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Religion Wed, 12 May 2010

The Symbiosis of Religion and Society (Part 1)

There is nothing wrong to be religious (or espousing one’s religious beliefs). But there is everything wrong with religion when religious adherents perceive religion as an end rather than a means to an end. I have never agreed with people who have accepted the statement by Karl Marx that “religion is the opium of the masses” as eternal verity, neither do I agree with those who believe the reasoning of Skinner that the existence of God is as a result of our ignorance, and that the believe in God wanes as humans are able to find answers to problems in their environment. These authorities in the earlier centuries and some in our contemporary times have the right to believe what they want to believe; and nobody has the right or authority to deny them their right to believe (if even in trees).

Other scholars like Newton, and several others of this dispensation believe that there is a divine power that controls the macrocosm. Regardless of the name assigned to this divine authority, one thing is clear—the belief in “something”. Even the atheist believes in something; they believe that there is no God, and that is a belief. Isn’t it? Both Theologians and psychoanalyst (especially followers of Freud) believe that the autonomous man is a free man, but add that man is the architect of their own destiny. So, nobody has the right to force anybody to be religious—you decide yourself whether you want to be one. Likewise nobody has the right to deny anyone from being religious.

Religion is not, and can never be the opium of the masses; religion as a social and spiritual component of man is needed to lubricate the wheel of societal progress. Religion needs society, and society needs religion. Very often, as human as we are, we forget about the fact that we are made up of two components—the inner and outer man—that needs to be catered for differently. Yes, religion since the earlier centuries ( medieval through the industrial period till this technological age) has contributed to societal woes—unrests, killing of innocent people (children and women especially), destruction of property, bringing down airplanes, etc. etc., which are very unfortunate; but on the flip side, we should also not overlook the positive contributions of religion to society.

For me, the problems that are associated with religion do not mean that religion has outlived its usefulness, no; the problems might be due to the leaders of religious groups. The problems confronting religion do not mean that we should shy away from them by “demonizing” it. This would not be the best approach if we want to improve upon our societies. Our governments have been malfunctional and defective over the years, but we still have them; working and hoping that they get better as the days go by. Should we do away with our governments simply because they have not helped our cause? The answer is a bloody no since we do so at our own peril. Likewise, we cannot do away with religion because of its myriad of problems; what we can do is to ensure that it plays its rightful role in society.

There are people, who when they hear anything about religion (especially Christianity), allow their emotions to get the better part of them, and thus go to town with it. As indicated earlier, religion should not be based on compulsion; it should rather be based upon choice—meaning you choose to be and not to be religious. This freedom of choice does not mean that religion is a private matter as some people would want us to believe. Religion has never been a private matter, and its societal impetus is going to continue till the end of the age.

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Although religion is needed in advancing the cause of societies, nations, and individuals, it should not be seen as the panacea to all the ills of society. Some of us are living testimonies of the power of Christianity in the transformation of lives, and thus will continue to promote and defend the place of true religion (not extremism or fanaticism) in societies. The fact that there are some religious crooks hiding behind religion to enrich themselves does not mean that all religious people are insincere. There are fakes, I agree; but we should not overlook the sincere ones who are doing their best for their societies.

For me, what is worrying and wrong is when adherents of religion, especially Christians think that their being religious produces a kind of magic wand in solving the myriad of problems confronting them. We should understand that on the road to success, there is no substitute to hard work. You do not succeed when you spend all your time praying, but succeed if you are able to strike a balance between prayer and your diligence in working. That was what E. M. Bounds meant when he said that “if you pray, pray as if everything depends on God, and if you work, work as if everything depends on you.” The key element here is balance. You do not succeed because you are religious (Christian), you do so because you work diligently as a Christian.

When the president suggested that he wished that Ghana were a prayer camp, I took exception to that statement. I do not think that he was completely wrong; but think it was irresponsible. By that pronouncement he was sending a negative signal to those people who spend almost all their time at prayer camps, without putting in much effort in their jobs that it pays to pray than to work. On his call for a national day of prayer, I cannot agree more to that. We shall still continue to pray for our beloved country, because we believe that prayer works. We pray not because we are lazy, but because of its efficacy. Prayer and diligence are what we need to succeed as a people. Even those who oppose prayer or the atheist call on God in their difficult moments, especially when an accident is loaming.

The agnostics, atheists, and those who disagree with the president reserve the right to do so, but they should also appreciate the fact that some people are also given the right under our constitution to exercise this right. Some of these anti-religious people who are seeking the demise of religion (the church in particular)—an impossibility; still send their kids to institutions built by religious organizations. They criticize the payment of tithes (when they do not pay it themselves), but enjoy the services and facilities that are built through them. They call people who pay tithes and provide finance to churches names, but are head over heels in enjoyment when it comes to their usage of the facilities built via those financial contributions. The final part will be posted sooner, rather than later. God bless Ghana!!

Source: Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, Psychologist & Educational Consultant, IAF- Munich, (kingpong73@yahoo.com)

Source: Nyarko, Kingsley