Religion, belief in a Supernatural, Author, Maker, or Controller of the universe, is a most single factor that influences human behaviour the world over. Almost the entire human race professes one religion or the other. Karl Marx, a strident critic of religion, sees it as the “opium of the people”, something intoxicating, under which influence most men are enslaved or completely lost.

Religious experience is not tangible, something you can physically see, touch or explain. Religion is not scientific. It is not empirical. Some people see it as superstitious. Religion consists in mere belief or faith, something not seen, but hoped for.

While some people have religious experience, others do not have. That is why we have the agnostics, people who neither affirm nor deny the existence of a Supernatural Being; and the atheists, those who completely deny the existence of any such Supernatural.

Different people give different names to this Supernatural Being. Thomas Aquinas calls Him the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover, etc. Others call Him Yahweh, Elohim, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Supreme Deity, God, Chi-ukwu or Chineke, Allah, Oladumere, Abasi, etc.

The antithesis or the opposite of this Supernatural Being, is called the Devil, the Deceiver of the world, the Serpent, the Dragon, Lucifer, Ekwensu, etc. He is the Wicked One, who leads men astray and who tries to undo what God has done. He is the enemy of mankind and as such, man must do everything to fight him to submission, and if possible, to destroy him.

The main criticism against religion and why some people had turned their backs on it, particularly Karl Marx and his followers, stems from the hypocrisy by most practitioners of religion. Marx was a humanitarian. As a young man, he had written an examination essay in which he took the welfare of humanity as his principle.

“Man’s nature”, he wrote, “makes it possible for him to reach his fulfilment only by working for the perfection and welfare of his society”. Such a criterion is not only confirmed by history and experience, but “religion itself teaches us that the ideal which we are striving, sacrificed itself for humanity”. Marx referred to the brotherhood of man as rooted in the union of the faithful with Jesus Christ.

But after two years of university life, Marx wrote his father, telling him about the basic shift in his thinking. He was particularly offended by the hypocrisy and callousness to human welfare by the “Supernaturalistic Christianity” of the Prussian government, which sneakily preaches sin and self-contempt, while at the same time tries to justify slavery and oppression.

In the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ preached extensively against hypocrisy. He constantly challenged the Pharisees, a certain religious sect of His time, for their hypocrisy and called them “whited sepulchres”.

Jesus told a story about two men who went to the Temple to pray, a Pharisee and a Publican. While the former was busy indulging in self righteousness, the latter while acknowledging his sinfulness, prayed to God for forgiveness. He then affirmed that of the two men, it was the Publican, and not the Pharisee, that went home fulfilled in the eyes of God.

Every year, believers in both Christian and Islamic religions, travel out of Nigeria on religious pilgrimage, to Jerusalem and to Saudi Arabia respectively, to worship their Creator. While in Saudi Arabia, the Muslims in particular, see it as their duty to “stone the Devil”, as the source of all the evils in the world. Year in and year out, they do this as a matter of duty, as religious obligation.

In real life, however, we have not seen the relationship between this traveling out of the country to pray, the stoning of the Devil in Saudi Arabia, and what is happening here in Nigeria, its impact on the life of our people. Jesus Christ told his followers that those who worship God must worship Him in truth and in Spirit.

We then begin to wonder and to ask what is the essence of these religious pilgrimages and stoning of the Devil in Saudi Arabia? Why do we leave our own Devil behind and travel to far away Saudi Arabia to stone their own Devil? Why do we behold the speck in another man’s eye, but fail to see the log in our own eyes?

Charity, they say, begins at home. Let us begin to stone the bigger Devil in our land: the Devil that brought poverty and insecurity to our country, the Devil that made the Nigerian environment uncomfortable and unhabitable, the Devil that made Nigeria not to grow politically and economically. We have them in abundance here in the country. So, let us leave Saudi Arabia and their own Devil and begin to stone or chase away the Devil in our land.

Asala-maleku. Barka de Sallah.

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