Sacrificing common sense on the alter of religion

A few weeks ago I was on Facebook catching up and just basically having a nose when I stumbled upon a video that had been circulating on Nigerian social media. It was of a chicken about to be slaughtered and crowing for it’s life. Now I say crowing because that is what it sounds like to any normal human being of decent intelligence. However to the would be slaughterer and his band of onlookers, the chicken appeared to be saying or crowing if you like “Allahu Akbar” which in Arabic means God is great. They then decided to get a camera and film this great occurrence for the world to see. I also read somewhere that they decided not to eat this great religious chicken. I wondered if they would have been so quick to sheathe the knife if the chicken had been crowing something that sounds like Orunmila or Obatala or even Jupiter!

Dismissing them as gullible and probably not very hungry, I was about scrolling past when I noticed that one of my Facebook “friends” had commented on the post. You know those friends you accepted on Facebook simply because you went to the same school or church but you have never had any interaction whatsoever with? Yeah one of those ones. My curiosity and joblessness got the better of me and I then decided to do gbeborun (one who does not mind his/her business) and scroll to the comments to see what she wrote. I was quite surprised to see that she agreed that the chicken was in fact declaring that God is great and she even decided to troll anyone who commented otherwise. I was quite shocked to say the least. I mean this is somebody that went to school, has a law degree and eventually qualified as a lawyer! I would have expected a little more common sense on the issue but alas as they say, common sense is not common.

Sadly this type of thinking is prevalent especially in the developing world today both among the seemingly educated and the uneducated people. Just mention that it has to do with God and people will be quick to jump on the bandwagon. All those messages that are posted on social media that go something like, “do not scroll past without typing amen” and you would see people blindly typing amen. I remember I deleted many a blackberry contact because they were in the habit of sending me all those forwarded messages that usually started with “Satan will not allow you read this but prove him wrong” or some other rubbish like that. The messages would then end with a request for you to forward this to as many contacts as you can.

Quite a few people are taking advantage of this prevalent gullibility and making money off it. Or depending on the religion convince others to become mass murderers. How else could you describe people who strap a bomb to themselves and proceed to detonate it in the midst of others?

You see modern day pastors getting rich and buying private jets and living like rock-stars while the congregation suffers and most live in poverty or on very low income. Yet every week they donate towards one church project or the other and at the end of the month they part with a portion of their hard earned money as tithe. A friend of mine sent me a video a few days ago and it reminded me of why I hardly go to church and why I have lost respect for many men of God that I was raised to hold in high esteem.

It was an Inside Edition video about prosperity preaching pastors who live lavishly in mansions and penthouse suites. Pastors like Paula White and Creflo Dollar who live so lavishly on church money that they have been investigated by the US senate. One of them Kenneth Copeland lives in a 18000 sq.ft mansion valued at over $6million. He also has a jet valued at $20 million bought by his church amongst other jets. He also has a….wait for it…..a private airport! Why on earth does a pastor need a private airport? If Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on an ass and not a mighty horse, I bet he would choose to wait in line with his disciples at the airport today unlike the high and mighty “men of God” in abundance these days.

This greed and quest for material things by “men of God” is not endemic to only foreign preachers. African pastors have been quick to join the the rush for material things funded by donations from their church members. From Nigeria to Ghana to Kenya to South Africa you see them in a seeming bid to outdo each other buying private jets and building Universities whose school fees are so high that they cannot be afforded by children  of ordinary church members whose money went into the building of such institutions.

“Give” they tell you and the good Lord will reward you plentifully. They are quick to quote you bible verses about giving and prosperity or stories like the one of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath. That is enough for many Africans people to blindly give away their money or other belongings to thepastor church. Never thinking, never questioning. All in the hope that one day they will be rewarded with their own financial breakthrough. Until that day however, the Pastor or Bishop or whatever fancy title he/she has decided to give his or herself (because these days they go about bestowing themselves fancy titles like the military dictators of old who gave themselves undeserved titles like Field Marshall and General) lives rich off your money.

Don’t quote me on this but I believe that we Africans and inhabitants of other parts of the developing world are an especially gullible and vulnerable bunch because of our high levels of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. With no safety net like social housing or monthly benefits provided by the Government like it the developed world, the gospel of financial prosperity attracts more followers in our parts of the world than anywhere else and these preachers are quick to realise that and milk it in any way they can.

documentary ran sometime last year or the year before on the BBC about an African pastor who spends thousands on dollars on ill-fitting designer suits and whose business ventures include selling  creams and sanitary pads which have the proclaimed power to stop cramps and period pain. Recently he was in the news again for claiming to have gone to heaven and taken selfies which he wanted to sell for R5000. I mean how gullible can people be? Any attempt however by people to criticise people like this is often met with hostility by their armies of faithful followers who see it as the ultimate sin to criticise or question things said or done by a “man or woman of God”

One thing that gets my goat is how grown people, some of them highly educated with advanced University degrees can sit down during these sermons and embrace these “people of God” wholeheartedly without raising an eyebrow to either their incredulous claims or never ending demand for money to fund church projects ultimately designed to enrich a few. Some of them even assault members of their congregation openly during church services and label it as deliverance.

I watched one video of a Ghanaian pastor who whipped 2 members of his congregation openly during church service because they had committed fornication. Another in Nigeria slapped a member of his congregation because she “claimed” to be a witch and when criticised on social media, he boasted that he would do it again. I hear he has been banned from the United Kingdom for reasons relating to financial exploitation. Some of them are so comical in their “performances” that I wonder how someone can wake up, dress up and proceed to go to these churches? Like the one herewhere people fall under the anointing from the pastor’s spiritual free kick! Come on now..Seriously??

I remember in University I had a friend who was a “regular” guy like me (or at least I thought he was) until one day he started jheri curling his hair and talking funny. This was all in a bid to sound like a certain Pastor Chris whose church he had lately begun to attend and believe me, he was not the only one who joined in this madness! I was lucky to be raised in a household where although my parents are deeply religious people and tried to get us to be the same, they were and are not blindly religious people who follow without question. I remember many times refusing to go to my Dad’s church because I did not like their style of preaching or openly criticising their prayer point topics and all he would say was “fine but make sure you go to church”.

Although he is a religious man, I am sure my dad would not have permitted me to start jheri curling my hair and talking funny in his home all because I chose to attend a certain church.

One day you might get rich or get that dream job that you have always wanted but it is not necessarily because you gave away all your money as a seed in church. Why? Because someone who never went to church or a mosque a day in his/her life is also out there with their dream job living their dream life. They could attribute this to a number of things such as hard work or knowing the right people or just simply being in the right place at the right time. The religious zombie however would attribute this to sowing seeds in the church and being rewarded. Even the bible appreciates hard work in Proverbs 12:11 where it says “He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread, But he who followeth vain persons is void of understanding”

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