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E O EkeSunday, October 6, 2013
eoeke@aol.com


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STILL ON RELIGIOUS PREJUDICES AND DISCRIMINATIONS

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efore the enlightenment, the west held on to religious world views as many do today in Africa. Often informed only by a world view rooted in a God based attribution system which sees ancient writings as absolute truth that cannot be reinterpreted, they sort to impose a religiously defined morality on all and condemn those who differ to imprisonment or death.

No matter how many times people explain the issue in the debate on homosexuality, some people for very obvious reasons try to misrepresent the views of those whose only interest is tolerance and equality. No matter how many times one states that what is at stake is the issue of what should be the right attitude of the society to behaviour one condemns because of religious beliefs, those who dedicate their lives to selling the world utopia and dogmas, insists that the man who says that the thief should be treated with kindness, says that stealing is right. To preach kindness towards thieves does not mean that one sanctions or condones stealing and to attempt to do this or imply it is to be disingenuous or simple insincere.

The issue is how we create a safe, secured and peaceful society where Muslims, Christians, Buddhist etc., are free to believe and worship their God. Some people believe it is by criminalising and seeking to punish what God has already characterised as sin and set a date to punish the perpetrators. Others like me believe that sins in which no other person suffers, except those who engage in it should not attract further sanctions from the society. I believe that this position is superior to those who attempt to justify prejudice, intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. This is because this position is the result of adding knowledge to faith as St. Peter advised. Only knowledge can free the religious mind from the prejudices of beliefs. Only the granting of reason its rightful place in faith, will enlighten those who justify, injustice, persecution and intolerance in the name of religion.

Tolerance towards those who do what one’s religion condemns does not open the flood gate of evil as many who are motivated by prejudice, but pretend that it is righteous indignation proclaim. It only creates a society where people are free to do that which the law allows and not be punished because religion condemns it. The use of scare tactics, misrepresentation of facts and or exaggerations to frighten people and appeal to emotions in a matter where reason and logic should decide, is to be condemned. It is not true that all those who are against the criminalisation of homosexuality believe that it is a morally correct behaviour. It is also not correct that abolishing child marriage would result in increased abortions or teenage pregnancy.

Many people who support the none criminalisation of homosexuality and abolition of child marriage are married men and women with children, who they would not like to become homosexuals. They are simply enlightening men and women who have gained a deeper understanding of tolerance, equality liberty and all other factors on which a better and secured society depends. They have learnt from history that criminalisation of things like homosexuality is simply intolerance and prejudice and, continuation of child marriage under any guise is wickedness. It is disingenuous to portray those who are against intolerance and inequality in their rightful meaning as advocating anarchy, a society where people do as they like. The people saying this know that they are not saying the truth. All that the opponents of criminalisation of homosexuality and child marriage are advocate is that people should be allowed to enjoy their individual choices when no one else is hurt. They are law abiding citizens which is why they first fight for the change of the law. A society where people do what the law allows is not a lawless society. This struggle is not just about homosexuality, it is about the right of individual to choose and not to allow some people to make laws to enforce morality informed by religious beliefs in ways that violet individual liberty.

AS a boy, religion taught me to believe and as a man, knowledge has taught me to understand. I cannot support it, when men in the name of God seek to play God by denying what God allows or judging what only God can judge. As I grow older, and listen to many so called men of God and understand the prejudices, ignorance and intolerance they preach in the name of God, I thank God for knowledge and understand. When I read religious writings, I see what it advocates and why it advocates it. I then ask myself questions I could not ask 20 or 30 years ago. Who is this author writing to? In what context is he writing? Why is this author writing this? What is the motive? What knowledge informs his position? What did he believe to enable him reach the conclusions he has reached? What did he not know that I know now two thousand years later? How should my new knowledge influence what he thought was correct 2000 years ago? What should I do in view of what he wrote more than 2000 years ago, with I know now and the reality I face? I then use my God given knowledge to ask myself if what I have chosen is just, fair, tolerant, not prejudicial, not discriminatory and equal. If it passes these criteria, I conclude that I am right and accept it whatever any holy books says.

Quoting the bible or Quran to buttress a point or sustain an argument makes no meaning to me if what is been defended violets the principles of justice as fairness, love and equality within the meaning of what the same Bible or Quran defines them. Intolerance and prejudice are dangerous human traits which often are hidden behind the cloak of righteous indignation. I cannot accept whatever reason condemns to be unjust, intolerant, inequitable prejudicial, unkind and a violent of individual autonomy and God given power of choice, even if the Quran or Bible claims it was said by God, for the simple reason that the God I have come to know, serve and believe in, will never do or say what He has said is unfair, unequal, unjust, unkind, intolerant, discriminatory and inexpedient. The God I believe in will not contradict Himself to enable a deluded people benefit from an injustice or exploitation of others.

I have a faith. I cannot explain the reality of life and all the wonderful mysteries that make life such a pleasant experience. However, it would be a betrayal of all I hold dear to believe that all the interpretations of religion is the only correct interpretation of reality of our existence. I cannot accept without reason, a world view which is often defended and propagated because it provides a means of livelihood for a few and enable them to control many. The selfish interest served by religion, is one of the reasons why its dogmas and orthodoxies must be subjected to reason and the principles on which peaceful coexistence rests.

I reject any religion that attempt to justify unfairness, prejudice, inequality intolerance and discrimination. I reject any religion that attempt to explain in one way or another that one group is special and other groups who do not share the same origin are not. I reject all religions which do not affirm that all men and women are brothers and sisters and equal before God and those differences in fortunes are due to individual circumstances, hard work, ingenuity, time and chance. On these principles I stand and rest my faith in the God of love who says he works in mysterious ways. I simply do not believe in a God that helps Manchester United defeat Arsenal. I do not believe in a God who takes sides when men lose reason and go to war because of convictions based on superiority of race, religion or greed.

I say these because, the authors of the Bible and Quran were inspired by what they thought God wanted, what they believed is the will of God, what they imagined God would say or do in certain circumstance and what they understood or assumed at the time they lived to be the will of God. Were they honest? Yes. Were they perfect? No. Did they love God? Yes. Did they know everything there is to know about God? No. Were they correct in everything they said? No. Did they want to deceive? No. have they been proved wrong in certain areas? Yes. Have they been proved right in certain areas? Yes. Has time proved some of the things they claimed about God untrue and incorrect? Yes. Do all these mean that they are wrong? No. It simply shows that they were sincere and that a human being can be sincerely wrong. A human being can hold as true what is false but feels convinced that it is true until he gains insight. An example is Saul on the way to Damascus. This is why no sane and enlightened people should do things on the basis of faith when there is knowledge. This is why faith must be subject to reason, something Nigerian Christians and Muslims are resisting.

Any person who choses faith in the face of knowledge is in fact resisting change and will lose in the end because all those who resist reason and enlightenment on the basis of faith lose in the end. Nigerians must welcome reason, inquiry and knowledge; these are what shape the world and not beliefs important as they are. Today we know that God is not afraid of skyscraper and that the story of tower of babel is a story. God help us to understand that knowledge has increased and that our faith must evolve.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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