The spire of a church / Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Opinion: The Tragedy of Institutional Religion

Professor Jason Osai* of the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, writes on man, religion and soul and how to achieve the eternally sought-after global peace devoid of want and war.

Institutional religion has divided the world along a multiplicity of jaded philosophical and theological lines thereby creating socio-cultural and economic hedgerows that have pitched husband against wife, mother against child, siblings against each other, neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend all in the search for a humanly unknowable and eternally inaccessible Entity.

Of all the inventions made by man throughout centuries of history (his story) and civilization, the most lethal, insidious and devastating is institutional religion.

Across the world, there are numerous religious organizations ranging from the arcane schools of Egyptian mysticism through Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mithraism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, and Zoroastrianism to countless others that jostle for space in the hearts of man. The extent to which they cater to the spiritual needs and growth of the individual is a subject of eternal intense debate; what is certain is that they effectively feather the nests of their ostentatious clergy and underwrite the grandeur of their humongous complex organizations.

Claiming knowledge of the mind of the Unknowable, the clergy on every side of the multiplicity of religious divides has justified atrocious and dastardly actions that reflect the evil in man and perpetrated in the name of God. With the permissive philosophies of vicarious remission of sins in Christian theology and the promise of voluptuous rewards in heaven for heinous crimes in Islam, Christians and Moslems have over the centuries demonstrated and acted out the evil in them in the name of God and Allah, respectively. 

Man’s quest for the face of God is likened to the cells of human anatomy questing knowledge of the mind of man. More than seven hundred years ago, Chinese biologists informed that there are millions of “little men” in the human body who ensure that air, chemicals, fluids and other materials are processed and transported to various parts of the body to ensure the wellbeing of man.

Today, modern science has identified these “little men” as cells of the human anatomy. Modern science furthers that these cells perform every function including reproduction and that there are various colonies of cells that are in charge of various parts of the human body.

Muslims in a mosque /Photo: Screenshot/HT


Again, science offers that the colonies work in isolation of each other, are oblivious of the existence of other colonies and all die and are replaced every two years. In other words, brain cells are oblivious of abdominal cells, muscle cells etc. and vice versa. It has been argued that humanity may just be part of the Divine anatomy the same way the cells in their various colonies are in the human anatomy.

Furthermore, the persona of God has been a subject of wild conjecture since man became conscious of his environment; also, the unimaginable vastness of the universe has occupied the curiosity and endless scientific enquiry and endeavours of man. The point remains that much as the millions of cells of human anatomy will never know the relative vastness of the human anatomy, so also can man never know the mind of the entity known by various names in difference cultures but generally referred to as God; man is also not capable of knowing the accurate vastness of the universe, which scientists say is expanding at a humanly unimaginable speed. After all, man is confused regarding the persona of God: in Judeo-Christian-Islamic theology, God is masculine and female in Vedic Scriptures; in Anunnaki tradition and other thoughts man’s Creator is perceived as a plurality, a civilization while yet another thought sees God as amorphous.

In averring that “Religion is a matter of faith, of belief, not evidence,” Yahaya Bello drives home the imaginary essence of religion. Yet, the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Holy See during the Inquisition are being repeated by Islam today in the name of God and based on conjectural anecdotes and narratives.

Humanity should therefore leave God alone; yes, leave the unknowable God alone; just be consistently conscious of His presence in everything you do and focus on being His instrument towards the well being of human beings and your lower neighbours who are nonetheless of much value in the sight of God. This is why Huist Thought is hinged on the belief that service to humanity and the community is service to God. People should focus on interpersonal accord, peace and global oneness towards harmony in humanity and atonement (at-one-ment) with the Divine, whoever or whatever that is.

Mahatma Gandhi it was who, in concise humanistic poetry, said thus: “there are enough resources for everyone’s need but not enough for one man’s greed.” Restated, if humanity would depart from ridiculous religiosity, come to terms with the falsehood of the permissive philosophies of Judeo-Christian-Islamic theology and embrace the inviolability of retributive justice, then such vices as acquisitiveness, corruption, ethnicity, xenophobia, injustice, war etc. would be wiped out, the abundant resources of the soil will be utilized equitably to the satisfaction of all and there will be peace and progress on earth; then and only then “[His] kingdom [will] come on earth as it is heaven.

A trending clip shows a cassock-clad clergy preaching to mammoth crowd; suddenly, a chubby lady in jeans and T-Shirt rushed at him and pushed him off the platform. The narrative is that the clergy preached that fat women will not go to heaven. If that is so, then the priest is so uninformed that his priesthood is a clear case of the blind leading the blind. In his unquestioning belief, he does not understand that the Narrow Way of the path to heaven has absolutely nothing to do with matter, the human body; it is purely a spiritual phenomenon. The individual must shed the weight of earthly baggage before heshe can go through the narrow door of heaven.

It has been consistently said that the most insidious canards in the advent of human civilization are intoned in the softly spoken supernatural spells of institutional religion. Sadly, the mind control machination of this albatross to humanity is leading a naïve, cross-eyed and credulous flock in the opposite direction of oneness with the Divine One. Rather tragically, any attempt to deprogram the full fanatical faithful from the psychological stranglehold of this phenomenon is usually confronted with very vicious campaign of calumnies and physical onslaught.

Man should constantly strive for spiritual purity devoid of conditioning by institutional religion and thus commence a voyage to discover his soul; that journey begins and ends with loving your neighbour as yourself in the true sense of the word love. Seemingly simple, this journey is avidly arduous; it is not undertaken in man-made structures: synagogues, churches, mosques or chursques; it is a journey within you, the temple made by God and it begins with the mind. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.

Prof. Jason Osai is a professor of Development Studies and Head, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. You can contact him by email at





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