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Religion: Spiritual Liberty Or Mental Slavery?

By Solomon Nnam Okocha

I grew up as a Church boy. My father and mother became born-again pentecostals right in my face. In fact, I can still remember the very day my Dad got initiated into the brotherhood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He came back home speaking in tongues whilst narrating the story of his divine transformation into a new being."The Holy Spirit took over my being and I...", he said. He said more, but I can't tell you all; sorry, but that's the training. My big ears listened carefully to every detail in his story; I was amazed at a God that can turn people around in minutes. I was excited, I wanted God so badly, I wanted to see what my old man saw.

I spent most of my teenage years with my modest mother who was a serving Deaconness in church at that time. My family house was and is still a fully charged Holy Ghost ground; the devil cannot cross my gate without getting burnt to ashes. You will know the true meaning of salvation when you have to wake up very early by 4:30am to worship, sing praises, and pray unto our God who never sleeps nor slumbers. Through this strict religious regimen, I also figured out a special attribute of God; the creator of heaven and earth is a very tolerant and forgiving being, otherwise, myself and my siblings, especially my elder sister, would have all been burning and groaning in hell fire by now; God would have killed us for sleeping through the payer session once our knees touched the ground. We programmed our childish brains to automatically and sacredly echo the final amen in the end of the endless spiritual warfare. May God forgive our sinful human body.

In all honesty, I am very grateful to my parents for having introduced my curious soul to an early spiritual training. The biblical drills that I received from christian theology via Sunday School are treasures that I will never toy with. But I had questions, and I needed answers. I wanted to know more about this God, Chiokike, Chineke, Jehovah, Allah or whatever they call him these days. At a very early age, I started asking my overtly religious father some troubling questions that usually got a "We will understand it better by and bye" answer, and that was the end of it. We are not in the position to question God and we may never know somethings about him until we get to heaven. Many people killed it with this saying: "God works in mysterious ways".

But not me. Solomon Okocha believes that a God who could mould the entire universe with such excellent exactitude, ascribing meanings and seasons to everything, ought to be a non-ambiguous entity. I prodded further, looking for different colours and shades of man's limited perception of God. In my quest for advanced knowledge of the 'most high', I glided through the world of mysticism, science and Islam. My desire for more of God is anchored on the admonition of Apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, the former anti-Jesus leader, amongst many other things instructed the followers of Christ to "examine all things and retain that which is good".

During the last general elections, I conducted further research on the Islamic religion, because here I was, the son of high powered pentecostal Christian parents campaigning for President Muhammadu Buhari, a Hausa-Fulani Muslim and former military dictator, who many believed and still believe that his soul purpose of doggedly fighting to come back to power was because he wanted to Islamise Nigeria. I also saw myself in the midst of moderate and fanatical Christians whose views of Islam was that of a religion of violence, oppression, and mind control. It was an uphill task to convince many people back here in the south. I tried my best, at least, I was able to convince my dear Mum who is now an Evangelist, that I had sufficiently studied the man called Buhari vis a vis his religion and that I have concluded that he's not a religious extremist. She believed my judgement, she always does.

I woke up this morning to an ugly but not a surprising tale of a woman who was beheaded at Wambai market, Kano State, because she allegedly committed the sin of blasphemy against the god of the mad men who beheaded her. It is not surprising because for the past one year, we've had our own fair share of beheadings here in Rivers State. Within the first quarter of this year, stories of people beheading others in the name of their political god or cult god have been making headlines everywhere in Rivers. Back to the story: according to Sahara Reporters, angry Muslims youths on Thursday evening, 2nd June 2016, decapitated the head of a female trader over allegations that she blasphemed against Prophet Muhammad. I will not go further into this story, because I am yet to get an official reaction from the Kano State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria on this sad and horrifying incidence.

But in the meantime, the barbaric culture of willfully taking human lives on the pedestal of religious, political, or ethnic differences in Nigeria is regrettably becoming an integral part of our social fabric as a nation. Today in Nigeria, it has become too easy to terminate the life of a human being, a creation of the Almighty God, a bona-fide citizen of Nigeria, simply because someone wrote something, said something or did something against the gods of some hired assassins, dangerous maniacs, and bigoted extremists. These were the type of things that made me ask my handsome father certain questions that would most certainly had sent me to purgatory. Today, I am still asking hard questions without getting clear answers; is  religion the source of spiritual liberty or mental slavery?

~ Solomon Okocha