OF RELIGIOSITY AND SPIRITUALITY; A NIGERIAN PERSPECTIVE.

From the earliest times, humans have always sought to make sense of reality. Through such media as religion, philosophy, science etc, humans have pursued an undying quest to uncover reality and understand it. In his seminal philosophical work, Immanuel James Ibe-Anyanwu argues that “of all the media of man’s inquiry, religion seem to be the most enticing; not necessarily because of its validity over others but because religion appears to be the least rigorous”.

The most essential thing you need is faith. Irrespective of the abundance of sound literature in all the major religions, many of their adherents thrive only on faith without adequate reason. This lack of adequate reason is why some ministers of God’s word have taken advantage of the poverty level in the country, thus they have hoodwinked some people into believing that they just have to fold their hands and watch miracles happen. Everything is now attributed to religion, and human effort suffers neglect. It is a common sight here to see a student who has an examination to write spending most of his/her time in the church or mosque praying. His/her studies are being relegated, and prayer instead of proper studies now becomes a prerequisite for passing examinations. The petty trader who hawks banana goes into the church and spends seven out of 12 working hours praying to God to make him a Mark Elliot Zuckerberg – the 31-year-old CEO of Facebook or our own Aliko Dangote; yet he is not ready to put in his human effort.

We often find ourselves transferring our duties to God. In the name of spirituality, people no longer think with their brain! We have forgotten that why the Creator endowed us with certain gifts and abilities is for us to put them into proper use. But religion which should be a liberative force now becomes an imprisonment of the will for some persons, an opium as Karl Marx puts it. Religion has now brainwashed a good number of Africans nay Nigerians into believing that God has to come down from heaven to do everything for us.

Nigeria paints a clear picture of a very religious country with a glaring 93 percent religious population, 6 percent non-religious and 1 percent atheist. The answers to the question as to why Nigerians are the most religious in the world are not far-fetched. The global index of religion highlighted the features of religiosity thus: “religiosity is higher among the poor, as people in bottom income groups are 17 percent more religious than those in the top income group”.Therefore, in a country where majority of its citizens live below 2 dollar per day, crime and religion present themselves as ready succours. One does not need a PhD in economics to understand the correlation between poverty and today’s high turnout in churches in our country.As the level of turnout in churches in the West declines because of improved economy and technological advancement, that of our country rises. Whether this rise is on account of a genuine search for God or because of a restless search for miracles as the last option remains a puzzle.The ugly story however, is that some religious leaders now use this as an opportunity to exploit the poor. They now violently aspire to the leadership of the church not because of a desire to serve God but because it is now a sure route to affluence and flamboyance. While their pauperized followers wallow in poverty, they live in mindless ostentation and extravagance.

Another major factor that abets religiosity is illiteracy.In a country where, according to Oby Ezekwesili in her speech at the 42nd convocation ceremony of UNN on January 26, 2013, only 4.3 per cent of our youthful generation has an opportunity for university education; a percentage that does not in any way compare favourably with Chile’s 37.5 percent or Singapore’s 33.7 percent, it is not surprising to see young religious bigots take up arms to harm and kill people in the name of religion. Illiteracy breeds ignorance! I proffer that if the majority of our religiously exploited population are literates, the extent of the exploitation would be less.

Institutional and systemic failure which give rise to lawlessness is another factor that is worthy of mention.If our resources are properly managed and the citizens are duly protected by the law of the land, some persons who run to churches for legal succour would not be doing so. Most times, the crowd we see at our various religious centres is a direct consequence of our broken systems and institutions. Systemic failure is the reason a “man of God” will burn a worshipper to death and the people are brainwashed to shut their mouths for fear of “being struck down by the Creator”; instead they continue to hail him. Fix the institutions and watch this excessive religiosity decline.

We should be able to make a clear distinction between spirituality and religiosity. We must understand as C.P Varkey puts it in his book “Be human, be Holy” that spirituality is a vision of life with a system of values, ideals and goals that orient and guide one’s life. It is the result of a personal experience of God, of the human and of the world. On the other hand, religiosity is excessive adherence to the external practices of religion. Your spirituality,therefore, is not weighed by the number of hours spent in the Church or Mosque. It is a system of values which has been internalized through a personal experience of God. These values and your love for God should reflect in your daily living as a Christian or Muslim, it must be evidenced through justice,fairness and equity in your dealings with your fellow man.

Finally, God was not foolish when He gave us the brain. The brain on its own does not think; we think with the brain. We have forgotten that our natural attributes or talents could be wastes if we do not augment them with appropriate training. God cannot bless you when you fold your hands and refuse to use your brain effectively.You can pray from now till thy kingdom come; you can attend all religious congresses. Your change will come only when you learn to use your brain and your hands. You keep praying and disturbing God to bless you but I ask, “where is the work of your hands that He has promised to bless?

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