Religion, The Opium of the People; Nigeria As A Case Study

KARL MARX’S CELEBRATED dictum, “religion is the opium of the people”, had a quiet genesis. He wrote it in 1843 as a passing remark in the introduction to a book of philosophical criticism he never finished. When he did publish it the following year, it was in an obscure radical journal with a print run of 1,000. It was not until the 1930s, when all things Marxist were in vogue, that the maxim entered the popular lexicon.

A consideration of the historical context in which Marx used the metaphor provides a different picture. In nineteenth-century England, opium was seen as both a blessing and a curse. For many among the poor, it was a cheap and effective medicine. Poets and artists found it a source of inspiration. And for the commercial lords of the British Empire, it provided a sizeable portion of its wealth and power. But it was also seen as a significant problem, with increasing attention towards the end of the century focused on its addictive properties, the tendency to deal with symptoms and not the core of an illness, and the devastating effects of the colonial opium policies (especially in China). Opium was thus a very ambivalent metaphor to use.

Nigeria is endowed with unbelievable wealth, but resources without a system, structure and lasting institutions are dangerous. Religion, poverty, ignorance & illiteracy have destroyed our value system in Nigeria. Religion is clearly the opium of the oppressed and keeps Nigerians addictively high with illusions that things will get better as long as they fast and pray.

It’s been observed from the ongoing problems Nigeria has been facing can be traced down to religion. Be it Muslims, Christians or any other religion in Nigeria. Religion itself is very confusing with more than 20 documented religions existing in the world and all battling for supremacy of their messiahs. It is this confusion that the religious leaders capitalize upon to sedate their followers, oppress and extort them of their meagre salary and hold them hostage with promises from above (Heaven) and hopes for miracles.

Churches is seriously turning into social gatherings. For instance, most churches are now places where the unmarried go to seek for marriage, the jobless go for job seeking instead of filling out applications, actions that should be taken against our corrupt leaders are tabled in the church in prayers. Students come to pray for success in exams instead of studying, the weirdest thing I have seen was at a gathering in the University of Lagos where the pastor was blessing the students’ exam docket . Nigerians forget that faith without works is dead, little or no input of energy leads to less or no force output and “he who does not know that he doesn’t know it will never know it expects you try to know it”.

There are many things that require our physical actions to change positively but instead, we Nigerians hide in our rooms, churches, night vigil, religious conventions etc. pretending to be praying for a solution. It is no rocket science to turn the bad situation around for better but our collective physical efforts to get in tune with our community, what is going on around us and know our rights.

Nigerians only believe in prayers without any physical action whatsoever, which is the result of the stagnant growth the country is facing today. We spend most of our time praying for things that need our efforts and actions (Example: please God touch the heart of our leaders, please God make Nigeria a better place, please God touch the heart of our corrupt policemen, Fire of God burn our corrupt leaders, the list goes on). Leaving our corrupt leaders unchallenged and grant them the freedom to run the country down because the followers are not concerned with the politics of the country rather waiting for an Act of God to turn Nigeria to a beautiful utopia. Why can’t we call a spade, a spade and stop letting sleeping dogs lie?

If Martin Luther King didn’t fight as hard as he did to make a change, only spent his time in the church and preferred to be instructed by most uneducated religious leaders we have in Nigeria who are money minded, he wouldn’t have had a “Dream”. If Nelson Mandela prayed once and asked the Holy Spirit to stop apartheid, and didn’t sweat, bleed and go to jail for it what would have been the fate of South Africa? If Obama decided to be a junior pastor whose duty is to carry the senior pastor’s bible around and preach false messages of change only to enrich his pocket than working hard to make his famous and Victorious Change Speech, I guess a USA black president would have been a Greek myth.

A revolution doesn’t have to be bloody to be a revolution. If the young generation, educate and not destroy, work towards bringing positive change to be able to revolve around Nigeria’s current political and economic situation, that is what is termed a “Revolution”. Education is the foundation to build an economy and not a bruising knees praying and shouting on top of our voices in the act of prayer; as if God is deaf and needs to be shouted at before he hears or breaking our foreheads praying at the mosque. If Nigerians can only face reality and know that faith without works is nothing.

Olatorera Consultancy Limited provides business development services to high net-worth individuals and companies looking to grow, enter or do business in Africa.

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