Sunday, June 26, 2022

Africans’ unhealthy romance with religion, by Adamu Tilde

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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Yuval Noah Harari, in his book, Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow, chronicled how Europeans were able to a conquer disease. Yuval has a fascinating view about life. Be my guest, check it out.

At the first quarter of the 14th century, Eurasia woke up to the outbreak of the famous Black Death caused by Yersinia petis that claimed the lives of over 180 million human beings. The authorities then were completely helpless and confused in the face of that calamity – having no [soothing] remedy, thus resorting to organizing mass prayers and processions, having no idea on how to stop the spread of the epidemic let alone to cure it. Then, they blamed the disease on bad air, malicious demons and angry gods; they did not suspect the existence of bacteria and/or viruses. That sad experience, that human catastrophe was the turning point in the history of Modern Medicine.

History has a way of repeating itself. That today many Africans surrender— instead of confronting their infractions, shortcomings and wrongs head-on— their fate to angry gods, sinners, possessive ancestors, witches and demons is not surprising, and not least amusing. People do evolve at their pace, and of course at their seriousness to scholarship.

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The Europeans were once there. The Africans, the Latinos and [many of] the Asians are still on it. Perhaps, we will get over it one day even though it would be a long and tedious journey. However, this is not an excuse for complacency. We have to wake up from our overdue slumber if at all we want to get it right. The Europeans were able to get it right not because of their unshakable belief in supernatural being, demons and witches but because of uncommon resilience, hardwork, dedication and insatiable appetite for knowledge, and respect to the custodians of knowledge and scholarship. That, sadly, we seem to be lacking. No matter how much we hate to admit it, the glaring effects are there for a kid to explain. The scariest part of our ‘backwardness’ is that the more we are reminded of our failures as a people, the more vituperative we become towards the one who says it. Well, that is another topic; permit me to leave it, at least for now, lest I digress.

For millennia, religion has been used as a tool in the hands of oppressive leaders to perpetuate their selfish reigns and to mask their awful performances. Governor Yari’s case is not exceptional; he is not alone. Prof Kperogi once reported about same insinuation from Pastor Adeboye. Sometime in 2015, a renowned and respected Nigerian pastor promised to “open the gate of hell” to anyone who votes for Buhari. Missing kids, mutilated bodies, albino and old witches hunts have been a wont of Africans’ fetish and religious beliefs. So, to those emergency activists of “critical thinking”, stop the Northern bashing that have been your professional call for long. We are all in it, together. We must, collectively come to the aid of our ailing and limping humanity. Or else, as Benjamin Franklin warns, “we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately”.

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Some questions to ask are: what is the essence and limits of religion and traditional beliefs? Where does fate end and freewill begin? What is the relationship between faith and reason? What, also, is the relationship between reason and revelation? What is science, and what does it seek to achieve?

To the religious audience, what is knowledge? What, or who, is the ultimate source of knowledge? How does knowledge impact on our lives, and how should it? How do we attain, at least, an appreciable fraction of that knowledge? Wait, how do we distinguish between knowledge and anything otherwise?

We must answer these existential questions. No redemption for us until we are able to confront our iniquities, do away with unhelpful myths and absurdities, interrogate long-held truths to test their relevance in time and with modern-day yearnings. We cannot short cut development. We must be ready to pay the price for it. It doesn’t come that cheap. And the price for development is not a deposit of crude oil, goldmines or vast fertile land. No!

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Africa’s renaissance lies in unprecedented investment in quality education; resurrection of traditional but modified African Philosophy and development of critical thinking. Until then, we will continue to have more of the Yaris, Adeboyes, the Apostle Sulemans, the T. B. Joshuas and host of religious and traditional demagogues to ‘fashion’ our way to an unrealistic redemption— a recipe for disastrous future. Better late, they say, than never.

Mr Tilde is a PhD candidate at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto


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