Religion And Development In Nigeria; A Philosophical Analysis

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Religion And Development In Nigeria; A Philosophical Analysis


Abstract


Religion can serve as a strong tool in fostering development in any country, but when not properly managed it can also mar same. In this case, the negative effect comes when man fails to assert himself existentially but depends absolutely on religion to do everything for him. More often than not, he resorts to seeking for spiritual solution to most of his existential problems in various prayer houses. The consequences of such approach to issues cannot be far- fetched as it leaves the individual’s rational faculty dormant, and such individual cannot positively effect a desired change in himself and his environment. No wonder a country like Nigeria whose religiosity is high is still labeled a third- world country. This work is a wake-up call to all Nigerians who still wallow in religiosity to wake up and take charge of their existence. The work employs the philosophical methods of evaluation and appraisal. However, the work does not condemn the practice of religion in its totality, rather it decries the extreme notion in the minds of most Nigerians as it has a negative implication.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

John Mbiti (1969) asserted that “religion is the strongest element in traditional background, and exerts probably the greatest influence upon the thinking and living of the people concerned.” [1] Mbiti also made another observation that “religion is in the African’s man whole system ofbeing, as such wherever he is , there also you must see an element of his religion.[2] Having heard from Mbiti, one cannot but see Africans as highly religious people, but I have come to see that this approach of religiosity by Africans have a negative impact on her. At a point Africa was infected with manna from heaven syndrome, as such he depends on God to do virtually everything for him. To buttress this , I will illustrate with a story, thus;

A certain Nigerian man, sated with his snuff addition, soughtto break-off from such. He decide to go for a crusade scheduled for three days, all through his prayer was, “God please take away this snuff box from me”. On the third day of the crusade the host pastor overwhelmed by concern asked the man, “sir please where is this snuff box?” Surprising for me , the man answered, “it is in my pocket pastor.” It is really ridiculous for such a man to expert God to come from heaven to take away the snuff box from him without him doing it himself and maybe later ask God for the grace to follow up his decision.

Similar cases abound in Nigeria and Africa at large where people fail to do what they could, and later blame God forinability to answer prayers. It is very important to note that God is not in the habit of doing for man what man can do for himself. No wonder John Mbiti a Kenyan philosopher and Anglican priest in his seminal work “AFRICAN RELIGIONSAND PHILOSOPHY”said that “Africans in general are notoriously religious, as religion permeates every aspect of his life.” [3] This extreme notion of religion in the mind of atypical African is without an obvious effect, as it downplays man’s active role in shaping himself and reshaping his society for good. He therefore folds his hands to situations that requires his rationality, and still expects a miracle to happen. With such passivity in existence, the individual’s and society’s stagnancy in the development is assured. Therefore there is a need to change this mindset that religion can take care of all man’s problem even with little or no effort of his. This is a big challenge to development in Nigeria and it needs to be tackled effectively so that the individual will know his rightful role in matters of his existence. It is only then he can meaningfully impact on his environment.


1.2 Statement of Problem

Religion no doubt contributes immensely both in the harmonious existence of a society and in its development, but the problem comes when it goes beyond what can be called normal. Therefore the over reliance on God to do everything for us is usually at the expense of our active involvement in existence. The individual passes through life passively, with little or no effort to develop himself and his immediate society.

Indeed, to some extent , the stunted development in Nigeria and Africa at large as when compared to their Western counterparts, can be attributed to such passive approach . having gone this far, this work will be a gad-fly to awake Nigerians from the age long passivity in existence.


1.3 Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to reduce the absolute expectance on religion to meet and solve man’s needs and problems. It will try to furnish the reader with a new mindset of looking at religion not as omnipotent but rather important in man’s quest for authentic existence.


1.4 Scope of Study

For a better grasp of the topic, this work is necessarily limited; it is a philosophical appraisal of religiosity as a factor contributing to stunted development in Nigeria. It focuses more on the Nigerian experience, though the idea therein can be extended to the rest of the Africa. The work is a philosophical research in the area of development, which has Nigeria as its core target.


1.5 Significant of Study

The quest for human and societal development has been the major recurring issue in the world, particularly Africa where many societies are far from being developed. In a bid to foster development in Nigeria, the work tries to x-ray some challenges which hinders development as such. Religiosity as one of those challenges has ensured stunted development in Nigeria many ways than one. It ranges from over dependence on religion to the point of passivity, to religious fanaticism which hinders sustainable development.

It is on this backdrop that Jean Paul Sartre an existentialist philosopher differentiated between two types of being; “a being-in-itself” which is inactive and does not commit itself to solving problems, and “a being-for-itself” which commits itself , chooses in between alternatives, makes choices and strives to solve his existential problem. Therefore the work implores Nigerians to exist as “ a being- for-itself ” by putting religion in its rightful place.


1.6 Research Methodology

The methods of data collection consists of library research, internet sources, oral interviews and philosophy lectures notes.

The method of data presentation will be Analytics which is a detailed study of something in order understand it more.


1.7 Definition of Terms

For clarity and understanding of thetopic, some key concept need be analyzed. Therefore we will briefly analyze the concepts; Religion,Religiosity and Development.

Religion

According to Mariam (1980), religion is the outward existence of God … to whom obedience , service and honour are due, the feeling or expression of human love, fear or awe of some superhuman and over-ruling power, whether by profession of belief by observation of rites and ceremonies or by the conduct of life.[4]

On the other hand E.B Taylor an English anthropologist views religion as the belief in spiritual beings.[5]
Jean Brother in Metuh also wrote, that “religion comprises an institutionalized systems of symbols, beliefs values and practices focused on questions of ultimate meaning” [6]

Having seen some definitions of religion so far, one can assert that religion is an elusive concept which means different things to different individuals. In all, religion pre-supposes man’s subordination to a transcending being outside himself.

Religiosity

According to the American heritage, religiosity is “a state of extreme religious ardour” [7]

Also Webster’s college Dictionary defines religiosity as “affected or excessive devotion to religion.”[8]

Collins American English dictionary defines religiosity as the quality of being religious especially excessively, ostentatiously, or mawkishly religious [9]

However, religiosity is gotten from the word religion. As we have seen so far, religiosity is characterized by excessive involvement in religious activities, which goes beyond the norm of a person of similar faith. This is often driven by individual beliefs than the content of the actual religion.In Christianity for instance, religiosity happens when people focus more on church activities ,rules which is often go beyond actual biblical contends.

Development

Development has be defined as the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced,stronger[10]

On the other hand development has been defined as the growth or formation of something over a period of time”[11]

Be that as it may, development is a multi- dimensional concept which means different things to different people, as such no single definition can really portray the meaning in its totality. In all, development in this work means a progress from one lower level to another higher level.


Chapter Five


Evaluation and Conclusion

From the journey so far we have gotten at least a glimpse of the good, bad and the ugly sides of religion. It is now left for us to choose on which side to dwell. But for the sake of the good of all, it is important for us work collectivity in order to fight this ugly monster and perhaps hasten up the rate of development in the country .

Thus I urge all religious leaders to desist from exploiting their members by playing on their emotions, promising them that faith only will take them out of poverty and other related problems. Rather they should educate them on the dignity of labour. In other words, one can overcome poverty throughright effort.
In addition Obi enjoins thus:

…more important religious leaders must show that they are worthy in the great mission of building a sustainable world civilization. To do so, will require that religious leaders work consciously and untiringly to exorcise religious bigotry and extremism from within their faith traditions. It will necessitate that they embrace freedom of conscience for all people including their own followers, and renounce claims of religious exclusivity and finality[1]
The individuals on their own has a role to play. Obi also admonishes thus: “The followers on their own side should deviate from the lazy thought of waiting for the Divine to solve all their problems with little or no effort of their own”[2]

As Mbiti recognizes that religion will continue to permeate into all the department of an Africa man’s life , yet there is need to start developing critical faculties against blind beliefs and balance that with rational rigor. Therefore the faithful will have to refuse to divorce reason and the ability to question from believing.

On the part of the government they should establish secular theology in our various primary and tertiary institutions as it will help to stimulate understanding, learning and dialogue between different religions which can give birth to peaceful co- existence. And it is only in such a peaceful society that we can experience meaningful individual and societal development.


Conclusion

The extreme notion of religion in the mind of an average Nigerian has its toll on us as we experience stunted development in the nation. There is no point decrying this or that religion, but there is need for a thorough sanitation on the way we view and practice religion. Each individual has to personally acknowledge this malady and consciously choose to do away with it. As such we have to take religion for what it is and not what it is not.
Its is in this light that Obi (2012) recognizes and enjoins:

It is very challenging to us Africans today to take our underdevelopment and poverty as having a strong link with our extreme religiosity. The question ask by the world concerning our lagging behind to bringing development in Africa should be answered by ourselves as regards the way we take things for granted believing that manna will fall from heaven. Our assumption that God will do everything for us without striving to contribute our own quota to solving our existential challenges is not a pragmatic one . What if we die of hunger and diseases that we could prevent ? Shall the Mighty one not ask us of accountability?[3]

Therefore I beckon on all Nigerians to wake up from this religious slumber, and put religion in the faculty of moderation and start taking active involvement in solving our existential problems which threatens development


Religion And Development In Nigeria; A Philosophical Analysis


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