Continued from last week
3. SUICIDES AND DEPRESSION – This is part of the mental issues mentioned above but these two needs to be specially emphasized. You see, the promises of the hereafter is what gets billions of people hopeful around the world. Atheism cannot explain what happens hereafter.
Atheists are unsure of the hereafter but religion offers some ideas, even if one can pick holes in them. More people believe in the explanations of religion and this saves many from suicide and depression around the world.
Already there is a spike in suicides and depression because of COVID19. Many people ‘offed’ themselves and still do, because of the fear sold with the disease. In Bangladesh, USA, India, peasants, ordinary folks and medical doctors have been killing themselves while medical doctors are mainly focused on COVID. The medical personnel could use the help of religious bodies.
- FOOD AND SHELTER FOR MILLIONS – Many religious houses provide food for millions of hungry people, and shelter for millions of homeless. Yes, they could still provide cooked food, but they are just mostly now dismissed as charlatans, not people who provided a service even if in the recent past. Some of them have provided these services on a large scale in the past but now find this difficult to do because of strict lockdown rules. Their staff cannot make it to work, and even markets open only a few times in a week. To make matters worse, this is the time that more Nigerians are going hungry and in need of such services. Some religious organizations have been dismissed as mere criminals and this is not encouraging to them to continue the work they have been used to. I think as much as we want them to be more responsible and we want to weed out charlatans we are often being very unfair to these people.
- EXTRA-MEDICAL ISSUES (AND WHERE HOSPITALS REJECT PATIENTS) – In the USA and elsewhere (including Nigeria), hospitals were told to cancel elective surgeries and people were told not to go to hospital except they had emergency the moment this covid thing showed up. Most people even elected not to go near hospitals anyway, especially given the fear with which the disease was enveloped no thanks to mainstream media. Religious houses have always been a half-way house; somewhere people in our kind of country go for pre-medical services, succor and advise. Many go to their pastors for some encouragement before embarking on surgeries for example. The jab in the arm often offers the hope that sees them through. Even medical doctors agree that a bit of hope helps in the healing process. Many doctors tell patients to put their faiths in God when they are about to go through a difficult and risky procedure. So, even though covid is a dangerous disease and no Pastor, Imam or Rabbi should interfere or expose themselves, we should at least acknowledge that they had a great role to play in the medical value chain in peace time. No, religious houses are not useless; they are essential.
- FIRST LINE OF SUCCOUR – Religious houses are the first lines of succor for hundreds of millions of people especially in Africa. They are where our people find peace, succor and calm, away from the maddening crowd. They offer an escape, some offer tranquility. Others, a spiritual connection. Yes, our people need to visit churches and mosques less frequently but the succor that weary souls get in these places, is simply priceless, and often helps to save society from more trouble.
- INCOME REDISTRIBUTION – Some of the religious houses offer a great income redistribution service. Some of the leaders are modest people who understand that they need to constantly lift up the vulnerable with the resources they get from the more affluent. That service seems to be in abeyance presently. Millions of Nigerians are able to meet some of their obligations through what they get in the religious houses. A certain Pareto principle plays out. Only the top 10% provides the resources which sustains the churches and the bottom 30% who give next to nothing also benefit from the largesse of the 10% especially in the good religious places.
- SOME RELIGIOUS HOUSES MORE EFFICIENT THAN GOVT – That is a fact. Some of the religious houses have a better handle on resources compared to government. Some have created whole, efficient communities out of the resources they get, and some are far better focused than government could ever be. They operate like private-sector enterprises. They are not all useless. The resources given to them go a lot further than it could ever go if given to government. That is why millions of our people don’t miss their obligations to these religious houses. Whereas this is odd, but our governments must do better in resource management in order to reverse the distrust of the people.
- CRADLE TO GRAVE SERVICES – We disparage religion as being useless and religious houses as being a bore, but whether we like it or not, life’s most important events have been colonized by them. They offer cradle to grave services. One of the sadder episodes of this covid disease is that many have died in the epicentres of America and Europe, without the normal consecration of their souls to God by their religious leaders, who have been kept out of reach and rendered into nothingness. Many of the sick and infirm who later died in the hospitals have been treated no better than experimental lab rats by the medical ‘experts’. A number of them died frightened, confused and disappointed because they couldn’t get those final assurances from their religious leaders, about a better hereafter. Life’s most important events are the forte of religious houses – childbirth and christening, coming of age, marriages, death. No secular institution can replace these roles except we want to turn human beings to mere machines.
THE EXCESSES OF RELIGION IN NIGERIA – Some believe it is a good time to punish religion for its excesses, especially in Nigeria. The flash, the bling, the boasts, the conjobs. The proliferation of religious houses as if they were mamaput joints. Chances are religious houses are more ubiquitous than mamaputs in Nigeria. The Abrahamic religions are often in a mortal combat. As the Christians vow that they heard from God himself that there should be a church in every Nigerian building – and don’t forget the hotels – the Muslims (especially up north) don’t joke with building their mosques. Most of the palliative monies sent up north end up being used to build mosques. Political leaders embezzle, but ensure they put these buildings in place to mesmerize their people. What do we do about the pastors who acquire fleets of Rolls Royces and pay no tax because ‘thou shall not touch my anointed’? What do we do with the private jets? What do we do with regulating false claims of miracles on TV? Don’t we now need a Charity Commission as proposed earlier but shut down by the same pastors who have since gone limp? What do we do with proliferation of sects up north? Or the fact that many religious bodies just spring up spontaneously in Nigeria, with no registration at the CAC or anywhere, leading to non-traceability of their prime movers when trouble starts? Can we direct the attention of the rich churches back to Nigeria’s futile economic diversification quest? Can churches lead the next industrial push for Nigeria? It will not be odd. Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the past have been majorly catalytic to the opening of new epochs in development, science, the arts, knowledge at different periods of history. Perhaps they can try again