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The Wretchedness of Religion

by Leo Igwe

Early in life I found myself in a Catholic seminary, where, for more than a decade I was bombarded with assorted religious dogmas. I was coerced into believing in a deity, into submitting unquestionably to the so-called supreme being. But I left the seminary believing more in humanity than in any divinity. Because in the course of my studies, I discovered that the more I was "indoctrinated" into believing in God, the less credible he (she, it) appeared to me. Furthermore, I came to understand much more vividly about the time-honored confidence tricks religions have played on humankind for ages. To my greatest surprise, I found that the idea of religion was all about a few parochial individuals. Priests, pastors, mullahs, rabbis, gurus, and so forth imposed their stupid and silly thoughts and interpretations of reality on others. 

I came to understand quite well how the supernatural faiths have, through their bogus and often conflicting claims to absolute truth and knowledge, fueled intolerance of new ideas and other viewpoints, hampering intellectual growth, moral progress, and the evolution of an open society. 

I discovered that religions have been generally sustained by a set of unsubstantiated and very laughable claims that are not subject to falsification. These assumptions are most often hinged on the illusive promise of eternal bliss for a selected few in the hereafter. (Unfortunately, all religions of the world have yet to arrive at a consensus as regards the criteria for this divine selection.) 

I still cannot understand how intelligent beings could have swallowed this bait. I still cannot understand how a person with common sense can blindly embrace the idea of a benevolent deity that afflicts his (her or its) creatures with pain, sickness, and death while on Earth, only to reward them with everlasting happiness as rotting corpses! 

In me, this evokes more resentment than belief. This claim of the afterlife is the most childish trick religions have played on human beings. With this myth, accompanied by the threat of eternal damnation, religions have cowed and clobbered generations of human beings into blind obedience and unthinking fidelity. Religions have held believers in mental and spiritual bondage under perpetual deception and servitude. 

The religious belief in an afterlife has made most people devalue life and happiness in this world. Due to religion, most people are fatalistic, accepting their situations, even if they are in a position to improve them. In this way, religions have robbed human beings of the good they could have achieved-a more meaningful, peaceful, and prosperous life in this world. 

It is not wise to invest in a business that does not yield some dividends while one is alive. That is to say, it makes no sense to believe in a God that rewards human efforts and suffering endured in this world, in "the great beyond." Moreover, it is downright stupid to worship any deity that will reward us mortals with immortality. 

Humanists say "no" to this religious scam. Humanists are of the opinion that heaven and hell are found in this life-which we have the opportunity to only live once. Evidence of an afterlife simply does not exist, or is at best, flimsy. Clearly, the belief in an immortal soul is rooted in wishful thinking. 

Humanism, on the other hand, offers an alternative that seeks to bring out the best in people so that all people may have the best in life. Humanism offers people a historic opportunity to achieve a more exuberant and meaningful existence. Human life, though, will not be perfect. The world will continue to have poverty, wars, suffering, injustice, and diseases. Humanists, however, are of the view that human reason and emotion will create a better world. Moreover, this world will always surpass the heavenly paradise that religionists imagine they will inherit in the hereafter.

Leo Igwe is the executive secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement.

[*] AAH Examiner Selected Articles

[*] Secular Humanism Online Library

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