Sunday, August 14, 2016 3:03 am
By Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò
Two years ago, I published a piece titled, “God Don’t Love Africa and Africans”, [http://www.pambazuka.org/governance/god-don%E2%80%99t-love-africa-and-africans]. For whatever reason, the piece never made it to the pages of any Nigerian publication, print or electronic. This piece is a sort of follow-up to that earlier essay,
Nigerians need and must take a break from God. The God from which I ask Nigerians to take a break is the monotheistic, vengeance-seeking centerpiece of Islam and Christianity.
As far as I know, like other old religions characterized by pan-theism, Òrìsà, indigenous Yorùbá religion, was not a proselytizing one; the gods were infinitely interchangeable and, except for their priests, did not require total abdication of responsibility for their own lives from their adherents. Furthermore, there was no profession of faith and whichever god seems to work for you is the one that you go with. On this score, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were very similar to our ancestors.
Now to the business at hand. Nigerians need to take several steps back from the widespread God-intoxication in which the entire country is mired. Put simply, Nigerians need a break from God and this they should do peremptorily so that their God-addled brains, damaged by a certifiable God-addiction, can begin the arduous business of recovery. This recovery is requisite if we are to reclaim the dominion that both dominant religions claim to be our direct inheritance from God.
We see a scientist like Albert Einstein uttering what to many in our country today would be a singular blasphemy when he declared that the object of his scientific exertions was “to know the mind of God”. And our own Obafemi Awolowo did declare that when we call upon God to do for us what we can do for ourselves, something sure is amiss. According to Awolowo, “because we can do it ourselves, why then do we call upon God to do it for us? This is stupid.” I am sure that no one would dare designate him an atheist. But he took very seriously the injunction that only those could expect help from heaven who are prepared to help themselves. A benefactor of many churches and a steadfast congregant in quite a few of them he was, nonetheless, clear that there is a reason that we were created with a brain.
When I was growing up, we went to church on Sundays; we were out by 12:00 noon and definitely not later than 1:00 p.m. Our parents went to Bible class after work, mostly on Tuesdays, and the only real demand on your time was if you were a member of the choir or you were taking classes for your confirmation. Church was a sliver of life, not all of it. Work was more important than church. Home life and other elements of living were more important than worship.
The prelates were well trained and, given the leisure they had during the week if they did not have pastoral visits, we had a reasonable expectation that they would be fresh on Sunday and the chance that they would have worked on a solid sermon for the service was quite ample.
There were consequences for the economy and they were no less salubrious. People’s lives were dominated by productive engagements and I have no reason to believe that we did not find favour with God. Indeed, some of the best schools and hospitals back then were mission-owned, both Christian and Islamic.
Back then, places of worship strove to be worthy sacred spaces. Their architecture sought to “declare the glory of God” and the accoutrements of worship proclaimed God’s majesty. We had serious theologians and even the literalism of African-instituted churches did not completely shun intellectual engagement with scripture. Ditto for various Islamic denominations. The Ahmadiyya Movement-in-Islam, before a section of it, under pressure from Sunni orthodoxy, styled itself Anwar-ul-Islam, competed with Christian denominations and other groups to exert themselves in the uplift of their congregations without demanding that their members abandon their life strivings, the deployment of their talents for the betterment of themselves and their progeny and, instead, leave everything in God’s hands and await whatever God has in store for them.
This reckless abandonment of reason, this criminal handing over of lives to a God that already gave you, if scripture is to be believed, dominion over all things; this vacation of our ability to take charge of our lives and add stature to ourselves in spite of our radical insufficiency as humans is the ultimate blasphemy!
No thanks to this handing over of control over our lives, we follow the reckless tale of a Daddy G.O. who spun a tale of driving a non-electric vehicle without gas over a considerable distance. I hate to think how many hapless, ordinary Nigerians have come to grief in the stupid belief that their unroadworthy vehicles would miraculously get them to their destinations. We have charlatans who prey on the separation of our people from their senses by asking them to come to services for the characterization of which they have an inexhaustible store of hyperboles and catchphrases. The country is literally drowning in an ocean of meaningless but catchy slogans announcing “delivery”, “salvation”, “overcoming”, “mountain of fire”, “latter rain”, “winning”, and the like.
Worse still, these marathon harangues in the guise of services are held on workdays and during hours when our people should otherwise be at work. What God asks you to abandon the means of your upkeep, lie to your employers about where you are when you should be at work earning your keep, shut down your private business while you are busy falling into false ecstasies under the direction of latter-day sweet-talking fakers dubbed “soul-winners”?
Of course, our spurious but nattily-dressed windbag predators-taken-for-shepherds have to keep the flock addicted to God so that the latter would have no respite, no quiet moments when life-changing questions pop up in our heads and make us come to doubt about the tenor and direction of our lives. The God noise must be continually dinned into our ears such that the possibility of considering alternative ways of managing our lives would never have room to present themselves to the front of our minds. Worst of all, because most of the activities associated with this exponential expansion of God in our lives are of a brutally unproductive type—what tangible products can you make at a revival service on a workday or at a night vigil?—our economy has not witnessed any concurrent expansion. The only guarantee we have is the sapping of the productive energies of our common folk often to the detriment of their families, especially children.
No thanks to this God-addiction and the simultaneous abandonment of the capacity for a self-driven life, only goodness knows how many Nigerians have been killed by “Not My Portion” and how many more are going to succumb to needless death because they would not accept their portion, whatever it is, and steer it in the best way possible for them and their loved ones. Disease, illness, misfortunes, accidents are all, without exception, part of the human portion, however you cut it.
The two religions under reference in this piece that are ravaging our people hold that we—our very humanity—were created in sin. And it is a consequence of our having lost our ever so fleeting divine identity that toil, disease, hunger, pain, and so on, became defining elements of our inescapable portion. Only a god\God, never any human, can be without this sorry aspect of its portion.
So, why do these crazy prophets and prophetesses keep telling us that what makes us human, under the very definition offered by their scripture, is not our portion? This can only be part of an elaborate swindle for, as theology, it is demonstrably false. If I read my bible correctly, God’s grace is not for the asking nor is it for purchase by good works and the capacity to pray for hours non-stop. Nigerians should stop behaving like children and cease believing false nonsense from too-clever-by-half, self-designing, power-hungry holy men and women.
Meanwhile, the originators of Islam spend good money building some of the best hospitals in the world. Have Nigerian Muslims followed goings on in Saudi Arabia, lately? For Saudis, whether or not they are well is not “Allah’s will”, per se. Only after they have put into gear the best care money can buy do they resign to their fate. When the immediate past guardian of the holy places in Mecca was battling ill-health in the dying years of his rule, he did not summon the best marabouts from the Islamic world. He headed on several occasions to that nest of godlessness, the United States, to be treated. Their hospitals are staffed by the best-trained personnel that money can buy from anywhere in the world regardless of their religious orientation.
Israel, to which we are happy—remember we are “a happy people”—to transfer a nice chunk of our patrimony to pay for some ill-advised pilgrimages of dubious religious value, has never pretended that the Negev is not a desert or that the challenge posed by this fact was not its portion. Instead, it turned the desert into a breadbasket. Surely, it did not do this with prayers nor did it do so under the influence of a band of self-styled prophets and prophetesses and “Daddy and Mummy G.O.s” who are on first-name terms with God. Yet, it is home to all the original holiest shrines of the two rampaging religions in our land. But Nigerians with their God-addled brains prefer to spend their children’s inheritance in fake acts of piety that can only make God continue to view our kind with utter contempt.
There is more. Our airwaves now are saturated with brain-killing noise, exceeding ugliness, mind-numbing drivel, and absolutely stunted language in the form of religious broadcasts, ministry announcements, and mediocre music in the name of gospel singing. Our cities are now visibly blighted by posters, billboards, signposts, all proclaiming the availability of dial-a-miracle centres, funny-looking “Daddy and Mummy G.O.s” peddling snake oil in the guise of deliverance, salvation and sundry other outcomes that are designed to ensure that the preachers’ wants—and those wants can be obscene in their excessiveness—are met “in Jesus’ name”, no less! Private jets for ministry, anyone! My mother, a Christian herself, in utter disgust, recently remarked to me, that the followers of a certain Daddy G.O. are now certified blasphemers who are more inclined to obey their leader than obey God! As the Yorùbá would say: “Wọ́n ti gba wèrè mẹ́sìn!” [They have mixed worship with lunacy!]
Our creative juices no longer flow.
Our language and diction now reflect the accursed stiltedness of an unimaginative religiosity. Our bookstores are more than two-thirds filled with a whole library—a veritable assault on our dwindling forests—of pretentious garbage, much of it I am sure plagiarized from their Euro-American equivalents who pioneered this path to get-rich-quick schemes founded on the bent and broken backs of unsuspecting ordinary folk.
Our education system is now captive to this blight the perpetrators of which do not even know the inspiration for their interminable proclamation of the virtues of “religious education”. For those who do not know, the insistence on giving Africans religious education did not come from a noble place. I can say it with authority that it did not come from that original missionary cohort led by Samuel Ajayi Crowther who were more concerned to move Africa to modernity.
It came, instead, from the warped mind of Lord Lugard, the one we still lionize by having one of our governors proudly operate from a house named in his honour. He it was who said that British colonialism in Africa should not repeat the mistake it made in India where it gave Indians “education of the intellect”, as he styled it, which they later used to undermine British rule in their land.
In Africa, he insisted that, given what he called the African’s natural proclivity for lying, the only education fit for Africans was a religion-inflected one that he called “character education”. To think that in the 21st century we would still be carrying the bag for our racist colonizers is the ultimate indictment of our God-addicted intellectuals and policy-makers. We are still reaping the fruits of this unfortunate direction.
The irony is that the more God-intoxicated we have become, the further removed we have become from our moral compass. The cruel outcome is that we are doubly shortchanged: we have neither morals nor knowledge. India is preparing a mission to the moon and now gives us alms. Simultaneously, Nigeria, indeed, Africa, are headed for perdition afflicted with a terminal case of God-addiction.
I would not like to be misunderstood. As someone who spent 22 years teaching at Jesuit institutions in the United States and a product of a mission school in Nigeria, I am well-placed to appreciate what excellent education religion-inspired institutions can produce. But they do not offer religion-inflected or religious education. It is why some of the topmost research institutions in the world are religion-derived or religion-affiliated. But their business is education, not what goes on behind the closed-doors of their adult students’ dorms.
Unfortunately, such is the reach of God-addiction that even the denominations that used to do what I just said have joined the ranks of miracle summoners. Their educational institutions have become citadels of mystification. The universities founded by these God-peddlers are more notorious for invading the privacy of their students, violating their personal dignity, and treating them like children, all in the name of ensuring that they are equipped with morals than they are noted for their giant strides in research or producing first-rate graduates who will change the world.
Why bother to organize your sports? God will take care of it. Just pray harder. Why care about your healthcare system? “God is in total control.” In any case, whatever disease you may have cannot be real: it is not your portion. By the time you come to terms with your portion, the condition can no longer be managed.
Nigerian adults reserve the right to throw their lives away. Indeed, the world would most likely be a better place with such a thinning of the herd. But it is a crime to incorporate our children in this mess. It is for the sake of the children and thereby the future of our race that I ask that we consider a break from God.
Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò teaches at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, U.S.A.