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In world history, the twentieth century will be remembered for all the religious insurrections, rascalism and unrests it witnessed. In every continent of the world there is a troubled spot rooted in religious intolerance. Europe has her own share of religious conflicts.

In world history, the twentieth century will be remembered for all the religious insurrections, rascalism and unrests it witnessed. In every continent of the world there is a troubled spot rooted in religious intolerance. Europe has her own share of religious conflicts.

In India, religious conflict is a perennial question and has led to the death of one of her Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. In the Middle East, the war going on between the Israelis and Palestinians could be blamed on the Bible and the Koran and not on God. It could be recalled that President Anwar Sadat was killed by religious fanatics for his romances with the people of Israel. Religious conflicts in Nigeria today have not been as serious as the ones witnessed in India and Middle East. However, if not checked it could assume a dimension comparable to the Middle East.
 As if he was defining religion, Paul Tillich says that “the presence of the demand of ultimacy in the structure of our existence is the basis of religious experience. According to Hegel, “the object of religion as well as of philosophy is eternal truth in its objectivity, God and nothing but God, and the explication of God” Karl Marx, a ninetieth century German philosopher was suspicious of religion and views it as the instrument of oppression and exploitation… the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions…”
  For convenience sake, let me briefly examine the term “Nation.” Chambers Dictionary defines nation as “a body of people marked of by common descent, language, culture, or historical tradition…” In other words, a nation should have a common culture. However, it is obvious that it is within the structure of culture that one locate religion, ironically a nation like Nigeria does not have a common culture or common religion. It does not have a common language either. Westernism and for that matter, Arabism and Imperialism used Christianity and Islam as fronts in acculturising   Africa. That is why we are talking about the need for peaceful co-existence and tolerance among religions. Otherwise the basis of Nigerian Unity is her traditional values, religions and cultures.
In any case, religion and ideology are parts of a wider culture of which politics, economics, science, arts and law are parts too. All these culture components must interact harmoniously to make a consistent whole otherwise known as nationhood. However, in Nigerian situation, not only that the indigenous religions, Islam and Christianity do not understand each other, the politics, economics, science, arts and law are Westernized. Islam and Christianity are in cut-throat competition for domination in national affairs. Consequently the legacy of our forebears, the indigenous religion, values of culture, is relegated to the background.
 What I am saying in effect is that religion and ideology (economics and politics) should be part of a culture consistent within itself. But in Nigerian case, not only are the foreign religions fighting each other like political parties, the indigenous religion is hardly considered on important issues like foreign policies and so on. In what looked like a worsening of the national cultural crisis, the dominant ideology is the ideology of get-rich-quick and selfishness.
In Nigeria, political parties and social organizations are often organized along the line of one religion or another. Christianity and Islam have unduly influenced the course of political and social events. Whenever, for example, the choice of presidential or governorship candidate is to be made in any political party, petty-minded and selfish people are concerned first and foremost, with the religion the candidate professes. Religion as a disintegrating force is being taught and propagated with fanaticism and dogmatism. Adherents of some of these religious sects are being so brainwashed with various doses of dogmas and false ideas about other religion that they become fanatical and  rascally and could go to any length to Maim and harm members of others religions.
 In Nigeria, members of every religious sect claim to be the only righteous people on earth and to have the monopoly of the knowledge of God. Paradoxically, the Nigerian indigenous religion is regarded by the religions as having little or no knowledge of God. According to Bertrand Russell, the Jews developed these ideas of righteousness and knowledge of God during their captivity as a reaction against the attempt to absorb the Jews into alien population. To the Hebrew prophets what is righteous is what is approved by them and Yahweh. In the Bible, a new prophet could claim that his revelation was more reliable and authentic than those of his predecessors. These attitudes of the prophets have influenced Protestantism and Pentecostalism today. Today these two sects have spited into innumerable denominations in order to weaken one another.
 In the medieval times, from the age of Constantine to the end of the 17th Century, the persecution of Christians  by Christians and by Roman emperors was partly due to the fear, conceit and hatred taught in religions. Prophet Muhammad was quoted as saying during his farewell pilgrimage, “ye men harken unto my words and take ye them to heart? Know ye that every Muslim is a brother to every other Muslim, and that ye are now one brotherhood.” If Muhammad is quoted rightly, he is saying that every Muslim is a brother to  other Muslims and not to non-Muslim. I find it very difficult to believe that Muhammad could have meant this. However, some Muslims today are behaving as if only Muslims are their brothers and sisters. Christians too have this kind of attitude. But I think that the ancient Greek philosophy, the stoic doctrine of universal brotherhood is applicable to Muslims, Christians, traditional and so on.
 In Islam, Muhammad is an ideal human being to be approximated in order to be godly. In Christianity, Jesus Christ is a model which according to Christians one must believe in, in order to have eternal peace. As to the spirituality and Lorship of Muhammad and Jesus Christ there is no doubt. But one finds it difficult to believe that it is through only Muhammad and Jesus Christ that one can become righteous. Until this question is settled once and for all, the history of mankind will continue to be punctuated by religious conflicts. And God will and should never be blamed, for that is not what I suppose he wills.
 Again religious leaders should practice what they preach so that others will emulate them. It is unfortunate that every religion claims to be superior to others. According to Bertrand Russell, “since all religions disagree, none could be true.” But I think every religion teaches the same thing in the field of morals. According to Arnold Toynbee, “there is no one alive today who knows enough  to say with confidence whether one religion has been greater than all others.” According to Huston Smith, “Religion alive confronts the individual with the most momentous option this world can present. It calls the soul to the highest adventure it can undertake, a proposed journey across the jungle, pears and deserts of the human spirits. The call is to master reality, to master the self…” Arnold Toynbee once asked, “Who are… the greatest benefactors of the living generation of mankind?” In answer to this question Huston Smith says, they are “Confucius and Lao-tzu, the Buddha, the prophets of Israel and Judah, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad and Socrates” in Nigerian case, if the Christian and Moslems have been preaching and practicing the ways of life of Muhammad and Jesus there could not have been religious conflict and riots witnessed so far.
In our nation Nigeria, religious violence and killing in the name of God is the fear of tomorrow. Are we still interested in the teachings of our religious leaders? Have we not failed them by politicizing religion? Irrespective of all these seeming intractable problems and hopeless situation, compounded by failure in virtually all spheres of her national life, a critical observer and the Reformer would still want to know if at all we still have not failed the Gods of our various religions. “Allahu Akbar, Lai illa-illa-allahu “the Muezzin calls the faithful to prayer and to bloodshed.” Jesus is a mighty God, my God is not a poor God” the pastor goads the Pentecostal and the born-again to a brand of Christianity that defy the sedate worship of the Orthodox, infusing fires of radicalism and zeal into the once docile and dogmatic Christendom. Note worthy, you may say, but the result in Nigeria is mayhem, bloodshed and colossal loss in both human and natural resources.
 The craze for status in Nigeria has led to the corrosion of all our moral and social values. Ritual killings, embezzlement of public funds, bribery, corruption, siphoning of vast resources, ethnic/tribal unrest, violent crimes, armed robberies, cultism, mushrooming of churches, craze for miracle, signs and wonders and other forms of immorality have become the order of the day. It was this situation that made the Greek philosopher Aesop to admonish thus, “Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” Brothers and sisters; there is more to the truth than just the facts. Yes, our political class has become devourers, the priesthood a symbol of affluence at all costs, the result of this misplacement of values is a nation of inconsistencies and extremes where nothing is sacred or hallowed, even the name of God. I want to ask like the late evangelist Sonny Okoson did ask about thirty years ago “which way Nigeria?” A big question that has not been answered! Why won't it be a big question when even as at then, Nigeria was not adjudged the most corrupt country in the word? Why won't one concernedly ask such when, unlike 20 years ago, our railways, the Nigeria Airways and our express ways are now a write-off and general electricity system a begging situation? Or is it about food and water resources or general security that one won't ask?
 This place has matriculated into the best place to be a criminal in Africa. Criminals rule as governors. Ex-convicts are in some positions of integrity and authority. In Nigeria, thieves are given places and tittles of honour both in the churches, mosques and in society. In Nigeria there is nothing money cannot do. It is the new god firmly emplaced in our conceptual temples. The way we worship money smacks of primitive acquisitive propensities. “If E no be me Na who God go bless” summarizes the way we approach religion. The sacred has departed from our land, a situation that made the Reformer to conclude, “Some people are alive only because it is illegal to kill them.” Otherwise how can you explain the topsy-turvy of theological philosophies ravaging our society today? The street theology that explains that man is a human being on a spiritual journey instead of spiritual being on a human journey which we are truly. Yes the sacred has departed from our land; it is now replaced by a syncretistic mélange of primitive magic, consolidated ignorance and a clever exploitation of fears. This can probably explain a professor obliging a pastor who asked him to dance in the market square naked in the middle of the night in order to revoke an ancient ancestral curse etched in his family genetic code and transferred inter-generationally to him.
 In business, a Nigerian can cheat you while saying the afternoon angelus in the market. G.S.M handset has been stolen at crusade arenas, pockets have been picked there, etc. The list is endless. I am not saying that every Nigeria should be a saint. But if not, why not. I am not equally saying that all Nigerians are crooks. Far from it! Millions of Nigerians are heroically living out their faith uncompromisingly. But the situation is so hopeless that the bad ones have overwhelmed the good people who are striving not to be curse to their religion.
 We have failed religion. We have smuggled the worship of mammon and other false gods into the sacred pantheons of religion. We pray in public and pray in private. Ours is an era in the throes of unmitigated materialism, an era of violent and superstitious spirituality. Our land and clime has been corrupted. Credulity has been enthroned and the ignorant masses swallow every neo-paganistic creed hook, line and sinker, with unparalleled gusto, in so far as it promises immediate liberation from the unpleasant socio-economic realities of our day. We have failed the Gods of our various faiths. We have failed. What should be our response to this situation? The situation is unpalatable no doubt. But it is not irredeemable. We can still do something about this.

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