By Abu Onyiani

It is commonplace to observe Nigerian Religious leaders, even motivational speakers sobering their followers and listeners by solemnly questioning what their purpose in life is. Obviously, Christian religious leaders have long mastered and weaponised this tool, that you now often see and hear them asking that queson in their sermons.

For dramatic effect, thesereligious leaders employ various taccs to guilt-trip you for being alive, they even compare you with animals and stones, telling you that God can raise inanimate objects to worship him if he so desired. And with the choir playing warm and gentle notes on the piano, the atmospheric condition pushes even those who are not easily given to lachrymose to become sincerely sad. They tell you boldly that, your purpose in life is to serve God. Only to serve God, or burn forever in hell.

From what you often hear from religious leaders, you will imagine that “God” is a narcissist who dresses in a resplendent white gown that compliments his white flowing beards, sits on a mighty golden throne surrounded by tall handsome bearded Angels, and eternally bobs his head every moment he’s receiving adulaon from humans. The same humans that are starving, that are raped and murdered and cheated and we are not detecting any evidence of divine interference,or even concern. Nigeria where I’m from and live in ranks in the top ten list of almost every criminal misdemeanor you can think of. Yet, the vast majority of Nigerians are religious (91-98% depending on whichever estimate you are looking at) and many are willing kill if you question or disagree with their beliefs, whilst most will support such killings by claiming you had no right to hurt God’s feeling by your acts of blasphemy. Well, how dare you?

Religion, or faith, or god worship is definitely important to many people, but it is certainly not the most important thing. Ademola Adigun only recently remarked on facebook that “Religion is important, but it is not the reason we are alive” and that’s the absolute truth. Religion is an important part of life, no doubt it is. It provides succour for many, it is a source of joy and hope to others, it Is also a fellowship as there are many who believe religious groups are a glorified social gathering. Religion is equally a source of revenue to individuals and countries. Even further, religion is a source of political power.

Religion can also be a force for good. This is a notion most people agree on, including Deists, Pantheists, Agnostics and Atheists, although, most of the demography in the latter group are wont to ridicule religious beliefs. Many times I have heard people gnashing their teeths over such “Incitement” from atheists, claiming that 400 years ago, people were beheaded or roasted for questioning the beliefs, and practices of organised religions. Freedom of speech is lost to such people, because if they had any sense, they could have observed that the quality of life today is far better than it was 400 years ago.

A video trended recently of a man assaulting a lady in a bus, after she deplored him -and rightly so- for masturbating in the public taxi they were commuting in together. You’ll agree with me that his behavior was animalistic, disgusting and nauseating. You’ll also agree with me that he should have left his libidinous exercises to himself, or reserved it for a willing audience. That he even had the temerity to ask other occupants of the taxi if it wasn’t his penis shows you how barbaric this troglodyte is. That’s exactly how it feels for people, who because they feel like it, or because they are infected with the disease of religious intolerance begin to display their “Holier-than-thou” attitudes towards you. They boast that their God will burn you in hell for all eternity unless you devote the rest of your life towards worshipping him. That is a careless and egregious way of describing God.

Even though it is legal, it is reprehensible to walk up to anyone, to declare that that person donates his life to the worship of your God. This we see, with Christians especially. It is not normal to decide a man’s purpose for him. A man’s purpose for being alive should be his to decide. As aptly defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Purpose is “The aim or goal of a person”. What this definition demonstrates is that, it is left for every individual to choose their purpose or goal in life. It is cretinous to assume that you can choose a man’s purpose for him. I have seen many people who devoted their lives to caring for the sick. Others have fought for the oppressed legally and financially, some have even devoted themselves to liberating others from mental slavery.

Progressive individuals all over the world agree that beliefs should be debated and questioned. If you don’t want your religious beliefs questioned, you should allow them remain in your head. The very moment you start pressing your beliefs on others is the very moment you open them up for criticisms. Wole Soyinka has professed on numerous occasions that religion is a personal thing. Very personal in the sense that, enforcing your beliefs on others is savagery. Yuval Noah Harari even claims that “people afraid of losing their truth tend to be more violent and intolerant than people who are used to looking at the world from several different viewpoints.”

Personally, I do not think a God created me, just so he can have me grovel and beg for mercy and grace, so I can starve myself in the name of fasting, or as some extremists have done, to deform myself and others, maim and despoil in his holy name, or maybe even murder others in the guise of proselytizing. What is traumatic about this unnecessary display of animalism is, the people benefiting from religious wars are never at the front of the fight. They conceal themselves with different disguises, and pretend they are doing it for God, even though all evidence points to the fact that they are doing it for themselves and their descendants. They are almost never in danger of any harm. The biggest religious leaders in Nigeria walk around with security guards that are armed to the teeth. Even more shocking is, religious leaders from different sects wine and dine together whenever they meet.

With everybody claiming his religion is the only true religion, his prophet the only true prophet, and his congregation the only true congregation, it’s not hard to assume that this is an advance grade lunacy. Yet, in a country filled with “religiously overdosed Individuals”, as Ajibola Salami describes it, you cannot point out this madness without risking your neck. That’s why many of the biggest religious critics today on popular social media sites use pseudo accounts, for fear of their own lives.

Recently, we saw the Ilorin crisis, that resulted in the halt of productive economic activities, that saw hundreds of humans assaulted and wounded because Christians and Muslims decided to flex their muscles. Before this battle of beliefs, there have been reports that innocent law abiding Nigerians are flogged if they dared walked past a mosque while Muslims observed Jumat services without wearing a hijab. But that is even a warm up, considering the quantity of bloodletting that we have experienced in this country. For example, the Kafachan-Kaduna Clashes of the 1980s and 1990s left hundreds, even thousands dead. We have observed and are still observing people getting murdered, banished, maimed and beaten on suspicions of apostasy. We have numerous Islamic terrorists today killing, injuring and maiming with reckless abandon in the name of Allah the almighty. Even further, many people have lost prospective spouses, business deals, jobs, and housing opportunities simply because they didn’t share the same religious bias as the individual wielding power. The irony is that, these same Jihadists would gladly proclaim that God can, and will destroy people who don’t obey and worship him. So why exactly are they helping him fight these battles? Because of the promise of an afterlife of sexual impropriety? I don’t really know, although I do know that thinking of fighting and killing for an all powerful God is an idotic, an imbecilic, and a moronic path of reasoning.

Of course, the root cause of all this is early childhood indoctrination. Children who should be allowed their childhood, are from an early age, instructed and guided into one belief or the other. However noble this is, we must acknowledge the perils of such activities. I have seen children scolded for playing with children whose parents are from another religion. I have seen 5-6 year olds forced to fast. I have seen children whipped because they forgot the exact wording of a religion verse. I have seen children taught to think they are better than other people because these other people worshipped a “dead god”. Should I talk about those who aren’t giving meals if they cannot speak in tongues? Only yesterday, my almost 3 year old niece proclaimed that her great grandmother is dead -rightly so- and that she is in Hell Fire. Of course we laughed because it was spontaneous, silly and funny, but out of genuine concern, I investigated further, only to discover their teacher, a christian told them that everyone who is not a believer of Christ will go to hell when they die. Is this good? An innocent child is been coerced to hate and berate her own ancestors because of different religious beliefs.

Conclusively, it is the highest level of iniquity to deny people free speech, to force and bully them into accepting that only your religious notions are noble and true. In terms of freedom to think and choose, we are going further with it everyday, and no matter how many conspiracy theories are cooked and freely distributed, how many messages of hate is disseminated en masse, freedom of choice is here to stay. Everyday, many more people are liberated and emancipated from the intellectual slavery they have been unfortunately indoctrinated into. They are finally wielding the powers that gives them exemption from the dangers of the cultural and religious bigotry that is unnatural. After all, humans are the only animals observed to pray or care about any God. Humans are the only animals reckless enough to murder in the name of God. It is totally possible to live in a civilized society where individuals can think and express themselves fully, without fear or favour.

But we have work to do. We have to continue to educate individuals on the fact that Religion isn’t the reason for being alive, that life can and should be enjoyed, and that people must take their destinies into their own hands.

The odds are against common sense, but like oil on water, the truth will remain on top, visible for all to see.

(c) Abu Onyiani 2021