© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Reading God into COVID-19
By, Prof. Wale Olajide
This will only concern those who believe in the existence of God, be they Muslims or Christians or traditionalists. They need not be monotheists either since African traditional religion skin-deep is essentially polytheists.
Monotheistic ideas, if truth be told, are consequent upon its interaction with Christianity, a development which late Prof Bolaji Idowu tried so charitably to baptize and accommodate as “diffused monotheism”. Anything that is diffused is many and plural, and anything that is mono is one.
Nothing can therefore both be many and one. Africans do believe in many gods and they, in the practice of the religion, are quick to transfer their allegiance from gods where results are not forthcoming to another that answers prayers.
For believers in one God, they see God everywhere and in all things. He is the supreme absolute being, the creator of the universe, heaven, hell and earth. The creator of man and every other creature. He is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.
He knows everything, ordains everything and absolutely nothing is hidden from him. He cares about what people eat and when they eat it, what they wear, how they grow their hair and how they appear when they come to worship him. Notice I have been using “He” which would suggest that the issue of God’s gender is finally settled, even though some tribes in Africa still see God as female.
God is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He is loving but jealous still. He permits total annihilation sometimes of nations and their peoples. He still does not like sinners and can punish as he chooses with pestilence, diseases, earthquakes, tsunamis and even death irrespective of age or gender or race.
He rewards with pregnancies and accommodates barrenness, some get poverty and blindness; a favored group, riches and good health and others still nothing thus making their existence a badly lit corridor with no exit sign.
Some cultures have accommodated this disparity in God’s favors, blessings and/or curses in two ways. First that God being God can do as he pleases, and second, that as humans, we have indeed all come to the world with a destiny package that cannot be altered. The trouble is, we never know in exact detail what the contents of the package are until we begin to live our lives and whatever we then experience we must accept, embrace and love.
There is no room whatsoever for complaints. On the contrary, in all things, we must thank the benevolent God and continue to praise him. Believers are in fact told that all God needs is praise. It would then mean that what the church managers and chief executives, priests and pastors who demand of their flock of sheep using different ploys of extortion all in the name of God and for God and Jesus are greedy self-seeking, profiteering scoundrels.
The believers are men and women of faith. Children have no choice here. They have already been absorbed from impressionable age and must practice the faith of their fathers and mothers or risk damnation and hell fire.
Faith by the way is believing and saying yes to what you know has no shred of validating evidence. It is believing or pretending to believe or hoping to believe or needing to believe what it is not possible to be sure about. It is believing that which you do not have any evidence for, but rather strangely most willing to die for as with martyrs and suicide bombers for the love of twenty-seven virgins or as now contested by retranslation and redaction, sweet white raisins.
That which has been passed on as faith, beyond the obvious lack of evidence for its numerous claims and the clear irrationality of some of its arguments would to a large extent constitute ancient ignorance and clear derangement that is now passed down to be regurgitated as wisdom truths.
The acceptable position is that one does not argue with faith and when in a bid to separate faith from fiction you attempt to do just that, men of faith are at liberty to take offence. What audacity to query the word of God!
Belief by its nature as Sam Harris notes is a lever which once pulled moves almost everything else in a person’s life – values, choices, emotional dispositions, friendships, though direction and even logic. The inference then is that we are to a large extent what we believe and if this sum unfortunately is made up of irrational bogus claims, uttered by shady characters who either by threats, stoking the embers of fear, intimidation and oppression, peddle falsehood and oppress, the light of civilization actually dims and man’s rationality is in serious contention.
The whole world is numb with the fear of an unseen enemy, COVID-19, with millions already dead, dropping like flies. Chest beating nations have suddenly become so little, and unsure of how best to appraise their presumed powers.
The race to find a cure has become a collective resolve if that is all that it will take to keep the fire of hope burning. It is worse for nations whose early immunity optimism is based on low numbers of death have gradually evaporated exposing gravely their gross unpreparedness and impotence.
For men and women of faith who believe in God and attribute everything to him/her, there are at once issues of interpretation, understanding and meaning to contend with. Leaders of religion are suddenly in a quandary regarding what to tell their followers.
Those who profit from branding all humans as ignoble wretched sinners were quick to interpret COVID-19 as reward for sins and human filthy ways. The fire and brimstone preachers spoke of end times asking all to be ready for rapture, and judgement. At last the lucky ones will finally inherit heaven and see God face to face while the sinful folks will equally see Satan face to face and settle with him in hell, this time barbecued by its fires.
Wise leaders of religion have kept themselves to advocating that their followers adhere to the guidelines laid down by health masters, governments and global health bodies and institutions. The objective truth is staying alive and to be alive is to avoid contacting the deadly virus by every means outlined. The ball is squarely in the court of the mammal called man.
Those who truly believe in God must excuse him. There is nothing here that should be of concern except if we care to entertain the anthropomorphic albeit groundless submission that all God’s ever desire is worship and praise.
With churches and mosques presently under lock and key, with religious gatherings prohibited and social distance ordered and with some pigheaded leaders of religions being prosecuted for violations of orders of government, there is no crowd worship and praise, no crowd of singing and no dancing. Also, if details of the tenets of religions boldly proclaim that God is the creator of all things with emphasis on all, then nothing is left out including viruses and bacteria.
The question is why would a benevolent loving God create a virus that is killing species that he created in his own image in their millions.
Could he actually be enjoying what is happening to his creation, including the impotence and helplessness of his children? I read somewhere that no father would give his son a scorpion if he asked for a fish or a stone if he asked for bread. All the son wants presently is to live and he is being confronted with a virus that he cannot see and one that is naturally programmed to kill him.
We would not debate here the superfluity of whatever adorns faith in the religion that proffers a belief in God and so readily dresses up their subject of belief in anthropomorphic terms multiplying allied attributes of creator, law giver, punisher, love mercy, jealousy and kindness with reckless abandon.
Rather we would merely plead albeit forcefully that God as a victimizer be excused. Corona virus is part and parcel of our universe that has a right to life which unfortunately conflicts tragically with our wellbeing as humans.
If their faith accommodates a busybody, restless God who interferes in all and every affair of men and women apart from strangeness of the thought and attending conceptual distortion, what then shall be the fate of those other population in the world who have no idea at all of such a god therefore do not even entertain the thought.
More significantly with our limited knowledge as humans, we must at least grant nature its essential liberty, the same that makes the seasons come and go, birds keeping to the skies and fishes keeping company with the seas.
Same ordinance that makes rains fall, volcanoes erupt in due time, tsunamis rage, earthquakes rupture the earth’s floor and oceans roar. About these we are near certain that with the benefit of science, we can make firm predictions.
About all other else, where issues that confront us are neither real testable nor verifiable with reliable evidence attending to them, these must remain speculative lacking concrete dependable knowledge or at best a bunch of mumbo jumbo.
Prof. Wale Olajide, Department of Philosophy Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State.