Religion is such a powerful thing. It has so permeated our society that to speak ill of a person’s chosen belief in derogatory terms can lead to strife and violence. Wars have been fought as a result of this thing called religion and even now, the scourge that is ISIS is based on a religious belief. This tends to be a very polarising topic and fortunately, it is not the crux of the discussion here but simply a stepping stone to what plagues my mind today.
I’ll use the case study of Nigeria. I could use Africa, but to make it more personal I’ll use my home Ccuntry. Nigeria is home to over 173 million people (I’ve also been told it’s over 200 million, but I’ll stick with the tally of the World Bank from their 2013 survey), half of which are predominantly Christian and the other half are Muslims (primarily in the North). It may not be a clear cut 50/50, but you get the idea that these are the primary religions practiced in my home Country.
With this in mind, one would believe that Nigeria should be a super prosperous and peaceful nation right? Not quite. Instead the majority of the population live in squalor. Poverty has taken hold with millions living below $1 a day and Boko Haram ravages the North. Yet the churches boom and blossom and the mosques get bigger and bigger and the structures even more elaborate. It almost feels like the population reach out to religion when all else fails and the government hasn’t provided the means necessary to enjoy a stable economy.
So the question is, why is a country so entrenched in religion going through all this turmoil? Why is a Country that boasts one of the biggest church brands in the world not having the impact on the society as one would expect?
Being judgmental is instead the order of the day and so many Christians stand on their high horses of self-righteousness and belittle those who do not share their beliefs and ridicule those who act differently and put them to shame instead of showing the love and tolerance that the Bible preaches.
Quite a number seem to believe that praying and fasting alone without action and works will solve every issue that afflicts them and that God will come down from heaven and magically solve all. While I’m for praying and fasting and looking up to God (being that I’m a Christian), my question is this: “why aren’t we as prosperous as most secular nations”?
Why — with all the revivals and conferences — is Nigeria still the third world nation that it is? What aren’t we doing right that other Countries who supposedly practice “inferior” religions — or none at all — have apparently figured out? What can we do to change this?
Usually, when an article similar to this or like this is read, the first thing most person’s would do is to ridicule the writer for not being “Christian enough” or “Islamic enough” or not understanding the dynamics of what these religions/way of life entails. The evidence however is irrefutable. There’s the evidence of China, a predominantly non-religious Country that boasts a GDP of $11.383 trillion (which is currently the third highest in the world).
Even predominantly Christian nations like The United Kingdom and The United States of America are not as bogged down about religion as we are and they thrive and grow and excel while we have sectarian violence left right and centre with corruption being rife in the corridors of power.
What then is the way forward? Do we extricate ourselves from religion and instead focus on a more secular society or do we allow Islam and Christianity to play a more central role while trying to find a balance between logic and fervent belief in the supernatural?
Nigeria is growing at a very slow crawl. In fact in 2016, things have gotten harder for the low income earner with the dollar going for N350/$1 as per bank rate, while the parallel market is as high as N455/$1. In spite of this, more parishes are being opened, more revivals are been done, more churches and mosques are being built (the Jigawa State governor as at November of 2016 wishes to embark on the construction of 90 mosques around the state with public funds) while our infrastructure suffers.
Is religion our saving grace or will it be the death of us? As it is presently, it seems to be the latter rather than the former.