BY IGNATIUS TSURO
There was an interesting though typical exchange in one of the WhatsApp groups I belong to.
One of the members posted a Christian religious message.
Another took exception to this pointing out that the group had been created for a specific purpose.
He was also of the opinion that religious issues could bring unnecessary friction into the group.
The one who had posted the message was soon bristling with umbrage and righteous indignation.
He quoted a long list of names of people from the Bible who had attempted to keep God out but had failed.
He warned the second member somewhat darkly against setting his hand against God.
Soon the exchanges spiralled out of control, invectives were being traded as well as accusations of Satanism.
What this particular faithful missed or failed to comprehend is that the Bible does not define God.
It defines Christianity and is an artefact of the Christian tradition of worship only.
This exchange was an eye-opener. It showed the myopia that characterises people’s religious beliefs.
People too easily forget that religion, any religion is a system of beliefs and not facts.
Across all religions, it is a belief in a supernatural being(s) that is intangible, invisible and cannot be tied down to any particular instance of time or space.
Even those religions that worship physical objects only do so as representations of their immaterial deity.
The operative word is belief. Most human beings believe in a deity.
They believe but do not know that their particular God(s) exists.
An interesting aspect across all religions is that all Gods are not beings to which a mere mortal can come to either physically or intellectually.
It is the Gods who reveal themselves to men and not men who have discovered the Gods.
In other words, no person can take a doubting Thomas or Jane to their God and thus prove its existence as an indubitable fact.
Across all religions in a thousand instances where the intervention of a supreme being is needed, this intervention is perhaps forthcoming in one instance.
Statistically that is not a significant result that points to the existence of the deity.
So people believe in their God and have a religion as a matter of faith and not science, because all deities are beyond the scope of science being eternal, infinite, intangible and invisible.
When otherwise rational people choose to believe in that which does not exist in the classical sense, that does not have any physical properties and cannot be placed in any dimension; a being that is unknowable, a being whose manifestations are not replicable, I think we can label that foolishness.
Religion is fundamentally foolishness, but it is a foolishness we are all entitled to engage to each according to his/her taste.
Religious choice is not only about choice, but it is also an accident of geopolitics and history.
The world over, certain religions or belief systems dominate given geographical regions.
This shows that the steps to religiosity are not necessarily spiritual but are really pragmatic and material.
The child born in a Christian home, Christian region, Christian country will most likely be a Christian not because of some profoundly spiritual considerations but of the very practical considerations of belonging and conformity.
The long and short is, there is nothing really spiritual about one’s journey to spirituality.
Therefore, the religious fanatic ready to kill for religion X adheres to that religion because he was born in region B in country C not because of there being any truth in the positivist sense of the word in his religion.
Had he been born in another region with a different religious domination he would have been just as ready to kill in its name.
I think this foolishness of the highest order.
The depressing thing is that so many uphold their religion as an empirical fact.
This reasoning proceeds thus: My God exists as a fact, therefore he/she imposes certain limitations and demands on all people regardless of their beliefs.
Those who do not subscribe to the same beliefs are lost and damned.
An interesting fact that all religious extremist miss is that all the “gods” in their many forms and manifestations do not descend on the heretical or pagan to punish them for their unbelief.
It is the faithful who take up this duty on their behalf. Personal piety and this duty to one’s God are soon conflated to mean the same thing.
It is ironic this enforcer role often goes against the tenets of the very religion that is being upheld.
We must all be mindful that all religious precepts apply and exist as such only to the adherents of that particular religion.
They cannot be used to condemn adherents to another faith, if they are so misused there is nothing to stop a figurative turning of the tables.
A Christian who uses Christian tenets to condemn or malign a Muslim can just as easily be maligned by the tenets of Islam.
From the forgoing it is clear that religious intolerance is really an expression of the worst in us that just so happens to find expression through mindless religious zealotry and bigotry.
People demand respect for themselves but do not respect others.
If one has a religious conviction they must expect the next person also has one and that they arrived at it with as much right as they did.
It is vainglorious and belittling of the gods we worship to think that the mere fact that I have conferred my belief on that particular god somehow validates that deity.
My God’s existence is not substantiated by my belief in Him.
Therefore, it is not up to me to spread His message by foul means or fair. Religion as a general sociological/anthropological fact is universal but there is no universal religion.
All peoples by a spiritual or cognitive process come to a god but there is no unanimity as to which one.
Religions generally trace their genesis to supernatural occurrences: visions or miracles this is an attempt at self-validation.
One cannot ascribe a novel inexplicable phenomenon to “gods’ without first having the expectation or intimation of the existence of the latter.
First there was the development of religion as an artefact of human evolution and then came the various supernatural manifestations that are at the heart of all religions.
These in short validate religion after the fact and cannot be used to prefer one religion over the other.
I will certainly not hate the next man on account of his religious belief. I am a Christian.
I rejoice in that this is my own particular brand of foolishness.
I will not harangue or disparage anyone on account of that foolishness.
Neither should anyone else.