Religion can be defined as a belief in the Supernatural power or the Supreme Being which incorporates rituals, ceremonies, ethical guidelines, and life philosophies by provides meaning and purpose to the lives of the followers. Religion provides the followers an appreciation of the past, an understanding of the present, and hope for the future. It involves adherence to codified beliefs and rituals that generally involve a faith as well as inherited ancestral traditions, knowledge and wisdom related to understanding human life that is mostly culturally driven.
Simply put it, religion is a cultural manifestation of who we are in our scared nature as human beings. In this sense, every human being is religious as long as he or she has a cultural identify. Every culture has a way of relating with the Supernatural power or the Supreme Being which brings hope, meaning and fulfilling relationship with the scared. Such cultural view of the scared in general term is religion. Again, universal spread of a particular religion, indicates cultural superiority religious-wise. However, I must mention at this point, without an iota of doubt that all religions are holy nature in terms of contents and contexts e.g. Islam and Christianity.
Religions with significant universal spread are collectively called Abrahamic Religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism). These religions belief in one God or Allah and they are mostly driven by faith, confidence and trust in God or Allah only, or in the doctrines or teaching as inherited from the Ancestors. Faith is usually accompanied by hope that, requests, prayers or wishes of the followers will be answered by God or Allah. ——————————–
Unarguably, Religion is the most powerful force in the world that can be used for societal upliftment and development in all facets of life. However, religion can equally be used as a tool for destruction and a source of disunity in the society as it is the case today. The human race had witnessed series of violent conflict largely due over emphasis on the differences between the major religions (Islam and Christianity) as against what unite the two religions.
TYPES OF RELIGION AND BELIEF SYSTEM
There are more 1000 religious practices and belief system in the world ranging from theism (monotheism and polytheism), atheism and other personal development movement belief systems. For the purpose this book, we are going to concentrate more on Abrahamic Religions.
Theism is a doctrine or belief in the existence of a God or gods and supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. According to theist, God or gods is beyond human comprehension, perfect and self-sustained, but also involved in the activities in the world.
TYPES OF THEISM
Monotheism-: is a religion that acknowledges the existence of only one God. They are three major monotheistic religions (Abrahamic Religions) namely: Islam, Christian and Judaism.
Polytheism-: is any religion that honors more than one god. Most polytheistic religions acknowledge dozens, hundreds, thousands or even millions of deities. That does not mean, however, that a polytheist regularly worships all such deities. Rather, they approach the gods as needed, and may have one or several toward whom they feel particularly close. Polytheistic gods are generally not omnipotent, unlike monotheistic gods. Rather, each god has his or her own spheres of influence or interest.
Atheism is notion of believing in the existence of God or gods. It is not a lack of belief born out of simple ignorance of religious teachings but faith. Atheists actively believe that particular gods, or all gods, do not exist.
A person whose opinion about religion is based on reason and evidence, which is independent of tradition, authority, or established beliefs. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. The concept of free thought refers to the process of making decisions and arriving at beliefs without relying solely upon tradition, dogma, or the opinions of authorities.
Humanist believes that science and reason provide the best basis for understanding the world. Humanists equally believe that moral values are properly founded on human empathy and scientific understanding. ————–
The mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reasons at establishing a system of philosophy and ethics verifiable by experience, independent of all arbitrary assumptions or authority. ———————————-
Abrahamic religions are the largest religious group in the world, which constitutes mainly Christianity, Islam and Judaism. More than half of the world population fall under Abrahamic religions and are widely spread around the world. Abrahamic religions are largely monotheist (they worship one almighty God or Allah). Although, Abrahamic religions teach very different belief in terms of mode and nature of worship, they all believed that Satan or evil is their common enemy.
However, almost all Abrahamic religions believe that their holy book is divine and that no other religions or faith will not enjoy eternal peace in the hereafter. For instance, Christians believed that for anybody to enjoy eternal peace in the hereafter, such a person must accept Jesus Christ as the son of God and follow the teaching of holy Bible. In the same vein, Muslims believed that, for anybody to enjoy eternal peace in the hereafter, such a person must accept Prophet Muhammad as messenger of Allah as well as ONE Almighty Allah and follow the teaching of Qur’an and Hadith.
Religious Absolutism in context of this book, refers to the belief that if not your religion no other religion is holy or accepted by God or Allah. A belief that non believer will unconditionally go hell fire as punishment for lack of faith or acceptance of a particular religion. Religious Absolutism regarding the position of believers and non-believers alike on eternal destinies as painted by the two major religion of the world is the bane of religious crisis and intolerance among Muslims and Christians across the globe.
Worldometers Report (2018) that there are about 7.7 Billion people in the world with Christians (2.2 Billion) and Muslims (1.6 Billion). The combined figures for both Christians and Muslims (3.8 Billion) is more half of the world population. Now, if you are a Christian, you know that 5.5 Billion people in the world are not Christians. Going by Religious Absolutism, the 5.5 Billion (71%) of people in the world who are not Christians will ultimately go to hell fire. We also know that not all Christians will enjoy eternal peace or paradise but only Born Again Christians or pious ones which represent negligible proportion of 2.2 Billion Christians. Also, if you are a Muslims, you know that 6.1 Billion people in the world are not Muslims. Again, going by Religious Absolutism, the 6.1 Billion (79%) of the people in the world who are not Muslims, will ultimately go to hell fire. We also know that not all Muslims, will enjoy eternal peace or paradise but only the pious ones which represent negligible proportion of 1.6 Billion Muslims.
In light of above, it fair to that more 90% of the population of the world will go to hell fire; a tragic really that the requires urgent rethink on the notion Religious Absolutism. Ultimately, world was created for us to end up in hell fire but for peaceful and harmonious coexistence here on earth and hereafter. While I strongly acknowledge the position of the two major religions on absolutism, tolerance should not only be preached but practiced by all religious faith unconditionally. It is only on the basis that; the peace we dearly need can achieved.
Tolerance refers to the tendency to put up with individual (s) that abide by a set of values, norms, customs and political goals that is different from one’s own belief (Gibson, 2005). It is an act of refraining from interfering with others way of belief or faith in order to achieve peaceful coexistence among different religious groups. For harmonious peaceful coexistence to take place among the major religion of the world, we need to work towards a culture that allows everyone to follow their chosen spiritual and religious faith without hindrance, harassment or victimization from anybody on the basis of their faith provided that the faith in question does not pose any security or public threat. The freedom to practice, change or share one’s faith or belief without discrimination or violent opposition is a fundamental human right that all people should enjoy.
Religion could serve as an instrument of peace, social and political harmony just like it could serve as a motivation for violence if the true essence of religion is misinterpreted or selfishly used to achieve political gain. Observation has shown that one’s religion is largely the product of birthplace of an individual. For instance, a person born in Zanfara state is likely to be Muslim while a person born in Delta state is equally likely to be Christian. We are Christians or Muslims today largely because we are born into Christian or Muslim home. Very few people converted from one religion to another based on personal conviction. We are all created by the God almighty as human beings to live in peace and harmony among each other; he never put any of his servants in disadvantage position.
SIR AHMADU BELLO’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE TO NORTHERN CHRISTIANS IN 1959
“We are people of many different races, tribes and religions, which are knit together by common history, common interests and common ideals. Our diversity may be great but the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. On an occasion like this, I always remind people about our firmly rooted policy on religious tolerance. Families of all creeds and color can rely on these assurances. We do not intend to favor one religion at the expense of another. Subject to overriding need to preserve law and order, it is our determination that everyone should have absolute liberty to practice his beliefs. It is befitting on this momentous day, on behalf of my ministers and me, to send a special word of gratitude to all Christian missions. Let me conclude this with a personal message. I extend my greetings to all our people who are Christians on this great feast day. Let us forget the difference in our religion and remember the common brotherhood before God, by dedicating ourselves afresh to the great tasks which lie before us.”
The above message clearly tells us how tolerant leaders should be, in order to enjoy the respect and support of his fellow citizens in secular state, such as ours. A leader with a good character of religious tolerance in addition to practical dividends democracy is a vital ingredient of peaceful society.
Religious intolerance is an opposite religious tolerance occurs as result of the inability of the adherents of a particular religion to acknowledge, accommodate, or accept the fact that others have the right to live by a faith different from their own (Vanguard August 26, 2012). Such an attitude is usually connected to the conviction that one’s own religion is the true and the only way, and that all should believe without option. Religious intolerance is more common in Christianity and Islam where the followers battle for supremacy of their individual religions usually for selfish reasons. There is nothing wrong for religious followers to promote or spread their religions if doing so will not impinge on the right of others to practice their religion or beliefs. However, religious fanatic believes that their religion is unquestionably superior to others religions, and therefore, anybody who do not belongs to their religions is unacceptable.
Religion should serve as a means through which human beings universally exhibit spirit of common humanity through harmonious peaceful coexistence. Religious intolerance has been identified as the major source of religious conflict in all multi-faith societies existing as long as the history of humanity. Intolerance has devastating consequences on the peaceful coexistence of people around the globe. It has caused loss of many lives while valuable properties destroyed due to religious intolerance. Intolerance does not favor anybody because we are all victims when it happens.
IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IN PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE