How And Why I Stopped Going To Church - A Rejoinder
Dear Remi Oyeyemi,
I have just read your interesting piece on the above referenced subject. My initial reaction is that you have dealt with a deep subject, which many are concerned with, but lack the courage to confront frontally as you did.
I must state however, that, in your piece you dealt with a universal quest by man to seek deeper knowledge of his spirituality. The deeper we go in the search of that knowledge, the more we confront the contradictions you pointed out in both Christianity and Islam.
We must bear in mind, though, that both are convenient sets of beliefs that have come to be accepted by large numbers of people across many nations. Inspite of their pretensions, nether of them could claim exclusivity in the perspectives they offer for answering the question of man’s spirituality.
In one breadth, I saw your piece as one making a case for the authenticity of Yoruba Traditional Faiths. On that, I quite agree with you. The western and eastern religions have done a lot of disservice in denigrating the YTF and turning our people away from them, almost completely. You would, however, agree with me, that Yoruba Traditional Faiths (YTF), just like its Christian and Islamic counterparts, have their own internal contradictions. In affirming the authenticity of Yoruba Traditional Faiths, we should avoid the pitfalls of romanticizing them.
The point that must be made is that the contradictions don’t define the faiths. Issues of spirituality are so deep that no one body of doctrines, and practices could totally explain it.
I speak about the Christian Faith, because I know a bit about it. Christianity attempts to resolve its own internal contradictions by introducing some concepts. They include the concepts of faith, grace, mercy and trinity. Anyone familiar with these concepts would confirm how they have served or have been introduced, at different points, to help adherents to deal with some contradictions that are so glaring in the Holy Bible. Perhaps, we can discuss these concepts and their usage in Christianity some other time.
The only point at which I disagree with your thesis is where you cited the malpractices and the excesses of particular Islamic clerics and Christian priests and pastors as evidence of the fundamental faults of these religions. Just as we have charlatans among Christian and Islamic clerics, so also do we have charlatans among the priests and practitioners of Yoruba Traditional Faiths. Charlatans abound everywhere. Their presence, and their evil practices, speak more to the universal essence of human beings wherever they are found. The hearts of men are desperately wicked. However, it is within the same humanity that we find the noblest of virtues. What makes the difference is in the context of our uobringing that we permit to take pre-eminence in our character and disposition, wherever we find ourselves.
If I were writing your article (please permit my impudence), I would be emphasizing the need for each and everyone of us to seek knowledge of our spirituality from whichever of the religions or body of faiths we choose. In doing so, though, we should seek to know God directly in our personal capacities and not a deodorized God that merchants of religions are wont to sell.
Also, we should never surrender our mental faculties (and independence of thought) to or for any contrived conditioning by any religious leader of whatever description. God is almighty. We all, as individuals, can develop a relationship with him and serve Him and humanity the best way we deem fit.
Finally, I agree with you that we should not subject our selves to the fear, manipulations and intimidations, which the leaders of the two major foreign religions have used to exploit our people for so long.
Many thanks for allowing me to engage you in this very delicate subject.
©Dr. Oladimeji Alo