This is a dialogue between Ozodi Osuji and myself regarding the ability of Christian and Muslim communities to co-exist within the boundaries of a nation-state. We have had public conversations in the past. The first arose after I had delivered a speech to the Jewish Museum in London back in 2007 concerning the thesis of the Igbo ethnic group’s links to Israel and the second concerned the legacy of Malcolm X. This recent conversation was sparked by a commentary I posted marking the half-centennial of Operation Araba, the bloody army counter-coup in Nigeria which pitted the mainly Muslim Northern Region against the Christian dominated Eastern Region.
Adeyinka Makinde: I decided to elaborate on my three sentences response to your brilliant essay, posted this morning at Facebook, on the 1966 military coups in Nigeria, into an essay. Below is that essay. What do you think of it?
My approach to phenomena is scientific; my culture is scientific culture. I do not use religious frameworks to explain anything. I believe that we can use our minds, reason and observation to understand most of our world and do not need the hypothesis of God to explain it.
However, there are aspects of our world that pure reason and science do not understand; in that area folks posit God as necessary for approaching it.
God, as I see it, is not known to us and therefore individuals have the right to posit their understanding of what God means to them. Groups of individuals can cling together if their understanding of God agrees with one another.
In that light, there are people whose understanding of God is congruent with what Christians and Muslims believe and have a right to cling together as either Christians or Muslims (or Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and so on).
As long as there is an area of our lives that we do not understand and it remains a mystery to us people will probably always posit what they call God and adhere to it. That is to say that religion probably will always be with us, at least, into the near future.
Perhaps, in a thousand years when science has completed its triumph in explaining the universe religion would become superfluous and die out.
Greek, Roman and other ancient regions have died and there is no reason why Christianity and Islam will not die. But at the moment they seem necessary superstitions that some people need to make sense of their existence, and give meaning and purpose to their lives. I am, therefore, not knocking religion or wishing that they be banished, as know nothing, arrogant atheists do. We have not even understood 1% of the universe so to presume to know enough to say that there is no God is delusion disorder. Many atheists are deluded folks (see my essay in response to Richard Dawkin’s book, the God Delusion, in which I pointed out “the Atheists’ Delusion”).
I accept scientific culture. I am opposed to the idea of multiculturalism and cultural relativism for it assumes that all cultures are at the same place in evolution and are equally good; the fact is that some cultures are better than others; a culture that sees the sun as God is not at the same level as a culture that knows that the sun is a bunch of hydrogen, helium and other elements.
I accept culture to the extent that its parameters are scientific; I have no use for cultures whose frame of reference is not scientific. I want a universal culture based on science and a culture that changes as science improves.
Since there are areas of our existence that we do not really understand and there appears to be forces at work beyond matter, forces that we might call spirit although we do not know what spirit is, I would rather approach that unknown aspect of us from what I call scientific religion.
My religion is scientific religion. By that I mean using science to speculate about what we do not know.
For example, physics, chemistry and astrophysics have traced the origin of the cosmos to the Big Bang, 13. 7 billion years ago. Astrophysics tells us that out of nothingness and nowhere a spark of light came out and grew hotter and hotter and exploded into photons, and those photons combined into particles (such as quarks) and electrons.
Quarks combined into protons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons combined into nuclei of atoms and eventually nuclei captured electrons to form atoms.
Physics has traced the process of the formation of the universe, to how stars and galaxies were formed and to how planets, especially our planet earth came into being.
Biologists and chemists talk about how certain elements combined in the waters on earth to form biological life forms. Much of these talks are speculative but they are scientific speculations and are acceptable to me.
Science has not told us what existed before the Big Bang. My common sense tells me that something does not come from nothing. Something must have existed before the Big Bang and from which the bang came. What it is I do not know and science does not help me to know!
The laws of physics breakdown at Singularity; anything before the bang hence separation, anything that is unified cannot be understood by the laws of science, for science deals with separated not unified phenomena.
Because we do not know what existed before the Big Bang there is no reason why we cannot speculate about it. Thus, in so far that I accept religion at all it must be based on using science to speculate on what existed before the Big Bang and where the universe would return to when it dies in the trillions of years in the future that it is expected to die.
I do not accept Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and African religions because those came into being before the scientific age and are not predicated on science. Nevertheless, I know that some people find those religions satisfactory and I let them be.
I accept what I call scientific religion. Scientific religion speculates on the nature of the non-material from which matter came from; it speculates on the nature of unified spirit state before our separated universe came into being.
Speculation is not the same thing as fact; I do not delude myself into believing that scientific religion knows anything for sure.
I have taken my time to study both Christianity and Islam (and other religions); I can honestly say that I understand what both religions teach. What they teach do not make sense to me. But since they make sense to other persons I leave them to live what makes sense to them. Who am I to tell other people what makes sense to them?
My upbringing, I must state, is in the Christian religion, specifically Catholicism. Because I was raised in the Christian faith I tend to feel at home in it. Conversely, because I was not raised in the Muslim religion that religion seems strange to me.
I tried to feel comfortable around Islam by reading its holy books, such as the Koran, Hadith and Sharia, still I must confess that I cannot get past the fact that in the Koran are, at least, 89 passages where killing people is justified.
Islam encourages its followers to use any means necessary to convert the rest of the world to its world view. Indeed, it not only permits terrorism and killing people but telling lies.
Islam tells its people that Infidels (non-Muslims) are to be deceived if that is necessary to bring about a universal Islamic caliphate with a caliph based at Mecca.
I simply cannot see a religion that asks people to go kill people as civilized. Indeed, I doubt that a true God, if God exists (I am agnostic) would tell some of his sons to go kill others on his behalf.
In my view, a true father asks all his children to love one another and does not ask them to kill one another. Killing results in wars; a house at war with itself is not a peaceful house; a warring people are divided; a house divided must fall.
In my view Islam is a primitive religion. Yes, most religions are primitive but some seem more so than others.
Christianity presents a mythology about the origin of the world and man that no rational person can accept but its superstitious nature is mitigated by the teaching of Jesus Christ (not the Old Testament) that folks should do unto other people how they want them to do to them.
Each of us wants other people to love him so one should love other people. Christianity teaches love for all people (and love for its God) and forgiveness for those who wronged one. Because it teaches love for all people I tend to feel comfortable around Christians.
Because Islam teaches killing one's enemies, not forgiving them, I tend to feel uncomfortable around Muslims, for you never know when they would choose to slash your throat instead of forgive you your mistakes.
Simply stated, the parameters of Islam and Christianity are different. Islam is a religion of war, a religion of violence. Islam encourages using violence to convert the world.
In the past, Christianity may have used violence to subjugate people but there is nowhere in the New Testament part of the Bible that the founder of that religion, Jesus Christ, asked its followers to go kill any human being on his religion’s behalf.
Christianity is the gospel of love and forgiveness whereas Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is fact that anyone who reads the New Testament part of the Bible and the Koran easily ascertains.
Because Islam is a religion of violence and Christianity is a religion of peace I, therefore, doubt that the two can peacefully coexist in the same geographical space.
If one of them is in the minority perhaps they can coexist (as was the case in, say, Egypt where in the seventh century most Christians were killed off by Muslims and a few of them were left and those lived with the dominant Muslim society that post Muslim conquest Egypt became).
If Nigeria has mostly Muslims and a few Christians perhaps the Muslims would tolerate the few Christians as they do in the Middle East (until a self-anointed paranoid prophet like Abu bakr Baghdadi and his ISIS murderers come onto the scene and want to wipe out the few Christians in their midst).
Conversely, if Nigerians are mostly Christians they probably would tolerate a few Muslims. But as it is, Nigeria is divided so that Northern Nigeria is mostly Muslims and Southern Nigeria is mostly Christians.
If a proper census of Nigeria is undertaken, not the rigged ones that exist, Nigerians are probably fifty percent Muslim and fifty percent Christian (and animists).
Because Muslims and Christians are about the same in number and each control a given territory and feel motivated to extend its territory, I can only see conflict and war between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.
I can only see Muslim sects such as Boko Haram wanting to kill Christians and convert all Nigerians to Islam and Christians resisting them. I see only conflict, wars and strife in Nigeria.
Economic development is not likely to take place in such a milieu; the government would be spending most of its money putting down the various religious conflicts in the land.
Therefore, I believe that, for the sake of people’s safety, peace and economic development, what needs to be done is to separate the two groups, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.
I do not like to balkanize African countries; in that light, my first choice would be to reorganize Nigeria into a confederation of twenty republics where each tribe is a state. But even a confederation needs a central government, albeit weak. Nigerians do not seem constituted to live under one national entity.
It gradually dawned on me that Christians and Muslims cannot live together in peace in Nigeria. Therefore, I call for Nigeria to be split up.
Let the Muslim North become what they want, Arewa Republic. From the middle belt to the south where Christians live let there be mini republics, such as Yoruba Republic, Alaigbo Republic, Ijaw Republic, Edo Republic, Efik Republic, Idoma Republic, Plateau Republic, Urhobo Republic and so on.
In the future I can see the Southern and Middle Belt Republics, who are mostly Christians, coming together to form a Christian federation (they could come up with a new name for themselves by doing what Pakistan did, taking an alphabet from each ethnic group and combining them to form a new word).
I do not like a fragmented Africa but sadly I have come to the conclusion that Muslims and Christians cannot live together in peace in Nigeria.
I also believe that Christians and Muslims cannot live in peace in Europe and America. Europe and America are at present blinded by their liberal philosophies that treat all religions as the same but, sooner or later, Europeans will realize that Muslims are bent on conquering them and converting them to Islam. At that point they have to choose to get rid of Islam and retain their Christianity or convert to Islam. It is not for me to choose for Europe and America.
I choose for my people, Igbos. Igbos are Christians; they cannot live peacefully with Muslims who want to convert them to Islam. They, therefore, need to go their separate ways.
Healthy persons do not like madmen to periodically kill them in pursuit of a religion that justifies killing non-Muslims. Enough of religious madness that justifies killing innocent persons on behalf of an unknown god.
Let us go our separate ways until a time in the future when the various superstitions called religions are replaced with science and folks look at the world with the same universalistic, scientific paradigm hence live in harmony.
People who see phenomena with the same frame of reference tend to get along well and live in peace; science gives us the same framework of reality hence engenders world peace.
Religions are particularistic; their followers are divided into their separated world views and do not get along with one another; a religious world is a world at war with itself.
Until science gives all Africans a scientific religion and scientific culture, for the sake of peace and safety, we need to separate into our little religious enclaves.
July 29, 2016
© Ozodi Osuji (2016)
Ozodi Osuji is a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska.