Chapter 6: How Religions Promote Intolerance

It could be said unapologetically that religion today has become one of the major ways of promoting intolerance and spreading propaganda garnished with prejudices. Prejudices and discriminations sell more to vulnerable larger members of human society today when it is covered in garment of religion or religious observances.

Because people would like to adhere to their religious observances and cults, they are most likely not to oppose anything they find wrong in their own religions. Rather they would prefer to find a way to justify all ills emanating from what they believe in. Most times, this is where religious dogmatism comes in. Religious dogmatism is a crude way of justifying some unverified and sometimes, unintelligent religious principles and make all the religious adherers to submit to them without questioning them. It takes its support from the popular religious maxim which states that faith begins where reasoning stops. Intolerance in religion always sneaks in through these types of dogmatism.

Painting a very funny picture, religion most often behaves like a lunatic who climbs on top of a tree with a cutlass and comfortably sits on the same branch he is cutting. In such scenario, there’s no doubt that disastrous fall is expected. But in our world today being well saturated with erroneous religious indoctrinations, no one dare raise a question against some of what religion is teaching its adherents.

It is dangerous and disastrous in our world today to trust religion as experiences and common sense knowledge have proven that religions have caused more harm than good especially in the area of tolerance. How can you trust someone who people in all generations have always find resort and confidence in using his name to kill other people and destroy properties in all parts of the globe? This reminds me of some arguments I always make when I hear some places like University or public places that bears, for example, the name of a well-known jihadists who killed people in order to spread their religions. Of course, that means that collectively, the society is honoring someone in other to raise more people like the one being honored. But since this is a religious matter, I would be asked to keep quiet and reserve my logics.

Quoting F. El-Masri (1978) who translated Bayan Wujub al-Hijra ala al-ibad, Rev. Fr. C.O. Ubaka (2000) made some references to some vital points that Uthman Dan Fodio listed which was culled from a 13th century document written by a Maliki jurist.  It is this document that Uthman Dan Fodio made the law of his then newly founded Sokoto Caliphate. Some basic highlights of these laws are as follows:

  • No new Church should be permitted to stand around the Muslim quarters and building of new ones are negotiable.
  • Jizya is to be collected from the protected people (ahl al-dhimma) in a humiliating manner. When they embrace Islam, they will no longer be subjected to the payment of Jizya.
  • They should wear a distinguishing mark for example, a belt (zunnar) and should not display their religious rights and convictions in public.[1]

If you like, call them radicals or religious fanatics, but the fact is that they are being inspired by a particular religion or people in the history of that religion that they took as heroes or saints. Assuming there was no religion of that sort, there wouldn’t have been that kind of inspirations that would later lead to such views full of intolerance. There’s no way you can say that you are doing well to the same humanity you are condemning through discrimination and intolerance (which are most often embedded as part of religious norms).

Humanity doesn’t need religious remote control to function properly from generation to generation, but humanity needs absolutely independent minds and thinkers to plan the direction where next generation of humanity would be heading to. The world can still function well without religious dogmas. These principles of religions kill the fabrics of the society which they pretend to protect. Religious dogmatism is the way of caging independent minds and coercing them to drop any form of rational reflections they might have about what religion is propagating as truth. They should reserve their logics and follow the dogmatic teachings.

When some people hate others just for the sake of religion, maybe the only way they can feel good in themselves is to justify the dangerous act by proving that they are doing it for their God’s sake. When people kill others for the sake of differences in their beliefs, they also claim that God wants it that way. They are out and ready to go to any extreme length to make sure they show their hatred and display their intolerances proudly and arrogantly too, even before people of the same faith and ideologies, and at last go home as ‘heroes’ without being questioned or being condemned. After all, they were doing ‘works of God’.

Being embedded in certain culture or history of the people, and then being raised above other common cultures and knowledge into something sacrosanct and divine, religion has been enjoying some kind of liberty garnished with unwarranted excuses that due to so-called divine revelations, then it is correct and divine thing to treat others badly in the name of God. It seems that the only way religion can survive criticism is to stand on the platform of intolerance against anyone who dares to refute whatever religion proposes. No wonder then we have religious dogmas which are based not always on logic of the facts, but on questionable ‘faith’ in religion and whatever it teaches.

Religion therefore insists that all people must look at every issue through the same mirror that it has designed. Not only that, it also insists that we must all behave the same way without raising any opposing questions or nursing any contrary ideology. Sometimes, if not most often, religion seems to remove reasoning from some people and leave them believing in whatever they had been pre-indoctrinated to believe and observe. Religion has successfully been used to program and manipulate the minds of a lot of people. It’s either it goes its way or nothing. When things refuse to go by the way that religion wanted them, then there might be a likely some grievous side effects that would never favour the victims.

Most religious people are sometimes devoid of any logical reasoning on why they do most things they do. Sometimes, they look stupid, biased or even totally ignorant of themselves and world around them. They prefer seeing everything strictly in the mirrors of their own religions. I had engaged most often in some critical societal debates with a lot of people that I previously thought they were wise enough to reason independently, but at the end got disappointed on how they would at last resort to scriptures like Qur’an or Bible to justify their points, at the ovation of many people who see them either more logical or more intelligent because they could quote those sacred texts randomly to justify their inhuman standpoints.

I don’t want to doubt or debate about the authorities behind these sacred books, but I only want to say that the boundaries of their authorities are limited only to those who were indoctrinated to believe in its entirety, the writings and recommendations of such sacred texts. Its usage should not be extended to people who have not subscribed to the religion of the texts. It’s only strong indoctrination that could make one to still believe and use daily, some ideological thoughts of people that lived in their various outdated eras in this modern times, not minding how illogical some of the facts written there are today. No other person than religion can do this.

There are some people who had been indoctrinated erroneously to believe in certain dictates and religious observances that are harmful to human society, especially those doctrines that explicitly or implicitly encourage killings, discriminations and dominations. These people would have neither sympathy nor remorse when they unleash terror on their victims (or people they had already dubbed infidels). They would find nothing wrong in discriminating in any possible ways, people they believe that are sinners and not worthy to be children of their god, let alone to live. Their thinking might be that they are doing god’s works by discriminating or killing those who refused to share the same faith with them.

Through their indoctrination, they have acquired this unquenchable zeal and belief that if they discriminate, kill, abuse or dominate the so-called unbelievers, then they will have mouth-watering rewards in God’s paradise when they die. The doctrine of having paradise as a reward for those who kill others for the sake of God is enough motivator that usually fuel the embers of hatred which always results in bloodshed in and around religious circles. That is the extent religion has gone in order to set people out to hunt for other people that do not share the same religious ideologies with them.

Certain things that are intrinsically evil are therefore encouraged by religion to be done as justifiable excuse to intimidate others who have separate views of the same matters that religion condemned. This is the source and origin of killing for God’s sake or ostracizing people from religious group for committing what religion views as crimes against God or sins. These people who are now viewed as sinners are being discriminated against by the religion and its adherents. They are literally being dubbed evil and their souls already donated to the devil, where they supposed to burn forever in hell fire. They are no longer allowed to participate in certain things in the religious circle, and that is if and only if such religion doesn’t sign their death warrants to be executed.

Religion therefore has been an unrepentant agent of discrimination and intolerance today in all corners of the globe. It has been used for intimidating people to succumb to their certain dictates or face severe consequences which might include death of their so-called “unbelievers”. The most disturbing part of it being that the same religion would try to preach salvation and freedom, while directly or indirectly unleashing terror to those that don’t believe in their teachings and observances. Now, that might also be too contradictory to the teachings of the religions. It is also acts of violence against freewill, and many religions agree that freewill is a divine gift.

Anyone in his right mind would then be tempted to ask where in religion we have the so-called salvation and freedom when we are being intimidated into believing or accepting what we wouldn’t have voluntarily believed or accepted. The practical example is what we have been experiencing recently in all parts of the globe due to unrelenting Islamic terrorism. Islam as religious group either by error or omission seems to have refused to accept that people are created to be unique and diverse. Through some of their dispositions towards religious terrorism, they seem to condone the perpetrators and encourage their radicalisms. In as much as I might rightly accept that Islamic terrorism which the world is experiencing today is mainly as a result of misunderstanding and misconception of the religion by negligible few Muslims, but the issue here is not to point at any group within a group, but to send adequate blame to the source of the problem to know if there would ever be real and effective adjustments. The blame is not for Islam alone but for that religion which has stolen the right thinking minds of some people and fill it with unnecessary evils, and then make them to feel good in themselves by exonerating them from the evil they commit because they have been indoctrinated to believe that doing such in the name of God attracts commendation rather than condemnation or even rewards in afterlife.

“On 7 January 2015 at about 11:30 local time, two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Armed with assault rifles and other weapons, they killed 11 people and injured 11 others in the building. After leaving, they killed a French National Police officer outside the building. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, who took responsibility for the attack.”[2]

 

Some part of the story was that they succeeded in killing 12 people working for the magazine for publishing a satirical cartoon of Prophet Mohammed. What was their reason? Religion! The same killing in the name of religion and God has been constant as I write these days in North-Eastern Nigeria, gradually spreading like a wildfire to other parts of the country. Even as I write, the situation is not getting any better just like any violence based on ideology is very hard to be totally eradicated.

There has been incessant, uncontrolled and underreported killings of innocent people by so-called Islamic militant group – Boko Haram in Nigeria. Then, what’s their reason for these nefarious acts? The same religion. People are left at the mercy of these people who find religion as ‘good’ excuse for their crimes. As every ideology must have subscribers, they too have sympathizers who are buying or have bought their crazy intolerant religious ideologies and would ever defend them no matter the level of atrocities they commit while propagating these ideologies.

Every day, the situation in North-East part of Nigeria is deteriorating in an alarming geometrical proportion, and you could have imagined with me, as well as reason with me when I opt for that world where religion won’t be any determining factor in any guise at all on how people live, and people will be allowed without compulsion of any kind to choose what are the best options for them; either to believe or not to believe in religious ideologies..

Religions have destroyed us and controlled us, yet we still hope upon religions for solutions and emancipations from our mental slavery and burden being imposed on us by the same religions.

“It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, “mad cow” disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate. Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principle vice of any religion. And who, looking at Northern Ireland or the Middle East, can be confident that the brain virus of faith is not exceedingly dangerous? One of the stories told to young Muslim suicide bombers is that martyrdom is the quickest way to heaven—and not just heaven but a special part of heaven where they will receive their special reward of 72 virgin brides.”[3]

 

This simple illogical cum erroneous coloration of suicide with reward of heaven and special package of 72 virgin brides is one of the disastrous assumptions of faiths that we unfortunately have to contend with in this era of radical Islam. With this kind of assumption, faith gains undue entrance into people’s lives and control the minds of the vulnerable ones in the society.

Any religion or culture that refuses to acknowledge the diversity of human race and sanctity of human freedom should not have existed in the first place. Man existed before any religion he adhered to and therefore religion should have human face and not humans having the face of religion to the extent of being so much addicted to it. Men should stop always wearing the face of religion in everything they do because no religion has absolute answer to human predicaments and existential realities. Any interpretation in religion or clause in any holy book of any religion that directly or indirectly gives arms to people to kill, discriminate, enslave or dominate others is evil. Such religion is not from God and I can bet on that.

God doesn’t kill. God doesn’t enslave anyone. Rather, God wants our total freedom of body and mind. God doesn’t discriminate; neither does he want domination of one person by another. We are supposed to be the children of the same God.  But then, if God is not as all good as our wildest imaginations could reach, then He might be something else apart from anything worthy of our respect and adoration.

Sometimes good portion of blames should go to vulnerable people out there whom some few people have been manipulating in the name of God. These vulnerable ones have been used incessantly as willing tools for destructions and perpetuation of evils in the name of God. Someone should be able to tell these willing tools in the hands of religious addicts that the world doesn’t work that way. People should also be able to distinguish between what is in the mind of God and what religion said, critically analyze the two in their minds independent of religion and its influences, and then arrive at a better answer.

Religion might have issue with certain matters that God wouldn’t find anything wrong with. At least the examples abound in Biblical New Testaments where Jesus was always seem to be at loggerheads with the Pharisees who used religion as willing tool of intimidation and discrimination.. If religious beliefs of the people in the Old Testament of the Bible were of eternal truth and unchangeable, Christ wouldn’t have tried to change the concepts in some of them.

Religion is created by man and is coated with persuasions to believe that God created religion and its anthropomorphic observances. I beg to differ. God neither created any religion nor is addicted to any of its anthropomorphic observances. Man created religions and all the chains that religions are using today to bind people to their various tenets.

A friend once told me that if God had wanted to control us in the world, then each and every one of us would had been born with an operating manual. But in His infinite wisdom, God created man and granted him freewill. Man therefore has options to choose or not to choose, including choice of religion or faith. But it is strange how religious indoctrinations get better part of man before man could think properly for himself.

[1] C.O. Ubaka (2000), Sharia in Nigeria: Its implications for non-Muslims, SNAAP Press Enugu, p.41

[2] Wikipedia, “Charlie Hebdo Shooting”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo_shooting.

[3]Louis P. Pojman and Michael Rea (2012), Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, Sixth Edition, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Pg. 564.

About Author /

Ugonna Johnbosco Ezeomedo (ojombo) is a philosopher, poet, educationist, web developer and social & political analyst. He lives in Awka – Nigeria. He loves working with computer and other creative works.

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