very toxic when there are no countercurrent ideas. Of course, my instinctive reaction to such affirmation, as many will do in reading this, was to frown at such a claim.
However, a close look at the history of most of the world religion gives him credit. Christianity, for example, would never have, likely left Jerusalem, if the early Christians were not opposed by the older religion – the Judaism. Islam would have, likely remained a small religion, practised by few people in Mecca. But these examples really neither answer the question of Nietzsche nor correspond to my position on this matter. In fact, looking at the situation of Nigeria, I am tempted to believe like Nietzsche that religion left on its own could be as dangerous as anything you could imagine. To use the cherished quotation of Karl Marx “Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes" religion is the opium of the people (masses). Before you accuse me of quoting Marx out of the context, I wish to reinstate that my take on religion here is about the Nigerian society. As a matter of fact, if Europe, which has been for ages a Christian continent, got where she is today, it was not because they knew how to pray better than the ancient Egyptians or the Chinese, the Japanese or the Indians. On the contrary, it was because they had strong and very intelligent people who were against waiting for any deity to tell the nation what to do and how to think to ameliorate the condition of their people.
If you go back, a little bit further, you will understand that it was not the godly intelligent Athenians who moved Athena beyond the age of the gods. It was rather ancient scientists who mustered the courage to give break to Zeus and his co-gods. And if you scrutinise the history well, you will understand that even the godly ones like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (godly because I just do not wish to insult their memory and those they inspired) were forced to make a quantum lip by anti-deity thinkers like Protagoras and his co-sophists.
The developments that took place during the renaissance period were also not made possible by prayer warriors but by people who, in real sense had little or no regards for neither gods nor religion. And if I have the courage to put these words into paper today, it is not because Saint Augustin, Saint Thomas, Avicenna, Averroes, Ibn Bajjah, Ibn Rushd, etc., said I have a God who created the world and who is good. It is because some god mocking thinkers like René Descartes said that “I am because I think”. It is because they challenged the status quo, hence forcing people to think out of the box.
Anyone who has a good knowledge of history of religion would understand that the creeds and doctrines that guide most of them today were not just fallen from heaven. They were, in majority, created in response to most of the problems raised by such countercurrent thinkers. If we permit ourselves to go a little bit further, it will be necessary to state that if Christians can, today, argue without equivoque that Christ is Lord, it was not because he came back to tell them, “hey! guys, here are some arguments to convince the world that I am the Lord”. It is, rather, because some people, in a time in history contested his divine nature. If Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and many other communities, it was because some individuals contested his teachings. And if we have the Medina revelations today, it is because some guys from the Quraysh clan forced the prophet out of Mecca. I could continue again with many other examples, but these are not really the best examples in this case I am defending.
So, if religion has been able to bring changes to the western society, it is because there were people who thought differently from the pious ones. There were those forced to get off their kneels and use their god giving heads to cogitate about something useful. But in the case of Nigeria, the whole society is imbibed in a hallucinating dream. Religion is ruining everything, and no one seems to understand.
Every average Nigerian is hypnotised and made to believe that there is a super being above ready to bring the desired change to the society just by the flip of a magic wand. And the worst is that even the educated ones are so blind that they never question anything religious. Philosophy students all graduate more Augustinians than the Augustinian monks or more Al Farabians than Maimonides. Tell me an intelligent or a very important Nigerian who is not conditioned by one religion or the other. I do not mean the nincompoops who go about burning statues or crying woe to the Christians or to the Muslims, for they are the dumbest of all that exists. They are nothing but retards who forget that when you sell a cat and buy a monkey you still have a stooping animal in your house.
In many countries, either the literature or the cinema helped them to bring the counterculture which Nigerian seriously needed most now. But in our situation, both the literature and the cinema are all more Catholic than the Pope and more Muslim than the Allamah. The worst is that religion has invaded all works of life. The politicians are more charismatic than the General Overseers and the leaders of our educational institutions are more prayerful than the abbots. We have turned all our schools and hospitals into churches and mosques and no one ever asks questions. When has the mighty fallen too low? Where are our thinkers? Where are our philosophers? Who has the courage to question the status quo again?
Nigeria is in shamble why we close our eyes and watch her bleed to death. Our problem is not that we have no intellectuals. It is that our intellectuals are all either thinking inside the bottle or too afraid to go against the tide. I’m not saying that we should chase the religion out of the society. All I am trying to convey is that we should question every spirit in Nigeria. We should get rid of all those who spoil religion for us. We should demand explanations from all the charlatans who go about presenting themselves as sheep whereas they are wolves. Therefore, I am convinced that the real problem of Nigeria is religion.
Ali C. Nnaemeka (firstname.lastname@example.org) ''The truth might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth sayer but still needed to be said''. Alisonomi.