Professor Wole Soyinka spoke at an event sponsored by the British Library to honor him on his 80th birthday recently. The next day, the media screamed that the professor said he did not believe in God. I thought this as being ridiculous, even as a part of me did not find it odd. Several times of course, WS had spoken against religion from the angle of the violence it is consuming society with. Whether you read Soyinka’s Climate of Fear, which is a collection of his Reith lectures in 2004, or you listened to any of the professor’s interviews, like when he told Godwin Peter of the Telegraph that he would be one of the happiest men on earth if all religions were wiped, but his fear was something as deadly could be invented again thus it were best religion were left alone as it were.
We should however note that religion is not Godliness. Most people are however quick to tag you as an atheist, or better still, a pagan if you do not share their conventional view of religion. They will even say of you as not believing in God. Religion is a powerful tool that could turn a multitude of people into a herd of swine, like in the Bible who all flocked to their death together in the New Testament. Try convincing the “new” Boko Haram leader, Shekau, that he is of the Devil, while you are of God. Shekau of course believes, God gives him direction to cleanse Nigeria of sin. With the collapse of Communism, Islam has become the latest group many join for direction and a sense of purpose against any form of perceived injustice. Religion will make a man lose his sense, he would not mind to live in penury while his pastor drives an X5. It is an opium.
Fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, can hide behind the banner of religion and, at best, insult your intelligence, and at worst, destroy you in disgust – unless you join them. An average Ifa adherent would not repudiate a Muslim or Christian or discriminate against them, but you could either lose your head to a Muslim fundamentalist or lose your job to a Christian fanatic if you dare identify with Ifa or Ogun, or any of such gibberish.
WS being a literary icon, is vast in his field of study, literature. Literature is about the poetry, customs, myths and spirituality of a society. WS has never hidden his interest in Ogun, the Yoruba deity of war and metallurgy. It has become so difficult for many to regard an African traditional believer/worshiper as a believer in God. Why? Because he is expected to clutch the religious literature of the Christian on Sunday and scramble off to church, or rub his forehead hard onto the ground until a darkened mark will tell the world he is a Muslim.
The use of emotional blackmail to make you run to church or mosque by telling you if you did not do something then evil will befall you, is also evidence that the hold religion has on many’s hearts make them afraid to not do the said thing even if they will soon go back to their old ways. The primitive fear in millions’ heart could be seen as well in the fact that the human features we attributed to God, is no different from the way we attributed human features to gods or god-like features to men. Yet, we think we are any better than the primitive man?
Those we scoff as animists because they worship the spirits in trees, rivers and hills are today right. According to Albert Einstein, there is vast amount of energy in matter as minute as atoms. There is energy in trees and hills as nature We have lost the beauty of imagination the mystery offers us to speculate and replaced this with a hypocritical arrogance that is making religion fragment the world and taking God rather far from us.
Light a match and see magic, as the Yoruba will proverbially say. Take note of your very body and imagine the complex design of epidermis, dermis, veins, arteries, hair follicles and to your cell composition. Then take it to the cosmos and imagine the Milky Way, which is the galaxy Earth is in, the mass of a black hole, orbit of planetary bodies and the fact that each of the what we call star is a sun, shinning from very far off, just as our sun will also be seen as a star by someone very far off. He who cannot speculate the spiritual but only believes in what he sees, and he who cannot make sense of he sees around him, are both different sides of the same coin.
If your concept of God cannot go beyond what religion has to offer you, if religion has boxed up this concept in you, realize one thing that it is those who think further that are making the world around you function. Brother Jero too has realized this even though his teeming congregation may not have. Brother Jero too now flies in Jets; Brother Jero now own estates in the UK; Brother Jero now makes life miserable for motorists when he holds events beside the expressway; Brother Jero can no longer forgive as he preaches too and thus divorces and re-marries. Brother Jero no longer looks towards Heaven, he now promises short-cut to wealth and earthly goodies.