By TOLA ADENIYI
There must be something in the character of the Semitic people that the three major religions emanating from their region are about the most intolerant of one another and also crudely and fiercely intolerant of other religions and faiths. It is both curious and baffling. And I believe the issue of intolerance calls for a serious study even up to PhD level.
This issue of intolerance has engaged my thoughts for almost 5 decades, and each time I try to dismiss it or simplify it, it refuses to go. Being a proud Yoruba person, a Mecca Pilgrim and Jerusalem Pilgrim, member of a race that is arguably the most tolerant on planet earth, especially in matters of faith and humanism, I find it difficult to understand what on earth could have been responsible for the claim ferociously held by some people that their Supreme Deity, whoever that may be, is a JEALOUS entity.
The elementary question to ask is ‘If such Supreme Being is truly supreme and superior to ALL other beings and entities, what and who should the Deity be jealous of?’ Why should it be said of that Deity that He/She/It does not tolerate flirtation with any other being? Especially so when it is believed that all other beings and matters in the entire conglomerate of Universes are subordinate to that Supreme Deity?
I am inclined to believe that the Semites, that is all those who speak Semitic language, Arabs and Jews, were the most possessive human beings that were ever created. And they so possessed their wives and partners to the extent that any one found in an adulterous situation with their ‘possessions’ must be stoned to death publicly.
It is logical to assume that since they believed they were created in their Maker’s image, that Maker must be a very possessive and irredeemably jealous Being! They see the mirror of themselves in their Creator! There could also be other reasons and factors.
Mankind has always known that there are generally several doors and avenues that lead to destinations. But a people who for whatever reason stick to illogicality that there could only be ONE way that leads to the stomach, only one way that leads to their parents’ house would not surprise any one if they dogmatically hold to the belief that any one who does not share in that obvious illogicality must be hated, despised and condemned.
The Yoruba race believes that there is only ONE Supreme Intelligence. And they hold that Supreme Essence in splendid awe. They realise that no one could ever claim or ascribe one single name to that Entity. So the Yoruba call the genderless, timeless, ageless, space less, limitless Being, ADIITU, the Inscrutable. Not a man, not a woman, and not it!
The Yoruba also went further to deify [like all cultures on earth have done] any and all human beings who in their life time had exhibited exceptional prowess in any field of human endeavour and raised them to the pantheon of gods. Such gods are the deities the Yoruba celebrate [NOT WORSHIP]. The Yoruba spiritual thought is totally different from the spiritual/religious thought of the Judaic/Euro/American.
The Yoruba may offer sacrifices and supplications. All religious cultures of the world do. The mode and form of the sacrifices and supplications do of course vary from culture to culture.
I have dwelt this much on my background to underscore why I should be amazed that any one could be intolerant of another person’s perception of his or her understanding of the Supreme Being whom no one, repeat no one, had ever seen except through imagination and the millions of that Being’s creation,
The Yoruba who celebrate Obatala will join their fellow beings who celebrate Orunmila whenever they have their festival or festivity while the adherents of the Shrouded Spirit called Egungun will join their friends to celebrate Sango.
The point being made here is that we spend too much energy interpreting the African religious codes with the Judaic/Arab/Eurocentric lenses. And that is at the core of our problems as adherents of faiths we least understand, regardless of pretensions to the contrary.
The world, and most particularly the African world which is suffering from third degree colonialism and imprisoned mind, must move away from the scourge of intolerance which has more or less paralysed every rational thought and move into the world of self discovery and renewal.
Nobody is qualified to claim that he or she is fighting for the Christian God or the Muslim Allah or for that matter the Yoruba Olodumare. I hesitate to make a comparison between these given concepts of the Supreme Being. The history of religions that I have devoted a great deal of my time to, and my study of the creation of the IDEA of God, known to many cultures in more than a million names do not suggest to me that the Yoruba Olorun is the same Entity as the Christian God or the Muslim Allah. For starters the Yoruba Olorun does not have a goddess! And the Yoruba cannot conceive of the idea that their Olodumare has a mother!
Be that as it may, the world will be a much better and much saner society if we desist from holding to the erroneous and totally baseless notion that one religion is superior to another or that one faith is the Appian Way while another faith is the slaughter house called the Express Road in Nigeria .
No human culture is superior to another culture, and no culture is better than another culture. All cultures have their values and their shortcomings. And if we agree that every religious thought is culture based, there will be no sensible reason to be intolerant of any other person’s religious or spiritual persuasion.
We cannot, and should not continue to run the affairs of the world with inherited prejudices. And the sad part of it all is that majority of those who profess one faith or the other are merely regurgitating what their parents or grandparents introduced them to. We have a cliché like “I am a Catholic because my parents and grand parents are!”
The Creator of this beautiful world did not put in this incredible orderliness for the inheritors of the earth to unleash so much disorder and hate into it. Our Creator did not imagine that a set of people will be using religion as excuse to deny fellow human beings statehood simply on account of religious disposition.
Were the Creator to be a quarter as intolerant as members of the human community, there would be no single person left on the surface of the earth.
We should stop being intolerant in the name of the Supreme Being. No human person is qualified to be His/Her/Its advocate!
Do not submit your happiness
to the whims and caprices of others…