By Ucheoma Onwutuebe
I am a believer.
Even though the factors of time and experience have presented to me sundry philosophies, my belief remains undented .I find the concept of God very comforting; a cushioning ideology against the many things we suffer from the hands of life. God: an infallible, divine entity; stoic, ever present yet invisible.
Perhaps growing up in Africa could be a major contributing factor to my belief. We were enrolled in schools established by religious bodies where, right from kindergarten to secondary school, the rhymes and songs we chanted on assembly grounds were all devotional. And as a child, you heard God in your grandmother’s choruses; your mother swore by Him; you read Him scribbled behind big lorries that sped past as you journeyed long distances; the small shop across the street is surnamed by Him. He is there, even in your name, that very canvass on which your life is painted.
Many africans subscribe to a deity, seeing that religion thrives best on poor soils. For here is a place where everything has failed you: a place where you have been swindled out of your basic rights by the sleight of hand of our leaders; a place where nothing seems to work without some divine invocation. The belief in God and the practice of religion become a comforting drape that cover our shivering frames from the many bartering storms we face, from the loopholes in our lives and in our horrible systems. We lean heavily on religion, for what else is one to believe in?
Each day, our lives are strings and strings of near-miss miracles. We hop into rickety buses steered by drunken drivers, moving at break-neck speed, yet we survive; we manage, and somehow we overcome hunger in spite of owed salaries by government for months. In clinics, careless doll-baby nurses inject us with the same needle they used on another patient. The satchet water we buy on transit comes from unsterilized water; and our favourite restaurant, unbeknownst to us, could be cooking with expired ingredients. And in all these, we survive. Thanks be to God.
But because a few of us have been “saved” from circumstances that were somewhat beyond our control, we seem not know how to take charge of circumstances within our control. We become a spoilt people who invoke Providence in the slightest of situations. We are raised with a culture that abhors self-sufficiency and independence. We seem to ask, why do it for yourself when God can do it for you?
For instance: a woman weds a man and they begin to breed more offsprings than they can carter for. They shun all methods of family planning, both crude and advanced. But they believe, oh how they believe, that God who gave them these children would provide the means to raise them. Moreover, they ask, if God did not want them to, he would not have given these many offsprings.
And somewhere around the corner, an idle youth who has no skill, no job, no education, no savings, is praying and earnestly believing God for a financial breakthrough. Is it not God’s specialty, His stock in trade to throw down manner from heaven? And in this way religion fosters laziness, the folding of arms, a mental lethargy where one cannot think and be useful for one’s self; that debilitating mindset that you hold no single sway over your life
Over time, I have also realised that the most wicked and atrocious of mankind are religious folks. Not just those who strap on bombs to cleanse the earth of heathens, but also those who discourage medical assistance of any kind by the reason of some unreasonable belief. Those who pry on the gullibility of desperate, brow-beaten people, assuring them that their bad fortunes, their bad decisions were brought upon them by someone who meant them ill; those who beat others to stupor in the name of exorcising demons. And the list goes on.
Religion that does not encourage the nobility of enquiry nor research . How dare you ask questions? And one goes through life living out dictates and expired opinions that practising them would not be knowledgeable in times like these.
I remember during my youth service days, a certain woman had driven away her teenage daughter because she fell pregnant. But after much pleading from concerned relatives, she agreed to take the girl back but on the condition that the demons of promiscuity be exorcised from the girl. The young girl returned with her baby and the mother waited till her grandchild was weaned.
One morning a band of prophets arrived with their raffia broom- their weapons of exorcism. Loud cries deafened our ears as each stroke landed on the girl’s body. They beat her with many stripes. It was a saddening thing to hear. This did not happen among bushmen dwelling in caves a thousand years ago. It happened among enlightened people in 2014, in an age of technology. These are the people that leave a distaste in the mouth of others when they preach their version of God, they make people thumb their noses at religion and reduce God to hogwash theory.
Many more incidents of rape, fraudulence, deceit, brainwashing abound in the name of God. Perhaps only time would reveal that these things are just snake oil. But we are a desperate people, ever in need of any semblance of hope and the laying on of hands.