KAMPALA – Imagine you belong to this religion because it is your parent’s religion.
Sometimes never getting a chance to make an informed choice. It begins with a name say Peter or Ahmed, followed by rituals such as baptism or circumcision. Before you know you are Muslim, Christian or pagan and your fate is sealed for life. I may not speak authoritatively about Islam as well as Paganism but I can fairly defend my Christian argument having been a Christian for the last 28 years. I even have a word for a name just because my parents called it a Christian name.
I have said time and again that cultural norms, practices used by influential people in society and religion are bedfellows. The presumption is that what the influential people practice is God-given and should be adopted by others. You have heard Ugandans called Nelson Mandella, Jonas Savimbi, Arap Moi, Samore Toure, Amalinzi the Cat, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jjaja of Upobo. All the above-mentioned names belonged to influential people who mattered to society. Many would think by naming their children after influential people, the kids could become like the people they are named after. Sometimes naming could be due to the admiration that the parent had for the individual behind the name.
We even go an extra mile and copy their traditions and culture at the expense of our own and afterwards complain of demonstration effects on our children. It is the cultures of imagining that everything European or Arabic is better hence the sweeping wave of generations torn between their own ways of life and the foreign influence. Do we ever ask ourselves why we practice some religious acts as opposed to what our forefathers used practice? That is why many historians agree that religion is one psychological game that was introduced to brainwash Africans.
In debating various self-proclaimed “religious” values over the years, I have discovered that they present many vague and erroneous ideas (myths) as established truths and have been adopted as forming part of a new cultural and religious establishments. These myths were used and are still used by both Muslims and Christians (founders and their predecessors) quite often in defending their dubious ideas:
Religion is important to our society because it serves as a moral rudder. Morality is necessary for a society to exist. Some standards must exist for people to follow or society will decay and eventually collapse, as did some empire of the past. This is however contrary to the ancient Greeks who proved that it is possible to have an ethical culture without having a religiously “moral” culture. The focus of ethics is on behavior; for example, the ethical standard “If you can do no good, at least do no harm” focuses on making choices in behavior.
The focus of morality, on the other hand, is to avoid behavior proscribed by political and religious authorities. Many of Christ’s teachings have strong ethical content, above and beyond the Judaic law and its moral commands of “Thou shalt not . . . .” For example, the teaching of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is ethical teaching that is often perverted by Christian moralists who interpret this to mean: “Do unto others as God (the Bible, the Pope, etc.) would have you do unto them.” Ethical teaching is lost in the effort to enforce a religious code or standard.
You may be wondering why certain acts are religiously cherished without a basis. The reason behind this is largely because many cultural norms and behaviors have been married to religion in order to cover up why some practices must be done and not others. I will quickly take you through some of these practices that seemingly have no origins.
When a society becomes so evil, let’s say Churchgoers start going to church in “torn” clothes in the name of fashion, it is prudent that one adopts a mechanism that will keep their attention from digressing. Secondly, when we close our eyes during prayer, the world becomes a vacuum and then we start imagining yourself closer to the invisible and the invisible includes God/ gods. Some people start imagining living images. That explains why so many people worship idols.
The practice of confession and repentance, as practiced by Christians, seems to reinforce the delusion that Christians are happier and well-adjusted than non-Christians. Christians believe strongly in the power of faith to heal personal problems and they find it difficult to believe that non-believers could be happy without faith. Yet Thomas H. Davenport’s study Virtuous Pagans: Unreligious People in America shows that the non-religious live full and meaningful lives, in spite of the opinions of the religious.
The idea that Christianity is necessary to prevent the collapse of morality and civilization is also false. As far as the modern world is concerned, culture would have done better to enforce morality in society than Christianity. The Roman Empire collapsed despite having Christianity. The historian Gibbon believed that Rome collapsed in large part because of the spread of Christianity and the way it undermined much of cultural/traditional Roman society. Nor did Christianity prevent the fall of Constantinople to the Turks.
In terms of ethical behavior, several historians have commented on the fact that the Turks often proved to be superior to the Christians in their concept of personal honor, loyalty, devotion to duty, and other ethical ideals. Now so many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians are obsessed with the End of the World that they ignore trying to preserve the world from destruction: economic, ecological, or atomic.
It is true too that an upsurge in “religious” behavior and especially the proliferation of new religions has been recognized by historians as symptomatic of the decline of civilization. Indeed, it may be, as Gibbon believed, that religious “thinking” and behavior is one of the causes of social collapse than a by-product.
Both Christians and Muslims seem to imagine there is a being by the name of the devil. Surely which devil is better than the power of the brain? Science and common sense should be able to reveal that the human brain works independently of other forces, instead it is the brain that commands the rest of the body.
Indeed there exist certain forces in the world such as earthquakes, the force of gravity among others but none of them has the capacity to control the operation of the brain. I was reading some literature where the writer asserted that; “The greatest lie the devil ever told was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.” And so he isn’t nearly as effective with people who are on their guard against him, so he denies his own existence. The so-called devil is the scapegoat fronted by religious people whenever their brains lead them into doing what society would otherwise call sin.
If you haven’t fallen victim to pastors who don’t accept coins in church, then wait for your turn. In fact, churches have become such a booming business in Uganda that you can hardly walk a km without coming across one. As employees await their salary at the end of the month, they also prepare to part with the offertory, not to mention the tithe. A tithe is giving back 10% to God what is His. Let’s take the simple system used by Ezra Suruma in budgeting for the nation to explain the notion of the tithe.
Taxes on services and commodities are determined by the needs/ expenditure of a country in a financial year. Thus the ancient church used the same system to come up with the tithe which is actually the Hebrew word for ‘tenth’. How sure are we that some churches or some religious leaders didn’t come up with the figure of 10% arbitrarily, or based on what the church budget needed during the growth of the church? But because of its long usage, it has become a practice that every church uses to get money from the congregators.
Many Muslims don’t know the real reasons why they burry their dead immediately and without coffins or cemented graves. This is explained by the fact that the origins of the religion is a desert where you don’t expect a lot of wood/timber to waste on making coffins while cement is equally a scarce resource. This also explains why Muslims Founders used to pray while sitting down on carpets or mats as wood for making furniture was not forthcoming.
They wash a few parts of their bodies before praying. It is trite logic that nobody wants to meet their superior in a messy state and it would appeal to common sense to first take a shower. For the Muslim founders who we all know as Arabs living in a desert environment, water was scarce and therefore the cause for washing a few parts of the body with the little water available.
However, when the religion was spread to the rest of the world this was not explained as the Muslim missionaries kept their practice of washing a few parts. Because people learn by seeing it is logical that they copied whatever the Arabs were doing and hence their culture become part of the religious norm and practices.
Installing loudspeakers on mosques in Uganda is one thing that Muslims should have abandoned years back. In Saudi Arabia then, it was not common to find people living in an extensive stretch like those in many parts in Africa. You could find one group in Kibuli, another group in Ntinda, and another in Makindye provided there is some form of life like an oasis or a few trees and hence the need to amplify the voice of the Imam to invite people for prayer.
In many parts of Africa Uganda alike, people live so close to each other separated by a wall and very near the mosques. Secondly in this modern age where almost everybody can afford an alarm clock on a watch or a phone, I don’t think the loudspeakers still serve their purpose except for noise pollution.
Christians strive day and night to live like Jesus but I haven’t seen them grow a long beard or put on dresses like Jesus used to do. Many Muslims have gone an extra mile including use of chemicals to grow a long beard just like the Arabs who happen to be hairy by nature. In my view, the growing of a beard should not be viewed as a religious practice but an Arabic way of life if not culture. Imagine copying goes as far as Praying in Arabic language. Isn’t that what is termed as blind obedience? Nobody should lie to you that you will get a bigger reward after death just because you had a long beard or you spoke in Arabic while praying.
As regards the practice of fasting, there were moments in History where Famine swept across Saudi Arabia during certain months of the year and the government found it hard to explain to the masses what the problem was. That is why this period was eventually declared a fasting season to reduce on the consumption of the little food available in the stores. That is the reason why the month of Ramadhan was created to save the government’s failure to provide enough food during this wave of famine.
Many have said pigs are not to be eaten simply because some prophet sent demon into them. Are demons poisonous or living beings that would bar somebody from eating pork? I will give you a practical experience when I got visitors from Congo. Many of them were surprised when they saw some people eating grasshoppers. However, I was later to learn that they eat caterpillars, a delicacy I will never eat all my life. We have all heard writing that what goes into somebody is not bad but……………… The Muslims world shuns Pork but the origins of this practice are that Saudi Arabia where the religion began is a desert where you don’t expect to find pigs.
Can somebody explain to me the reasons why the majority of Muslim women bleach themselves? Is anybody preaching to them that beauty come with the light skin? Isn’t it for the simple reason that they want to look like their counterparts in Saudi Arabia. Anybody disagreeing with me should take a sample of women who have breached and 98% of them will be Muslims.
All of us have seen the black mark in the foreheads of Muslims otherwise known as Swigdah. Iam told it comes as a result of over praying. Wapi, it is obvious that when they close their eyes while praying they accidentally hit their forehead on the floor. In the long run the cells of the forehead die hence leaving a scar. As far as Muslims are concerned, when one stops praying, Allah takes that scar away. Isn’t it common knowledge that when one stops hitting their foreheads on the floor the skin regenerates its cells and the scar disappears?
Muslims pray while facing the northern direction and many cannot explain why this is so. In Saudi Arabia- a desert, wind usually follows many directions except the north. So it is only prudent that one prays while facing the direction without wind.
The writer, Rogers Wadada is a Human Rights Activist and Politician