Does Religion Help Improve Society?
Religion has been described as the “opium of the masses.” A good example of this in the Nigerian context is the statement, “God dey! – na poor man prayer.” But, we have been told that “A society without religion is like a vessel without compass.” So according to Napoleon Bonaparte, religion helps to steer society in the direction it should be going.
However, it can be observed that in societies beset by violence, terror and socio-economic insecurities, the people tend to have recourse to religion. Whereas, in places where citizens have more comfort, security and where governments give social and economic support to the people, religion arguably tend to have less hold on the general populace.
With the high unemployment rate and socio-economic strife, we have seen the proliferation of churches in many African cities. Churches are seeking followers and more crowds at their crusades and programs. More mosques are being built as the Muslim religion is further propagated. The big question is, “How much does religious practices and follower-ship help improve society for the better?”
For anyone to whom religion means something, is religion helping you become a better person in society? Is it helping to shape (in a positive way and for the common good) what you contribute or not contribute to society?
In general, there are ways in which religion helps society. For example, charity works carried out for the sick, orphans, disabled, poor and other less privileged persons through religious organizations or groups go a long way to alleviating the problems of such persons.
Pre-marriage classes in churches help prepare couples to be good husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. The church is also there supposedly to support couples when the marriage gets rocky. This contributes to strengthening family life and retaining good values.
Religion (in its pure form) helps to keep delicate, the moral conscience of a person. A life lived on religious tenets is meant to be seen to influence the decisions and the life style of the individual. He or she will be guided by moral principles and values. In other words, there ought to be a difference between someone who claims belief in certain moral principles and values and a person who follow his or her human whims.
Why are churches filled on Sunday but we do not experience its effect in the course of the week? These same people so easily put aside their self-dignity and Word of God and run their tongues with words of curses, insults, disrespectful expressions and carry around, without any apologies, an attitude of pride and rudeness, belittling others at any slight provocation.
The sort of comments made on social media testifies to how loose people can be in their use of words and expressions against others when deliberating on issues. Most of these people are likely church-going Christians or 5-times-a-day praying Muslims.
Church leaders spend so much time preaching tithing, miracles, breakthroughs, seed-sowing, gospel of prosperity, material upliftment and the like. Besides quoting biblical verses, is the same emphasis given to sermons on virtues and graces; living an upright and virtuous life, showing real concern for one’s neighbor and doing what one can to alleviate another’s suffering and pain?
Instead we have Christians who live in the spirit on Sunday and have recourse to the flesh from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, they show off their wealth through donations, wealthy dressing, brand of car, hair styles including the most expensive Brazilian weavons. Amidst these, the essence of the week’s gathering as a communion of believers may be lost to frivolities.
Do some churches still preach modesty and decent dressing or are they already accustomed to starring at the female cleavages, tight trousers, short gowns and skirts worn to the places of worship? Perhaps they do not want to lose the new generation of young people. It is modern life. A priest or pastor who does not want to be seen as “old fashioned” may not preach against immodest clothing as mentioned above.
A huge challenge to religion in Nigeria is fanaticism, both Christian and Muslim fanaticism. Religion is good, but like everything else, when it goes to an extreme it becomes problematic. Religion has often been used as camouflage for several ills in society. Such religious extremism has turned persons and groups into instruments of division, segregation and instigators of religious-based violence. Yet, no true religion worth following would preach that a person harm his or her neighbor, rather it would emphasize on unity, peace, love and solidarity with one another.
There are also challenges with regards to religion and the family. For example, a married man or woman may spend so much time in the church and in church activities to the neglect of his/her family; children, spouse, and other dependents.
Another divisive factor can be when a father and a mother subscribes to different Christian denominations. Where this is not handled properly, it becomes a real source of rancor and quarrels between the parents and even with the children. Some couples go to the altar with the promise to begin attending the same church, but this is soon forgotten after the wedding. So instead of faith uniting, it becomes a divisive factor in the family. If the parents are not able to agree on how the faith they live will shape the family life how can they bring up children who can accept and live peacefully with people of other religions in the society.
“But for religion, men and women would be worse than they are.” – Linda Ellah
Christians, Muslims, and followers of other religions must be continuously exhorted towards virtue and virtuous living all days of the week and in all that they are engaged in.
Several prophets in the country today make claim to prophecies. Their immediate followers largely tend to believe the prophecies, while they leave many others critical, doubtful and suspicious of their motives for claiming such prophecies. Perhaps, more important than mere prophecies is the need to pray and work towards conversion of hearts and ask divine wisdom, knowledge, understanding and guidance for every Nigerian especially for the leaders. Those who believe in prayer may know that “prayer can move mountains.”
When a common problem exists, people unite to see the way forward irrespective of religious differences. While appreciating who worked towards the return of some of the Chibok girls, there are still over 100 abducted secondary schools students of Chibok yet to return home. This calls for all to be united in doing all it takes to find the girls and bring them to safety and sanity.
Religious leaders need to keep in mind that it is a huge privilege that they are able to address the huge numbers that gather in their places of worship. Such moments, often as they are, are precious moments and must be used judiciously to condemn ills propagated in society, especially those committed in the name of religion.
– Linda Ellah