When Religion Becomes A Problem




Ogunjimi James Taiwo

“It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.” – Bertrand Russel

When the fuel subsidy removal saga started, I remember posting a comment about religion that some people felt they needed to attack me for. I still recall that the reactions to my posts then were the longest chain of reactions that I ever got. It made me wonder then, and I sat down and thought, What if this whole multitude – that are so deep in religion that they gullibly follow instructions without asking questions, would be told by their religious leaders that they have a part to play in nation building and national unity, what a great country we’ll have. The reactions I got then perhaps caused my hesitation to write on religion when the Boko Haram saga intensified and people began to criticize Islam for Boko Haram’s actions. Like Dave Barry said, “The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you.” I have however decided to break my silence as far as terrorism and religion are concerned.

When I say that religion in this context has become a problem, I’m not referring to what people practice and they still think for themselves; I am referring to what people practice that their religious leaders now think on their behalf. I am referring to what people practice that their religious leaders determine the name they’ll give their unborn child, I’m talking of what people practice that their religious leaders tell them what to eat, what to wear, where to go, and even who to marry. I am referring to gullible followership that leaves no room for questioning the leader, where going against his/her instructions means that you’ll be sentenced to hell.

Georgia Harkness stressed this that, “The tendency to turn human judgement into divine commands makes religion one of the most dangerous forces in the world.” It amazed me that during the fuel subsidy removal protests, most influential pastors were silent, and even went further to criticize the pastors who spoke out against government’s evil actions. There actions makes me wonder if they see themselves as Nigerians and if they even know that they have a part to play in nation building. Mahatma Gandhi said, “A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion.” It is high time people broke away from gullibly following religious leaders who won’t lend their voices to speak against evil in the nation.


“Disturbances in society are never more fearful than when those who are stirring up the trouble can use the pretext of religion to mask their true designs.” – Denis Diderot

When the Boko Haram sect started their operations, little did people expect that they will become a terrorist group that would strike fear in the heart of even the bravest of men. The failure of government to wipe out the sect caused their development into a dreaded group. Instead of the government admitting its errors and looking for solutions, they have resorted to witch-hunting of people who they believe are sponsors or affiliates of Boko Haram. I then ask, what result has their witch-hunting brought? Have they been able to stop the sect from wreaking more havoc? NO. Let us reason it out, if there is to be an end to terrorism in Nigeria, the responsibility does not only lie in the hands of political leaders; religious leaders need to act. Both Christian leaders and Muslim leaders need to correctly sensitize their followers on the dangers of religious extremism. Islamic leaders need to come together and openly speak against the acts of terrorism being carried out in the name of Islam, they need to gather the Islamic youths together and think of ways to reclaim their religion from these religion hijackers. The Christian leaders must make their followers understand that Islam isn’t their problem, but the perversion of Islam. They shouldn’t be the ones who will sow seeds of discord and disunity in the minds of their followers. I have Islamic friends and I will frown at anyone who calls them terrorists, but the Islamic leaders need to reassure everyone that Islam is against terrorism. Pervez Musharraf said, “Islam teaches tolerance, not hatred; universal brotherhood, not enmity; peace, and not violence.” People need reassurance and it is the duty of religious leaders to reassure them. If the religious leaders fail in this, then there is no basis for religion if it promotes hatred instead of love, if it allows war instead of peace, and if it causes division instead of national unity. Any religion that threatens our existence as brothers should be subjected to the fire of reality to determine if it deserves to exist.

James Ogunjimi hullerj@yahoo.com 08134319591



  1. In Saudi Arabia, all citizens are reirqued to be Muslims, and the public practice of other religions is forbidden. Private practice of other religions is sometimes allowed and sometimes persecuted; there is no law protecting even this.Iran is officially a Twelver Shiite state. Some other religions (Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism) are permitted, but are not allowed to proselytize; and they are sometimes persecuted even if they don’t. The Bahai faith is not allowed at all. Sunni Muslims are subject to some restrictions also.In China, all religious organizations have to be authorized by the government. This has given rise to conflict when the government appoints religious leaders different from what the religion itself chooses. There are state-appointed Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Taoist, and Muslim leaders. These are not always approved by the religious organizations outside of China. Those who practice religion outside these state-approved organizations are subject to severe persecution.In Turkey, since the secularization by Ataturk in the early 20th century, the government permits all religions but keeps them all under close surveillance. Special religious clothing (the veil, the fez) is not permitted to be worn in public. Turkey is predominantly Muslim, and there is some prejudice against other religions.In North Korea, virtually no religious practice is allowed except a limited amount by foreigners. Worship is considered a political offense.Cuba was for years officially atheist, and religious practice was seriously discouraged, with some persecution. But now religious people are even allowed to join the Communist Party. The government is secular rather than atheist, and religious practice is pretty much free.These are a few varied examples of governments which have restricted religious practice. In our time, the States that restrict religious freedom are mostly Muslim or Atheist.I can’t think of any other belief system that does this in modern times.Religion is the source of meaning and values for many people, and restricting it restricts the growth of the human soul. In countries where a religion is imposed, it loses some of its growth potential. In countries where religion is not restricted or mandated by the government, it flourishes and leads to better values and ways of life.


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