By Emmanuel Gandu
Political and religious upheavals have characterized the life of Nation States over the centuries. This is a result of the craving for power and governance, resource control, land ownership, territorial conquest, and dominance.
Nations and nationalities within nations have found the combined use of both politics and religion not only as stepping stones but also as veritable weapons for the attainment of power for the purposes of achieving the means to governance, for control of resources, socio-economic, territorial conquest, and boundaries.
They go to war internally and externally because of this urge for dominance and control.
A few of the instances for mention include the following:
(1) The 30-year war between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland over the British Protestant settlers’ domination of the indigenous Irish Catholics. The climax of this conflict lasted from 1968 until the Good Friday agreement of 1998.
(2) The unending Arab – Israeli war that has continued to take the lives of thousands including then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat killed by his own people for signing a peace agreement with Israel.
Anwar Sadat was a joint Nobel Peace Prize winner with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Beghin in 1978.
(3) The forceful Imposition of Islamic rule in Afghanistan by the Taliban encouraged by the US 9/11 bomber mastermind Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda.
(4) The Unending Boko Haram campaign for imposition of Islamic rule and education entrenchment in the Nigerian Education system has led to untold suffering, and loss of life, and property.
(5) The 2019 introduction of the Muslim-Muslim ticket by Nasir El Rufai in Kaduna State and its subsequent adoption by the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Nigeria’s National Political Life in 2023.
This presentation is an attempt to highlight and interrogate the role and use of religion in attaining political power, and how that power is used in the promotion of peace or violence, mitigation or aggravation of crisis and hate, conflict, war, destruction of life and property, and other vices that have engulfed the world in catastrophic proportion, thereby threatening the very existence of man as God’s creation.
Religion is as old as the history of man
Civilizations, scholars, archaeologists, and anthropologists have discovered that there has never existed any person, anywhere, at any time, who was not in some sense religious.
During the thousands of years of man’s history of existence on earth, the search for God has led to an enormous diversity of religious expression and pathways worldwide.
From Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism to the Oriental philosophies of Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
In other vast regions of the world, mankind has turned to Animism, Magic, Spiritism, and Shamanism.
This quest for God has further pushed a man to break and diversify into denominations, sects, and cults, all in search of God.
How has man put religion and politics to advantage?
In his book “Man’s Religion”, John B. Noss points out that all religions say that man does not and cannot stand alone because he is vitally related to and dependent on powers in Nature and Society, hence he cannot stand apart.
Abraham Lincoln defines democracy as the government of the people, for the people, and by the people.
According to another source, “World Religions – from Ancient History to the Present”, religion is an important feature that is longing for value in life that leads to the search for meaning, faith, and a power greater than the human and the superhuman mind.
If all these opinions are anything to go by, why then have religion and politics become a curse rather than a source?
Religion and politics as opium for love or for a division for hatred?
God created man in His own image and likeness in order to worship, serve Him, and love one another.
God also gave man the freedom and choice of worship and association.
It is in the exercise of these freedoms that man worships God through different ways and means, and associates freely with one another in a political setting.
These ways and means have therefore translated to the different religions, denominations, sects, cults, and political associations for good governance.
The question one may pose to practitioners/scholars of religion and political scientists is the extent to which the use of religion for the attainment of political power has aided or hindered peace, love, hatred, and division among people.
Rather than bringing man together in the course of worshipping God, these political and religious differences seem to be tearing up the different adherents further apart.
Lamentably, these schisms have caused a great lot of trouble, crisis, wars, destruction, and deaths all over the world.
This ambiance of religious and political intolerance no doubt negates God’s plans and philosophy of creation, choice, freedom of worship, and political association.
Little wonder the great German sociologist and economic theorist Karl Marx (1843) describe religion as the “Opium of the People”
Unfortunately, the moral corruption and decadence, extreme violent terrorism, the extermination of life, destruction of property, and other vices rampaging the entire world by various religious adherents and political supporters in the name of God and politics leaves much to be desired.
Regrettably, they have lost their moral rudder thereby causing a shipwreck on the rocks of faithlessness, thuggery, fanaticism, greed, self-indulgence, and blind followership.
Those who kill in the name of god and politics
One wonders about the role religion and politics are playing in the many theatres of war that have devastated mankind and caused untold hardship and loss of life.
Why have so many people killed and being killed in the name of God and politics?
The crusades, the Inquisition, the endless conflicts in the Middle East especially between the Arabs and Israel, the Northern Ireland conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the 1980’s slaughter between Iraq and Iran, the Hindu – Sikh clashes, the Kosovo and Armenian massacres, the endless killings and reprisals of Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria, etc – all these religious and politically ignited killing pogrom certainly makes one raise questions about the different religious beliefs, ethics, and doctrines on the sanctity of human life.
The worst and most violent is the increasing rise of religious and political thugs, fundamentalism, fanaticism, terrorism, and death squads that leave behind thousands of innocent wasted lives and souls on their trail across countries and regions of the world.
Terrorist groups like Osama Bin Laden’s Al- Qa eda, The Taliban in Afghanistan, Al- Shabaab in Somalia and East Africa, ISWAP, ISIS, Hizbulah, Maitatsine, and Boko Haram in Nigeria, and other tribal/religious affiliated gunmen.
What of politically motivated violence in Nigeria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and other third-world countries?
Regrettably, these violent terrorist groups operating and killing people with reckless abandon in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Niger, Chad, etc claim to kill in the name of God.
Why kill in the name of god and politics?
If all religious leaders preach and politicians campaign about peace, love, kindness, faith, self-control, and being a neighbor’s keeper, why is there so much HATRED and KILLING in the world? :
(1) Roger Shinn, a research professor of social ethics at the Union Theological Seminary New York in his findings concluded that “Religious wars tend to be extra furious. When people fight over political territory for economic advantage, they reach the point where the battle isn’t worth the cost and so reach a compromise. But when the cause is religious, compromise and conciliation seem to be evil.”
(2) The “My religion is more important, superior, and directed by God” syndrome drives both the preachers and followers drunk and they see nothing wrong with their actions.
(3) Charles Caleb Colton (1825) posits that “Men will wrangle for religion, write for it, fight for it, and die for it”
(4) In the words of one philosopher, Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”
(5) Still on the evil minds of men, Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) wrote that “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
If the havoc caused by the evil minds of fanatical fundamentalism and terrorism in the guise of religion and politics visited on the world remains unabated, the world may likely be eclipsed and extinguished of human life before long.
It, therefore, remains to be seen whether man will harken to the clarion call of historian, Arnold Toynbee “To obey God’s purpose of creating man and giving him a religion and the freedom to the political association in order to radiate his spiritual counsels, truths, and love into as many souls as it can reach for the glory of God forever,” or continue to kill in the name of God.