Can Religion Ever Be Rational?

JAMB question, right? It’s something that many “modern-day” Christians have to deal with – and I say “Christians” only because this is the religion in which I was raised, so I am therefore more familiar with this struggle. The difficult task of balancing rational thought which the kind of all-encompassing belief that religion often requires…

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JAMB question, right? It’s something that many “modern-day” Christians have to deal with – and I say “Christians” only because this is the religion in which I was raised, so I am therefore more familiar with this struggle. The difficult task of balancing rational thought which the kind of all-encompassing belief that religion often requires is certainly not unique to Christians alone.

I think it’s particularly an issue for young people. Call us what you like – the Twitter generation, millenials, perpetual phone pressers – na you know. The point is that we live in an age where much more information is available to us, far more easily than ever before and it is coming at us faster than you can say “Doubting Thomas”. We are flooded with so much information on a daily basis, just navigating life can feel like sensory overload. Add trying to live your life according to set beliefs, and it’s only a matter of time before conflicts arise.

Take sex, for example. Yes, that word so many of you like to discuss (according to all the articles y’all send me). The amount of sexually charged material floating around on TV, the internet and social media is pretty intense. Even people trying to sell me perfume feel the need to use an oiled up owner of a pretty prominent six pack to try and convince me whatever chemicals they’ve mixed into that weirdly shaped bottle smell good. What does a steamy wet model have to do with fragrance and deodorant, please?

On top of this constant assault on our senses, some people out there are trying to save their “cookie” for marriage, or “struggling” with masturbation. This is something I can’t go into for fear of digressing, but except you’re so addicted to fun times alone that it is negatively affecting your daily life, e.g. you started skipping school or stealing money to buy vibrators, there is nothing to struggle with. Life is short; enjoy yourself. That’s my opinion, but I’m sure many disagree and think taking a trip inside your pants is a sin. For such people, I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to stay on the narrow path when there is no shortage of sexual stimuli.

One’s attitude to sex is usually quite personal. For the most part, it’s about you and what you choose to do with your body, except you decide to join the Slut Police and accuse others of ashewo-ism. In that case, you should probably stop reading this article now and focus squarely on seeking employment, as you are clearly jobless. Moving beyond the personal, to wider world views, the relationship between faith and rationale can become even more frayed – and could even lead to very heated debates.

Pastor Sam Adeyemi is someone who might know this all too well. A tweet about mental health recently went viral, and the Twitter Brigade came for him.

Pastor Adeyemi was lambasted for reducing mental health to a black and white accusation about sinfulness, which was seen as dangerous for many living with such conditions. Yet, this tweet was only one in a series which, in my opinion, took quite a progressive approach to discussing mental health as a Christian – particularly as a Nigerian Christian.

This is in a country where the only “mental health” condition we recognise is madness, and even when we identify it, we stay FAR away from it. I don’t know anyone trying to engage with the young men and women who grow Weeknd style dreadlocks and prance around the streets of major Nigerian cities, stark naked.

Our response to mental health is simple: fight or flight. We fight with proclamations of the blood of Jesus, cries of “God forbid!” and flee with… Well, we don’t need any help with that, we just steer clear. Once people start suggesting mental health is not so clear cut, and conditions like bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression and even stress are valid mental health concerns, we scoff and reduce them to the mere excesses of those who don belle full. In contrast, here was a Christian leader encouraging others to seek medical help while simultaneously emphasising the importance of his faith. I think that is impressive.

Still, people didn’t want to hear it. Because the mere mention of mental health stemming from sin can simply never sit well with anyone advocating for better understanding of the subject – no matter how much you clarify and explain your statement. It definitely doesn’t sit well with me, because I know my people and how selectively they cherry-pick religious statements to justify bad behaviour. Pastor Adeyemi could have said a billion other things: the fact that he attributed mental health issues to sin is more than enough ammunition for someone to flog a troubled child to death, based on suspicion of witchcraft. 

There is still a divide between faith and rationality that even modern religious leaders like Pastor Adeyemi simply cannot bridge. The Bible-bashing “pray it away” types will never subscribe to seeking help for stress because “God is their strength”, and mental health advocates will never see salvation as the ultimate anti-depressant. It’s just not going to happen. 

It seems many of us believe you can either have faith or rationality, and not both. As evidenced by how hard Pastor Adeyemi was dragged for the spiritual parts of his thread, despite efforts to promote healthcare awareness in other tweets, it appears we strongly believe in the “either/or” approach. Do you agree that religion and rationality are irreconcilable? Or is there room for both to co-exist. If there was ever a time to be a keyboard warrior, it is now. I want to hear from you.

Responses

  1. Yinx_Sphinx
    First!!!!
    Does anyone still do that? Oh well…
    Now on this piece, i do have a few things to say.’ Do you agree that religion and rationality are irreconcilable?’ In Nigeria, yes. Else where maybe not. I like what the good Pastor was trying to do but for me someone who has a lot of symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression, i find it offensive that you think it’s sin that is keeping me in this state of mental torment. Pray tell which sin? Comman search my soul and find it. Mscheww.
    On the issue of sex, i choose to sit still and not say a word. i find that stating your opinion on topics like this can lead to fight and i would rather read the fight than be in it.

    Another lovely piece Funmi. it was thoroughly enjoyed.

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    1. Feranmi Ajetomobi
      By sin, he isn’t referring to daily shortfalls–note that he didn’t say sins but sin. Sin here refers to the initial fall of man in Eden, and how it created a pathway for many issues and struggles, depression inclusive. The sin narrative here isn’t focused on blaming the patient but the Adamic fall. You dig?
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  2. Ronin
    Most religion REQUIRE faith.

    Faith by definition is a belief in things not seen.

    Faith is not rational.

    Hence, religion can never be rational.

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  3. Ramatu
    I think the article should have compared ‘Faith and Rationality’ and not ‘Religion and Rationality’. Religion by itself is rational; do good, pray a couple of times and get to heaven or paradise and on the flip side, broil (for all eternity) in hell. That sounds rational.

    Recently, i have been seperating religion from faith because religion seems like a set of things to do and not do while faith is about who you are. Faith in Christ (for example) says you are like Christ while the christian religion tells you to take a rosary or a mantle or stuff like that and use that as intersessory material. Or that you need a priest/pastor/teacher to help you talk to GOD.

    But back to mental health issues. I was glad the Pastor asked people to seek medical help for their mental health issues but I was wary about his attribution of mental health issues to sin. This is because there are children born with ADHD, Down’s Syndrome which affects the mental capacity of the people it affects. What sin did those kids commit? And if it goes back to what Adam did, does that make GOD fair? So these are the questions I ask myself when topics like this come up.

    Can faith and rationality be reconciled? I will say yes. I believe GOD gave us wisdom and insight to solve our everyday problems. We only need to look inward to find what we each can solve. That is my faith. I also believe that when my faith has been exercised and drugs have been made to help me get better, it becomes an insult to expect GOD to cure me, when HE has shown me the ‘how’.

    My view anyway.

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    1. Feranmi Ajetomobi
      It’s quite interesting have you separated both. About relating sin to Adamic fall and God being fair, let me explain a bit. If I jump from a ten-storey building and die due to gravity, I won’t blame God for creating gravity–it’s a natural law. So also with the Adamic fall, it isn’t necessarily God’s beef with man; just a law working like gravity.
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  4. Nosa
    They are not mutually exclusive. There are numerous places where faith and rationality overlap. The problem has, is and will always be humans. If we can take off our emotionally and subjectively coloured glasses, we can see from an objective viewpoint how very complimentary both faith and rationality are.
    What Faith does is simply to tell us what is and is not; rationality helps us understand how it is and maybe why it is. Where our rationality tends to go overboard is when emotions enter the mix and the need to put our satisfaction first arises, hence “Enjoy Yourself”.

    So yes, they go together. I don’t see how you can successfully have one without the other; Faith as it is and Logic.

    On the Pastor Sam issue, the average person will fail to understand what he means (like the first commenter here, no offense). But Pastor Sam could have done a whole lot better in how he chose to pass his message across. Simply stating “root cause of mental illness is sin” doesn’t cut it as not everybody understands that statement, and though i do, phrasing it that way kinda undermined his thread of tweets. So while the faux outrage was expected, it was very misplaced

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      1. Chin chun
        I don’t know if he’s the one in charge of his account or someone is employed to do so, but I was in that service and he said it clearly, ” the root cause of mental illness is sin, as it is with other illnesses” He then went on to explain how all illnesses come from the original sin from Eden and how we’ve full health package thru Christ. If he had said “the root cause of mental illness is sin” and kept quiet, do you think people will wait to leave the church? I for one, will not. The tweet passed incomplete message. No sentiments.

        Posted from TNC Mobile

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      2. Feranmi Ajetomobi
        By sin, he isn’t referring to daily shortfalls–note that he didn’t say sins but sin. Sin here refers to the initial fall of man in Eden, and how it created a pathway for many issues and struggles, depression inclusive. The sin narrative here isn’t focused on blaming the patient but the Adamic fall. You dig?
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  5. Faryda reeda
    hi Funmi,
    i greatly admire your writing style. I think those Pastor Sam’s tweets are in order, he spoke about mental health from the stead of his profession. I do not think religion is supposed to be rationa, its been an argument from generation to generation. I feel as humans we are ever evolving. What we may term as rational for now may be dumb to us as we grow older. I think our rationality is limited to our personal growth in terms of age and intellect and other orientations.
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  6. Buchi
    In my opinion, religion, faith, by definition rules out rationalism. Rationalizing USB a logical process, and I don’t see it playing in and around religion, or around faith.
    Faith seems to be the basis of religion, and faith is a belief in the existence of things neither seen nor experienced.

    Is that rational?

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  7. Buchi
    In my opinion, religion, faith, by definition, rules out rationalism. Rationalizing is a logical process, and I don’t see it playing in and around religion, or around faith.
    Faith seems to be the basis of religion, and faith is a belief in the existence of things neither seen nor experienced.

    Is that rational?

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  8. mollie12
    It seems everyone taking on Pastor Sam’s comments has decided to employ a surface-level approach to this issue, and this article is no exception. I seriously doubt that Nigerians (both religious and non-religious) can successfully have a mature conversation on the linkage between mental health and sin, given that the original responders (from twitter) went overboard in their responses.
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  9. Lipglossmaffia
    Oh Funmi!
    Lovely piece, the Lord knows I prefer to stay away from these kind of topics because having intelligent conversation around it in this part of the world can be exhausting. Can religion ever be rational? Lol, not in these parts and esp not as a “group”, i was brought up as a muslim and a christian so I am not hung up on rules and regulations of faith. I pick what I need, I don’t think religion was ever meant to be as strict as what we see today. It was meant to evolve. So if you are a pretty smart human being, yeah, I think religion can be rational(but you would need thick skin, cuz the world is fucked) I think religion is like a car that is supposed to get you somewhere, now if you let the car drive you, you might end up in an accident or the wrong place. I think you need to take control of your car and drive it.
    Amen?
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  10. Damiloves
    Religion can only be rational when faith is applied, and faith has no empirical formula. The attitude to mental illness in religious circles startles me so often. Would a pastor suggest that diabetes or cancer was as simples as a result of sin? We must be careful not to minimize the extent to which many suffer…
    Depression and the devil
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  11. Toby
    I adore this piece.
    Religion and rationality cannot be reconcilable.

    Seeing as how i am a trouble maker, when i saw this tweet, i told a popular bible thumper in my office (now I work in a faith based organisation and calling someone who works in such a bible thumper………you get the idea) and said this tweet and let it make the rounds. Now when the thing was about to die down, i decided it was time to stoke the embers of chaos and i said this simple statement…….”Isn’t he the pastor of Daystar, for such a forward church, its a shame that he said something like……..” they actually did not let me finish before they exploded.
    Lol
    That was a fun digression.

    The reason why both cannot be reconciled is because one lies in the realm of Logic and the other lies in the realm of fantasy. I know that using that word will not sit well with most, but come on. I am nigerian, yoruba and by definition i obviously grew up christian at the same time i am a millenial who exists in a world of Wiki, Snapchat and Grindr.
    I read the stories, Jonah, Noah, The four Beasts, all those.
    It is easier for me to believe God exists as an apathetic being that createas and destroys than a white bearded old man that loves me but would watch me burn for all eternity if i do not keep to his rules……but he still loves me.

    I battle with mental illnesses, emphasis on the essess. So when some man comes up on his stage and says my depression, megalomania, suicidal tendencies and general bitchiness is a product of some red horned dude who carries a trident.
    It sure made me angry.

    Anyhow’s on the sex issue, I literally do it all. Life is short.
    Be a good person and live it .

    *_*

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  12. Hephie Brown
    All I have to say about Sam Adeyemi’s posts are.. the people responding forming Jagaban and how he is wrong, how many friends have they helped out of Mental Illness? probably none. sigh. Their response even if they are confided in is “I will keep you in prayers” no?
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  13. Feranmi Ajetomobi
    Yes. That’s the more reason why Paul was an outstanding Apostle, he reasoned out the scriptures–of course through the help of the Holy Spirit.
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