Why does religion need God?’ read an article. I was intrigued. Who could resist an article with such a gripping title?
I certainly couldn’t; and so I went in. Line by line reading what turned out to be an intricate literature web, woven carefully not to upset or offend the reader. We are after all, asked not to bring up religion in many a setting. Dinner, cocktails, work and it would seem in recent times, nowhere at all.
Kenyans have become particularly good at religious self-censorship. One expose on television showing ‘rogue preachers’ reveals just how guarded we are on the subject. Comments like ‘do not question men of God’ “you will burn in eternal hell for this” and “you need prayers” always plague those who dare bring up inconsistencies, fallacies and fraud perpetuated by self-proclaimed prophets and bishops.
We have been in this tightly wrapped bubble of conviction for so long, that even when some turn black and blue, suffocate and slowly degrade, no one raises a finger. But it is time we got the conversation beyond investigative journalism. It is time to come up for air and this is why.
Religion has been converted into a currency – and it is strong. Strong enough to have seen 900 people, among them 276 children commit suicide after Jim Jones, a ‘man of god’, convinced them through some perverted form of Christianity that it was the right thing to do. In 1995, 12 more people died in the name of religion. Five members of Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese school that taught a combination of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity boarded different trains in Tokyo where they released toxic gas. Their leader, Asahara Shoko, had sent them as part of a plan to instigate the violence he prophesised.
In Uganda, four ex-Roman Catholic priests, two ex-nuns and one ex-prostitute killed hundreds of their followers in 2000 after their doomsday prophecy failed to materialise. Kenya has seen hundreds of innocent lives lost through bus explosions and a chilling mall siege because someone somewhere is corrupting religion; but we still won’t talk about it.
Granted, these are examples of severe results from fundamentalists, but they all begun somewhere.
I like to think, however, that we are all responsible in the creation of these personalities. We watch them openly rob our families but excuse it as ‘seed sowing’. We hear of our friends participating in lurid sex acts with these men to cure them of their barrenness and we still stay mum. Our sons tell us they are being touched inappropriately and later courageously tell us they have been sodomised, but we do not so much as flinch – and this is happening everywhere.
Gareth setati of South Africa writes, “We cannot stand pat and watch idly as people suffer capricious abuse by charlatans who take people’s money by conjuring religious feats of dubious veracity, all in the name of respectfully tiptoeing around religion.” We must learn to separate God from his avowed messengers.
Learn that speaking up against them and their transgressions is not speaking against God. Reverence, needs to stop being the all access pass to commit crime. Let us investigate claims. Nauseating, as they may sound because not all negative things said of ‘godmen’ are intended to Malign.
Religion needs voices of reason, for with none, the extremists gain momentum and soon Waco happens, Jim jones rises, and al Shabaab strengthens. Talk about religion, because if we don’t we will end up on the wrong side of history.