All over the world, millions of people follow one of the many religions which have become prominent in the different regions of the world over time.  Religion is generally accepted to be underpinned by moral, ethical and spiritual teachings, thus many people have come to equate religionism with the concept of righteousness.

According to the Webster’s dictionary, religionism is defined as ‘exaggerated or affected piety and religious zeal’. This definition aptly describes the behaviour of the adherents of the major faiths in Nigeria. This assertion is due to the fact that despite being a very religious people, our lives do not reflect the teachings and beliefs we profess.Religion should ordinarily make us more morally and ethically conscious, as these are the basic values which it claims to uphold and impart. In reality however, we exhibit rather shocking traits, making a mockery of all that we claim to believe in.

As a voice of fidelity and righteousness, religious leaders should also play the role of societal watchdog and champion the cause for social change. Such roles have been played by religious figures in Latin America and Asia,who put their lives on the line for the betterment of their society. Back home in Africa, a notable example of a religious leader championing the cause for social change is theAnglican archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu. He was not afraid to speak truth to power, using the pulpit to chastise, castigate and flay the apartheid government. He was also in the forefront of civil demonstrations and protests.

In our dear country, the case is totally different. Many preachers are the prosperity kind (whose God is not poor) yet they live in a country of abiding poverty. Or the rabid kind, whose job is to poison the mind and indoctrinate foot soldiers for all manner of atrocious activities. So instead of using their influence for the betterment of their fellow men, they are busy competing with the businessmen and politicians about who owns the largest fleet of jet or who can cause the most carnage.

Politicians would steal billions, donate some of the loot to their chosen religious organisation and go on to do thanksgiving. Rather than be outraged at such conduct, they are showered with prayers and praises, and raised up as role models. In this manner, rather than promoting and upholding virtues, we are applauding perfidy and every nefarious practice in the book.

The nation must get back its moral compass and this change must start from our religious organisations. Instead of preaching crass materialism, they should be more concerned with truth, equity, justice and fairness. They must begin to reorient their followers that the key to prosperity lies in hard work, diligence, sacrifice and industry. That public resources must be applied in the most judicious and productive manner. National economic prosperity does not end with prayers alone, but by increasing investments, raising productivity levels, generating employment and equitable (re)distribution of national income.

Piece written by Oke Okpomo  Follow him on twitter@kpomskerio

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