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E O EkeSaturday, December 13, 2014
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THOUGHTS ON RELIGION AS A TWO EDGED SWORD

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hen religion becomes the excuse for evil of the monstrosity commuted by Boko a Haram and ISIS, good men must speak out to bring light to the darkness and ignorance of bigotry and fight to fustall the triumph of the evils of prejudice, hate and violence over civil values.

When a man hates his fellow man because he does not share the same ethnic origin, religious beliefs or ideas he hold in his mind, he shows human beings at their worst. Such a man is ignorant, unenlightened, evil minded and blind, but does not know it. He is deluded and hides behind beliefs to express the evil intentions of his heart.

Religion is evil, whenever it provides the excuse for inhumanity, injustice, discrimination, inequality and prejudice. This is what extremists are doing with Islamic faith today.

They claim to believe the truth, when there is no evidence, which would persuade reason that the dogmas they hold as truth, is indeed anything, but ancient tales, which encapsulates the wisdom, assumptions and ignorance of the time.

They claim to know the mind of God because of the writings of ancient times, which they believe and refuse to allow reason to inform their dogmas. They arrogate to themselves the title of true believers and hold all others in contempt, contrary to the will of the God they claim to serve. Theirs' is a thinking that lacks coherence and logic, yet they believe that they are right about God and determine to destroy all who do not share their delusions. They are men mad with beliefs, who are a danger to civil society. They have eyes but cannot see, minds but cannot think and ears but cannot hear.

'Religion', at best, is a harmless pursuit. It can even make an evil man do good for selfish reasons under certain circumstance, when the focus is on the morality it upholds. It can enable a Villain find repentance and appease his guilty conscience by providing a means to rationalise his sins. However, once religion claims to be infallible, knows the mind of God and 'the truth' and gains political power to enforce its dogmas and beliefs, it becomes a sinister, intolerant and manipulative monster, which propagates despotic orthodoxy,does evil for it own reasons and appeals to God to justify injustice, ignorance, inequality and discrimination.

It is a major reason, if not the true cause of many intractable conflicts,which blights our world. It tends to destroy people who believe there is nothing more to learn about life beyond what is written in the scriptures, either by inciting them against those who are different or keeping them ignorant.

I am yet to see a greater damage done to human minds than religion instructing people that morality must be interpreted in accordance with the scripture, instead of the truth that the scripture, and indeed all things, must be interpreted in accordance with morality.

By subsuming morality under the authority of the scripture, religion lays the foundation for many of its brutal and often mind boggling orthodoxies, which are the cause of schisms, injustices and wars that are inflicted on people in the name of God. It becomes a danger to liberty, reason and peaceful coexistence by sowing the seeds of blind faith, prejudice, sectarianism, intolerance, ignorance and limiting freedom of thought.

It begins to make a distinction between those who are with her and those who are against her and elevates religion of scholarship, which deals with historical elements of the scripture over and above religion of reason, which is the only authentic religion.

It transforms ecclesiastical faith of believers into a self-maintaining system, leaving them with faith in scholars and their insight as guide, instead of reason. This is why many believe that once it is written in the scripture, it cannot be questioned and use the scripture as arbiter of morality instead of subjecting what the scripture says to morality and reason.

It arrogated to itself the right to decide who is acceptable to God and who is not and hijacks the name children of God for its adherents even though God is the father of all. It puts a knife to the things that hold people together( our humanity) in attempt to unit them in beliefs. It can be a very divisive construct on which human beings segregate.

It fractures the society and sets a brother against a brother because of differences in beliefs and convictions about concepts that only exist in the mind.

It renders its follower, adamant, unable to apply reason independent of prior beliefs, gullible and easily to be exploited in the name of God.

It does make things to fall apart. This is the danger, tragedy and tyranny of faith without reason, the type that is practised in Nigeria and many African countries today.

The faith that divides people into Shia and Sunni Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, evangelicals, Baptists, etc., making

Peaceful coexistence to hinged on fundamental principles, of beliefs and convictions about concepts which are impossible to decipher in objective way and manner.

Religions's greatest mistake is that it often urges faith, where understanding is required and claims to know the mind of God which is unknowable.

When a man understands the idea of God and evolution of religious thoughts, he will not be constrained by the scriptures, but enlightened by them and will accept that indeed, the values ascribed to God are eternal values and principles on which peaceful coexistence depends and that, there is no compelling reason or need to expect rewards for doing what is right and just.

The focus of such a man would be to find the virtues he seek in others in himself and cease to be judgmental. His jihad and crusade will become that of his own mind as he seeks to bring it under the control of what he understands to be the will of God. Such a man will understand the evil of intolerance and the use of violence against others to achieve any objective.

Then the man will learn that there is no need for self inflicted torment, once one is remorseful for wrong and decide to ensure it does not happen again. Provided of course, it originated from a genuine disposition to improve. Then, he will commit himself to doing all in his power to better the wrong he has done and helping those who suffer from it.

There is also no need to mollify God with prayers and entreaties, incantations and self- proclaimed professions of faith, if we have accepted to act justly at all times and treat others the way we would like to be treated.

There is no need for a religion that imputes guilt and seek to profit from it. Man is a free moral agent, all he needs to flourish is to live within the boundaries of good laws that respect individual liberty and preserve the rights of all.

The Kingdom of God is indeed in our hearts. No one can bribe his reason. We know what is right and wrong and have 'our reasons' for whatever we end up doing.

The fault is indeed in ourselves and not in our stars and it is only through knowledge and understanding that a human being can truly change for the better. Beliefs can only reenforced convictions making whatever is accept as truth difficult to examine and understand.

Religion is opium to a disturbed and often confused conscience and does not treat the real cause of the pain or confusion,which is ignorance of the essence of existence and one's role' in a journey that will inevitably end in death.

It offers solution (faith) without understanding the disease (ignorance) and eases pain, while the disease, remain untreated. In fact, like in some illnesses where opium can ease pain and hasten death, religious faith can dull perception and hasten death, like when Jehovah Witness members refuse blood transfusion , Islamic extremists become suicide bombers or faith Tabernacle members refuse medications etc. It can also enhance life like when men obey its wise counsels and treat their fellow human they way they would like to treated and obey health laws.

Whenever faith overrides reason and knowledge, a man is mad with belief and a danger to himself and others, but does not know it and will never accept it. This is the real tragedy of faith.

Is there any wonder then, that some people intoxicated with the opium (religious beliefs) lose all sense of pain(suffering) and then go about inflicting pain( jihad, crusade, discrimination etc.) on others in the name of God because they want to make the world a better place. The human mind is complex, but very fascinating. Jeremiah contemplated it and concluded that it is desperately wicked and no one can know it.

However today, we know unlike Jeremiah, that the human mind can be known to a certain extent, which is an improvement from what Jeremiah though about it. There is a good religion, which focuses on morality and the good we can do for ourselves and others. As James says, good religion is simply doing good and treating every human being as a brother or sister and that indeed, the scriptures and reason reveal the limit of all we can ever know about an all knowing and infinite God, who we can only conceptualise with our finite mind.

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