Religious matters are always handled with care. Challenging or undermining religious beliefs have led to crisis. People have been indoctrinated to defending their faith to the point of giving their lives to protect it. The reason behind this is that a person’s religious belief controls how he lives his life. It influences his decisions and determines his reality. In other words, a person’s religious doctrine forms the core of his life; the totality of everything he knows and believes in. Challenging or undermining it, is therefore, challenging or undermining his existence. As a result, people become emotional and irrational when religious matters are being discussed.
In actual sense, religion, sociologically, is one of the social institutions. It is the institution that embodies a person’s belief about his relationship with supernatural beings. It is designed to develop people’s ideology about these supernatural beings and the powers they have over human beings. It is a system that comprises how humans revere these higher beings and the rewards and punishments that come from obeying and disobeying them, respectively. Put simply, religion dictates how humans should live their lives to please the supernatural beings in return for rewards.
The importance of religion can never be overemphasized. As an agent of socialisation, it has the ability of passing on desirable virtues to people. Most people today would not have lived peacefully with their neighbours if not that religion insisted so. With its lessons about the good and the evil, religion has been able to subdue a lot of evils in the society. Apart from these, religion provides stability in people’s lives. By giving them something to believe in and reminding them that the supernatural will provide their needs, religion has become a point of succour for many. It is also known to help with humanitarian services, which includes providing for the poor, the aged, and the sick. All these make religion an indispensable part of mankind.
Unfortunately, despite the advantages and importance of religion to mankind, a lot of problems have developed from it. These include inciting violence, encouraging laziness, and causing poverty.
Inciting Violence and Division
Cases of religious crisis have been reported and are still being reported in different parts of the world. The fear of oppression and the quest for supremacy are the major causes of these crises. Religion has also given room for segregation, nepotism, and marginalisation. People favour those they share the same religious beliefs with to the detriment of others. Insurgency and terrorism across the globe have also been linked to religious extremism. It is, therefore, unfortunate that religion, which should project peace, is the cause of violence.
At the family level, religion has caused division and crisis as well. Parents have disowned their children because they broke out of their family’s religion. There are cases of parents killing their children because they left or decided to leave the family’s religion or denomination. How about those that received prophecies that their family members are the sources of their misfortunes? Blames for these are, however, reserved for religious leaders, who implant fear and hatred in the minds of their followers.
The belief in the absolute control of human destinies by the supernatural has turned many people lazy. There are people today that still believe humans are in no position to decide for themselves. Some relax and wait for their “destiny helpers” to locate them. Others believe that unless a person is at peace with the supernatural he reveres, he can never progress. There are those that believe in the “what would be would be” ideology, hence staying back and waiting for appointed time things will begin to flow well for them. The consequence of this mentality is that those who believe their lives have been planned for them do not struggle to improve on themselves. Note that this essay is not condemning believing and trusting in divine beings or seeking divine help, but against people not working hard because they believe in miracles.
Despite being a nation with religious strongholds, Nigeria is still battling with poverty. Researchers have discovered that extreme obedience to and dependence on religious beliefs are some of the major causes of poverty in the country. As implied earlier, religion has caused many people to believe they were destined to become rich or poor, whether they worked hard or not. Some religious doctrines encourage poverty by professing it as the gateway to glorious afterlife. Some people have also been discouraged by their religion to avoid certain occupations or practices that would have pushed them from the poverty line.
Another major concern is the belief that every misfortune a person encounters is caused by supernatural manipulations. People with this mentality either believe those around them caused their misfortune (through evil manipulations) or that a supernatural force is fighting them. The problem here is that they fail to evaluate situations critically and objectively and hence fail to pick lessons they contain. People like this continue to make the same mistakes they would have avoided if not for their religious beliefs.
Religion is a beautiful and wonderful agent of socialisation, considering that it teaches virtues and instils discipline. However, its ability to influence people’s way of life, thoughts, ideologies, actions, and opinions has made it a dangerous control device in the hands of the wrong party. The best way to discourage its use by these manipulators is to break out of their hypnosis and demand for explanations to every doctrine.