Nigerians Love Churches: Backgrounds and Forms of Religious Worship - A Cultural Review /

Nigerians Love Churches: Backgrounds and Forms of Religious Worship in Contemporary Situations - A review of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the World's Religions

Written by Patrick Iroegbu Ph.D

The World's Religions

The World's Religions


Reviewing a book such as "The Complete Guide to the World's Religions" may look easy, but it is a complex weave of religious and cultural systems to God and society. We keep in mind here that to achieve this review to make sense, a detailed comment and goal is set to understand why religion and society is a combo of humanity and God. It focuses on why Nigeirans love churches and engage in plural dimensions of faith and critical lifestyle.

Religion is a phenomenal experience that gives life and society a spiritual faith and conduct. Though it is transcendental and influential, civil persons must produce resources and enrich lives. Nigerians love churches and think through them. Does it matter?

Religious phenomenon emanates to serve ends. Though that it can be experienced by individuals and groups for a reason; it will as a faith based worship come into play in people's lives in different ways. Religion is in itself diverse - shown and practiced in many forms and each pattern occurs to influence its adherents in ways that shape their everyday spiritual conducts. The way in which different religious faiths celebrate or worship the supernatural can be compelling as well as entertaining.

However, Nigerians love religion so much and they are systematically spontaneous to God and related life practices. But what we do with the religious faith we live with towards corruption and terrorism or violence ravaging the nation in the context of sin and crime is another story. Why is there a deep disconnect? The present Buhari led political administration of the country came into being with a strong campaign message to fight corruption and put the country to a restructured path to growth and significance in the international community. We were promised that lives and system of governance will never be the same again. As such, the new administration will alter the situation of mismanaged resources and deformed moral assets of the population as a whole and make sense of the new realities.

In Nigeria, major religions are constantly at cultural and faith wars in the struggle for the nation's wealth. This is particularly so between the Islamic fundamentalists and the more liberal Christians in the Northern region of Nigeria. It is not just a puzzle to ask questions; it is good and critical to do so now. What sociocultural backgrounds do religions share and contest for distinction and relevance with regard to the practitioners and the society at large? How is it not working for Nigeria when it should?

Why is religion inserted in every situation of political, economic and social realities of the people and their country? Leaders who should work hard with their brains and hands are more often than eagerly anticipated resorting to accusing and challenging God that God should fix Nigeria? Does God construct roads and bridges? Does God go to the forest to fight terrorists? Does God put drive ways and road signs for the safety of road users? Does God drill crude oil and operate bank accounts? Does God remove garbage dumps - from gutters and supervise the same for healthy living?

Moreover, does God come to the hospital to install required equipment, stock up medications and accessories as well as administer drugs? Humans and workers must do their part. So, how come Nigerians think through religion more than anything else? Why do we have numerous functional churches more than schools and established small businesses? Crusading and converting the youth to adopt day-and-night vigil affairs as a way to go has become the order of the day which surprises any diligent outside observer. What led to this form of religious social order of our time? Is it not due to the faces of corruption and crimes of leadership?

In order to find proactive answers to the above questions, I sought to look for a refreshing material to read on religion and analysis of the cultural backgrounds of key religions. And there and behold, I stumbled on the Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Religions published in 1997. Do not be confused with the beautiful title of the book coded with the word “idiot’s.” By using the word “idiot” the authors are being silly, that is funny to tell the reader that the book is presented in a non-complicated grammatical fashion and a straightforward organization of the book. And that it is easy to read and follow the important points necessary to understand the subject discussed. Moreover, it is described as a guide, which means the reader is being guided to grasp the topic and issues related to religious manifestations and practices in a less metaphysical, less intellectual rigour, and less ambiguous way.

Definition and Praxis

Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, along with the impulse of Sigmund Freud, of which one can relate to, once remarked that religion is the opium (or igbo) of the people – of his time. By using the metaphor “opium” Emile Durkeim appeared to have captured the degree of emotional immersion and conduct of life which the concept of “faith” can throw people into. Invariably, religion frightens, charges up and torments people to a system of fear of the supernatural, hope and ritual. It orchestrates a patterned behaviour of worship arising from belief and action displayed as a way of life.

There are many ways to define and explain religion and each of such religions will certainly connect human beings and their experiences of the supernatural and the transcendental realities or unrealities that took place. You hear stories of intense supernatural visions, dreams, visitations, calls and symbols of apparitions and transformations.

You will also hear about the struggles those called upon as agents of divine revelation had to come to terms with the revealed messages to the world of the adherents and devotees. Religious definitions entail the message of the religion and how it applies to the human community in relationship with God. It comes with a form of worship assigned.

How is religious life viewed today?

Religion is a covenant we share and endure with our faith and God in ways that offer us some useful cosmology, belief strategies and actions to deal with our fears and forces of natural and supernatural conditions to live and die successfully. Religion, so to say, allows us to live and end with hope in God. That is why I think; in the foreword to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Religions, the authors noted that religion still possesses a vitality that not only endures, but intensifies our faith in being humans. Of course, religion makes sense around that which science is unable to fathom, essentially it puts order into chaos, and imbeds spirit into matter. In other words, religion is a soul’s critical meal to vibrate with life and promise of our being and becoming.

In all of the world’s religions, a common belief in spirits or angels is undeniable. No culture, a system of belief and way of life of a population group will meaningfully exist without a form of religion nourishing its social nerves to bond and cohere. In a stance, to truly understand the invisible world of reality, we must strive to assess and access the visible and material world we chart with to belong.

Religion is a felt need to stabilize us, our psychological imbalances. It is to show that humans are enamoured to capture the eternal at the end of life. Humans encounter sufferings, but from where do they come? What is the upright behaviour for a human person? To where does life end and take a rest everlastingly? Religion answers these questions in the forms humans perceive and practice religious faiths.

Though that each religion has a history of its origin and key prophets, the common denominator of all faiths in a multicultural community or city is to strongly break barriers and open their traditions to learn and encourage moral truth and values of good life, safety, opportunity and inclusion in an enduring scientific and faith-based society.

This article attempts to reflect on the backgrounds of the types of religion across cultures and how differences and similarities they import, display and share influence our outlook on the lived community and the world at large.

It will draw from the Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Religions (1997) by Brandon Toropov and Fr. Luke Buckles. A brief commentary will be run on the notion of Islam, violence, healing and Pentecostal Churches of our times.

This undertaking has a huge ambition to shed light on religious phenomenon and it calls for attention to the way in which we worship and belief in things and issues to be more of the same than they seem to be clearly represented in our ordinary day to day responses, relationships and in diffused cosmological realities.

Forms of Religion

Out there in the open discourse, the notion of monotheism, single true God; and polytheism, the idea of having pluralism of gods can be acknowledged. For many, the single-God paradigm is said to arise from the religion of the ancient Hebrews. The society developed a covenant belief codes in response to the requirements of the need to keep to a single God. Likewise, across cultures, we discover that ethnic groups developed cultural codes to respond to the requirements of their so-called deities and supernatural forces with which they lived and navigated their unique and larger universe.

Today we have different religions constructed to meet the spiritual requirements of a society named accordingly. Judaism professes active and ongoing presence of God in human affairs. Practitioners of Judaism believe that in return for their love and obedience to God, they will be made and sustained as God’s own people. His covenant with the Jews manifests in the oldest enduring monotheistic faith. Judaism therefore is a faith system that has encompassed many historical adaptations, factions and movements. The Hebrew people were reported to have descended from Abraham, the patriarch with whom God formed the covenant and we learn that the Torah – the Five Books of Moses started both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. Judaism is confronted as a diverse religion over time. The enduring rules of this form of faith are noted in the Ten Commandments or Decalogue which serves as the moral compass of the Judeo Christian tradition. The ten rules later influenced other religions namely Islam.

Why is it necessary to know about other religions different from one’s own? Does it matter?

Yes, it matters to know and understand what other religions constructed around us mean for we live and share the same environment and community spaces of interaction. Laws govern us to live a respectful life, and indeed, laws allow choices others make as opposed even to ours to be sanctioned. Why do people worship in the first place? What do people worship with and what kind of members and personalities are formed through religious opportunities?

By the way, after church worship, members of the society meet at businesses and workplaces to work and earn a living. What do others worshipping in other churches, parishes, temples, mosques, and all sorts of meeting places bring to the small, complex and corporate workplaces? How do we manage people coming from different religious backgrounds to ensure a company or organizational culture delivers the needs of target customers while competing to make profits and deal with challenges?

We can in one way or another state that religions do not only explore history they also show pathways of indigenous forms of worship, expanded liturgy arising from complex wave of populations and questions of human existence up to modernity. In short, religions vary and yet centrally formulate ethics of good and bad life in hopes for eternal bliss or for abysmal hell.

Each of the forms of world’s religions can be strange to one another. Conspiracy, stereotypes and gossips flow when members of different religions converge and interact. One would observe cases of conflict, accusation, insensitivity and colossal misunderstanding orchestrating the need to push boundaries to score some forms of mutual understanding and coexistence.

Apparently, we learn about other faiths because we live in a society in which true religious diversity has increasingly become unequivocal force and reality. Moreover, building bridges to practitioners of other faiths is essential in that we often get into social and family relationships that must be nurtured and made to be productive.

We must accurately learn how the various religions reinforce and support one another as each religion works for the same members sharing societal spaces of interaction. In addition, the more we strive to know about other faiths, the less fear we will have in dealing with people who practice other faiths. All religions therefore follow a spiritual path aimed at humanizing members of the society.

Most recently, Pope Francis, the Pontiff of Rome, The Holy See, visited Cuba and USA among other historic visits he has undertaken to sustain and advance the Christian faith around the world. Openly, the Pope was televised live holding an Interfaith session to demonstrate that religions are meant to serve purposes – namely to encourage humans to care for one another as well as to keep faith with the church and God. Prayers made together illustrated how common needs and challenges are a concern for everyone such as poverty, the sick, the governments and government institutions and policies affecting everyone. The church must mediate to resolve conflicts and give hope for a better service to the populations.

This brings to the fore the fact that religions are not outside the main stream of society for governance; it is a part and must play a role for some unique and general productive and balanced moral conditions of survival.

Religion as the Pope directed it is a timeless dimension of the presence of God through worship and obligations of the faithful.

Humanity and the eternal complex of our lives after this earthly life is something we require to explain further. Toropov and Buckles in page 14 of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Religions pointed out that

“the idea that there is some aspect of the human identity involving contact with something changeless and beyond time is one that extends across all doctrinal and dogmatic barriers.”

There is a serious meaning underlying the eternal frame. Within the religious faiths of the world, our effort to make contact with the eternal realism is a constant pursuit and it remains a consistent notion in all faiths. That is to say, there is something within and around us that persists in our bodies and physical environments towards understanding the complex nature of God – as a supernatural urge to be safe and stay as a lasting experience.

Now About Christianity – what is it? It is another form of world’s religions; a faith in itself. It appears there is no country in the world today that is not found with some community of Christian followers and believers. In this faith, the adherents accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the son of God. The “Jesus question” is central to the faith as well as Christianity’s basic doctrines of allegiance and profession of the faith. Though mystery is deep down in understanding the divinity and trinity of God, yet the origin of Christianity is a powerful message of the faith and the various branches of the Christian church over time. The danger is that to fail to understand the specifics of Christianity will lead to undermining the forces that evolved it into the world’s largest religion in human history.

Christianity grew from a little sect in Palestine in the first century to emerge into one of the world’s greatest faiths. Messiah, Christ or Christos means the anointed one to bring salvation. Jesus ran a ministry that included everyone, sinners and outcasts and eliminated discrimination and social injustice. He challenged leaders, promoted love, charity, care, tolerance and faith. Jesus was killed due to his claim of being the messiah, but he rose again to defeat death as he promised the faithful. He died to redeem the world and rites following his life and ministry remained as what they are today. Early followers of Jesus never lived without wondering what kind of man he was and still is.

Christians by and large accept the Bible as the inspired word of God. Christianity therefore is recorded as a rich, diverse faith, which encompasses many schools and points of view. Christianity became globalized essentially because it has a wonderful potential cultural and historical adaptability. It is devoid of using force and revenge. Christians believe that Jesus, in dying and rising from the dead, overcame human sin and made the redemption of the world a reality. By doing so, he promised that whoever believes in him and follows his way will enter and inherit the kingdom of heaven. Eternal life is assured for them.

Since Jesus and the formation of Christianity, other forms of Christian sects came into being. By the start of the16th century, there were calls to reform practices regarding money, office seeking, bureaucracy, abuses, concubinage by the celibate clergy, and other forms of observed and perceived injustices.

The concerns of the time led to protestant reformations that began to make a difference – that is to reform the excesses of the Roman Church internally. It is understood that the consequence was rather the emergence of new churches separate from the Papal Authority. Dissident movements in the 14 century were happening until Martin Luther’s 95 theses in 1517 which sparked off a firestorm of controversy.

In 1520 Professor Martin Luther was excommunicated by the Pope and condemned by the Emperor of Rome. Luther’s revolt against Rome created divisions and the formation of protestant believers in the doctrine of Lutheran worshiping standards such as having direct contact with God instead of using intermediary priests paid for it. Why would a child of God require a pastor to talk to God privately? Luther agitated.

Christianity has since been divided into three main branches: the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Eastern Churches and the Protestant Churches. Protestantism is a revolution of the 1500s manifesting a set of traditions that came into being after the reformations.

Catholic rites include Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Feast of Assumption, New Year. Sacraments involve baptism, holy communication, confirmation, matrimony, other sacred orders, death and burial, including liturgical solidarity. The seat of Catholic Church is based in Rome with the Pope as its Holy Pontiff all over the world. The Pope is revered as the Vicar of Christ on earth. With a galaxy of well-educated Cardinals and Bishops, as well as other ordained assistants, the Pope oversees the Holy Catholic See.

Islam – as a word refers to “submission” to God, called Allah. A third place is well occupied by Islam as a great monotheistic faith. It emerged through the established mission of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. Islamic faith has grown steadily in America, Europe, Africa and Asia apart from being a dominant faith in Arabia and the Middle East.

Agree here that Islam as reported by research accepts both Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament as authentic divine revelations. The Qu’ran known as Islam’s Holy Scripture is acknowledged as the final word of God. Practitioners of Islamic faith view Muhammad, a business merchant born in Mecca around 570 C.E., as the final Prophet of God that came after Moses, Jesus and others.

Muhammad laid out a religious faith for everyday lives of the Muslims by drawing from the elements of Judaism and Christianity as well as on Arab traditions. It is surprising that the fundamental revelation of Prophet Muhammad does not and has not conflicted with either Jewish or Christian religious principles. Inter alia, it convokes that there is only one God, Allah who requires humans to live a good life by way of putting up with good morals in action, not in belief alone, as well as commit to devotion at least five times a day. Christians are encouraged to pray without ceasing and fulfil their religious obligations and rites in the praise of God.

Those who follow Islam are called Muslims and a Muslim means one who submits to Allah without question, without doubt. Both personal and social codes of conduct affecting men and women are preached by the Islamic faith. The Sharia’ah or law oriented to Muhammad’s teachings was written to capture and embrace all human aspects of endeavour. Islam is intimately related to Judaism and Christianity, period. But again major cultural differences dictate the attitudes of practitioners of each faith, such as why violence is associated with Islam and therefore frightening to melt and assimilate. Muhammad perhaps is not believed to have invented Islamic faith, but he is classified as the last Prophet within the Islamic tradition. The Islamic tradition was already in practice and he was an adherent like others he worshipped with before he received divine revelation to modify and centralize Islamic faith as one organic divinely proclaimed faith.

At the time Muhammad lived and worshipped, polytheism was common in the Arab world but Muhammad advocated for only Allah as the genuine God. He envisioned a single God and canvassed for a single unified church embracing the faith. Muhammad’s insistence on monotheism and his egalitarian ideas faced, of course, opposition and trial.

Five articles of faith known for Islamic faith include, belief in a single Allah, belief in spirits, belief in revealed books, belief in the prophets, and belief in the day of judgment. Even though Muslims deny the divinity of Jesus, they honour him as a major prophet. The Islamic conception of sin involves the assertion of devils aligned with evil jinn. While Christians represent the image of Jesus with the crucifix or cross, within the Islamic community, artistic representation of the image of Allah is debarred. Islam commends good and reprimands evil. The practitioners of the faith foreswear gambling, usury, and the consumption of alcohol and pork. Of course, we know that many of them drink and live like others when away from the Mosque or Temple.

Let us, perhaps, be aware that Muhammad was given the Qu’ran first around the year 610 in a cave near Mecca by the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) to recite. The revelation from that time is enshrined in Qu’ran as the opening lines known as “recitation”.

Though Qu’ran is viewed as a majestic document, it is said to have been dictated by Muhammad to be written down or reconstructed from memory based on his teachings. Qu’ran is written in Arabic and considered authoritative only in that language containing 122 sutras or chapters. When a translation of the Qu’ran is rendered in English or any other language – it is basically considered as “the meaning of Qu’ran” rather than simply “the Qu’ran.” I like that!

Muslims are children of Abraham but they sort of link themselves to the lineage of Ishmael in the Old Testament of the Bible. Qu’ran and Christ are both considered as the self-portrait of the divine.

Like other major religions, division came immediately after Muhammad died. Sects such as Sunni or rationalist movement occurred. The Shiite sect is another which places heavy emphasis on the role of individual leaders. The Shiite primarily emerged as a political faction of the faith on the political succession of Islamic state leadership. Shiite Islam is the official religion of Iran and the form of worship observed by communities of believers in India, Pakistan, Iraq and others. For the Shiite Muslims, how human leadership is carried out within the faith is particularly crucial. There is also a sect called the Sufis – considered to be the mystics of Islam. The Sufis both threaten and enrich their religious establishment – revered by some and suspected by others. They often symbolize the prophetic voice of the faith in the context of their mystical mindsets and ascetic contact with the Allah.

Where are the women in Islamic faith practices?

Women’s involvement and roles in various Islamic societies is complex to be understood by an outsider. We often construe the notion that women’s rights are limited by Islam. Yes there are some stipulations about inheritance and laws pertaining to witnesses, Islamic rights and duties apply to both sexes. Insiders state that ancient cultural traditions have applied much more to shape the status of women than religion and doctrine. As such, Muslim societies differ in ways that they debate on this critical issue.

Some important religious ceremonies in Islam include the need to pray five times a day with each session not exceeding ten minutes as well as attend Friday’s Sabbath day at noon for 30 minutes or an hour in a mosque. The Friday prayer meeting is significant for the community of believers to gather, pray together, renew relationships, and share common concerns. During prayers, Muslims orient themselves towards Holy Shrine of Mecca.

Muslims observe the Ramadam – a popular holy festival for abstention, reflection and purification. Eating, drinking, smoking and having sex between sunrise and sunset for adults are debarred from having them. In short, Muslims are encouraged to forego all indulgencies, reflect their past misdeeds, and to reinforce personal discipline ad express gratitude to Allah in the life of being a believer. Ramadan obligations may exclude the ill, soldiers and the young.

Other rites among the Muslims are lailat ul-Qadr – devoted to celebrating Muhammad’s first divine revelation, Id al-Fitr – a feast of banquets and exchange of gifts, alms giving, to mark the end of a month’s fasting as mandated by Islamic law. Id ul-Adha is a feast to commemorate the slaughtering of animals to benefit the impoverished. Killed animals particularly Rams are shared with the identified poor, neighbours and friends in the worshipping and lived community to signify material social and spiritual care.

It must not be ignored that the spread of Islam occurred through large-scale military religious war, jihad, and conquest against the infidel to convert and Islamize the other.

Hinduism – appraised as one of the oldest living religions in the world based on its beliefs and practices. The development of this faith is not attributable to one single person as a founder in history like Muhammad for Islam and Jesus for Christianity. Hinduism is unique and forms a label to describe countless sects and practices that are found to be sufficient within itself as a living religion. One can criticise Hinduism for having no historic event attached to its origin or a named religious figure as the founder, yet it is professed by over 800 million worshipers around the world, particularly in India and by people of Indian descent.

Hinduism collides with attaining freedom in the perceived world and eventually fostering one’s personal identity. Interconnection and continuing development must galvanise a mystical core that should endure.

Certainly scholars think that Hinduism arose about 3,500 years ago in view of interactions between the conquering Aryans and traditions pre-existing on the subcontinent of India. Generally, Hindu means Indian and Hinduism is considered eternal and unchanging in its very cosmic essence among competing Indian sects and cultures. There are many holy books as opposed to one within the Hindu system. Hinduism is rare among major religions in that it promotes the worship of animals and a particular worship devoted to an animal shows a degree of reference directed to deities using them. Reincarnation or samsara is central in Hindu belief system and forms rites to mediate this world and that world until one attains full and true realization of one’s essence. It is a ride in life and death. Hinduism draws the line that life has four goals – righteousness, earthly prosperity and success, pleasure, and spiritual liberation. Hinduism’s many forms of religious worship are sporadically meant to help believers move to higher direct order levels of experience of the absolute.

Hindus believe that there is absolute and divine truth. It professes that the doctrine of karma ensures full accountability for every thought, action and word. It suggests that hardships and inequalities in this life may be explained by actions and decisions undertaken in previous lives. To note is that acts of hatred and bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims have troubled India for centuries where Hinduism is a predominant system of thinking and relating.

Buddhism – this religious faith emerged in India as a nonconforming system in a freestanding of Hinduism. Buddhism per se refused Hinduism regarding Hindu rites and the cast system. Yet some beliefs are shared between Buddhism and Hinduism such as reincarnation, karma, and entering the state of Nirvana or absolute liberation.

The idea of Buddhism arose from a system of practice called Buddha – being enlightened one through self-indulgence and rigorous self-denial. It marks liberation from delusion, comfort in wealth and luxury, over protectionism, leading to a state of true awakening around the realities of old age, illness and human suffering.

The legend of the founder of Buddhism had it that around the 6th century B.C.E., Siddhartha Gautama was born into a wealthy family. His father was the monarch and wanted his son to become the monarch after his death. He locked the young prince in isolation with luxury and comforts to enable him think like a monarch and a warrior. He did not like the prediction that his son would one day become a religious leader – and invariably ascetic. Upon marriage, the prince became a father and at his 29th year, the prince had the opportunity to come out of the palace where he was challenged with the reality of old age, illness and death. The experiences shocked him to get real.

The prince reacted against his luxurious lifestyle and vowed to become a holy made man himself. He turned a Buddha. He faced war against his own body, became a warrior through intense self-discipline to achieve liberation.

A Buddha is a fully enlightened being. Siddhartha Gautama became the founder of ascetic spiritual attainment, meaning one who has gone through it all. Buddha ministry developed into a community of monks for the rest of their lives praying and preaching sublime religious truth, experience and existence of which he led.

Buddhism teaches that life is suffering. It professes that the very nature of human existence is inherently painful. Even as such, death does not ring an end to suffering because life is a cycle of life, death and rebirth. In addition, suffering has a cause. Our craving and attachment all play out to reflect our ignorance of reality. Yet craving can be overcome when we completely transcend selfish craving and therefore enter the state of absolute liberation – suffering will eminently cease.

However, Buddhism offers eight paths towards ending selfish ends namely, right understanding, right purpose, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right alertness and right concentration. We must break the barriers to spiritual progress, and in deed, nothing exists independently or eternally unless we devote to it. Buddhism is emphasized on meditation and the observance of important moral precepts, considered as expressions of one’s own actual nature than as a standard based on imposed divine authority on another.

Monks who live in monasteries vow to not eat at times not appointed or accept money among other indulgencies for spiritual liberation and realization self-concept. As a religious faith, Buddhism generally sees all manifested forms of reality as subject to decay and division, and it equally acknowledges liberation only by overcoming selfish desire and craving. There are schools of thought around Buddhism in a complex society of India and other regions in Asia. Buddha celebrates festivals such as Buddha Day, Nirvana Day and Bodhi Day.

Other forms of World’s Religions are Confucianism which is associated with a collection of diverse schools of thought surrounding centuries of Chinese development. Confucianism as old concept as it is does emphasize the harmonious way of life first theorized by the wise Confucius, a great philosopher of his time in ancient China. Confucius, a largely self-taught person preached ethical and political matters. He focused on ideals of decorum and harmonious social interaction which relied heavily on personal moral development and obedience to proper forms of social order. He is recorded as one of the most influential thinkers in human history of moral thoughts.

Within Chinese cosmology, yin, male force and yang, female force, which Confucius explored, are the polar aspects of the primal energy or opposite forces. He highlighted that interaction between the two opposed forces – male and female, light and dark, passive and active principles is seen as a basic and observable element of cosmic development and evolution. The influence on this insight on linguistic studies and ordering of things, morals, authority, peace and order, religions and relationships is immense. Symbolic interactions between the yin and yang principles have helped to understand religious rites and sacred relationships between humans and their gods.

Confucius therefore developed a highly influential system of thought based on ethical principles for proper conduct of social relationships. Jen, or human love, is regarded in Confucianism as a force that binds human beings to one another.

Taoism – is a faith based approach to life which illuminates a receptive way to life. It seeks harmony with nature rather than in organized administrative social order like Confucianism does. Taoism in itself is an ancient Chinese religious and philosophical system derived from the Tao Te Ching in the Taoist practice of Chinese culture. Tao means path or way. Te is a controlling power, virtue or magical energy,

integrity or moral rectitude. Lao-Tzu founded Taoism though confusion is common to the trace but as the author of Tao Te Ching, the credit is his. The school called Taoism arose from ancient beliefs and practices that had to do with the nature of worship and the prediction of future events and outcomes. Hence it is a collection of wisdom from Chinese sages over the centuries. There is the belief that Tao manifests itself in everywhere and in all situations. Tao is grounded on the importance of balance between the human realm, heaven and earth.

We will not forget to identify Shintoism as a religious faith, which is the indigenous nature focused religion of Japan. Shinto is a form of nature worship and took its shape around divine spirits, gods or kami. It is one of the world’s religions so named by the Chinese for Japan to distinguish native religion from other religions accepted in Japan through Chinese influence.

We can say that Shintoism for Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan, its roots are said to be prehistoric and deeply of Chinese influence. It does not promote a system of dogma or moral code. But ritual seasons and tradition are significant with Shinto practices in Japanese life and culture.

There are some other religions and forms based on African and Native American traditions and systems of worship. This is where nature is systematic to dimensions of life. There are as such countless religious traditions across societies in Africa, America and elsewhere. Traditional religions have been of keen interest for study since the colonial times. In traditional circles, all life’s activities are typically religious as unique local array of traditions bring out familiar cosmological and divine aspects of existence. Labels for religious experiences as encountered by the colonists and missionaries were given for the convenience of understanding religious practices in the encountered regions. Traditional religions exist and serve means and purposes in their own terms for the sect and community groups. There is what is labelled shamanic practices or religions, here a shaman or priest possesses divine powers to celebrate rites, offer sacrifices and treat illnesses. They are feared and respected due to their association with the supernatural forces.

Fetishism consists of another form of religious activity including totemism based on the worship of idols and sacred symbols or objects. As labelled, the shaman, the totem, and the fetish are noted as important components of traditional religious systems. Native American religious traditions emphasize personal wholeness in light of the sacred process deemed natural.

In both of the African and Native American cultures, paganism is attributed to religious faiths that worship idols and trees as images of polytheism and monotheism, including cannibalism in the context of a community’s life and culture.

Pentecostal Movements, Evangelism and Prophetic Healing Churches

The topic of forms of the world’s religions must be joined with the religious born-again phenomenon. It is certainly rare to hear about economic born again, political born again, social born again, cultural born again. But with religion which plays on human emotions and spiritual balance, the born again mantra works with the promise to inherit the heaven, particularly the vulnerable population groups ridiculed by poverty and hopelessness.

Being born again assumed a status of being full gospel churches, beliefs and practices. The goal is ultimately to reconvert both members of the dominant Christian faiths and none members alike. The instrument of conversion is the use of the bible and citations of the promises of God to his people, the needy. Miracles, if you like born-again magic therapies are voiced out in the name of Jesus, alleluia and amen and made to happen to win mass converts and keep them as sources of promoting evangelism and economic wellbeing of the churches.

We have numerous powerful preachers today particularly since establishing churches has become the business of the day for self-employment and the pursuit of wealth and glory. Through forms of evangelical crusade – day and night vigils, mass communication and the social media, preaching the gospel of fame and prosperity, for connection, power and wealth is common place. A large number of prosperity prophetic crusaders and preachers live in palatial houses, drive state of the art cars, board first class flights and own air crafts of their own with security details protecting them. The masses seem to enjoy their prophetic healers swimming in riches as, in deed, a show of success of their spiritual manoeuvres.

Despite the increasingly phenomenon of Pentecostal dramatization of new churches and prophetic healing synergy, crime, corruption, sex-work and other manners of sinful life are not uprooted.

On the issue of violence and Islam, the Arab world has been perceived as terrorists and is on the constant watch list of the western powers at the airports, public places and business arenas. Rebels and sects such as Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Qaida, suicide bombers, kidnapping, ethnic cleansing and so on are currently a menace faced by the society irrespective of the countless forms of religions being professed and rebirthed.

As shown in the paper, particularly for Nigerian state captioned “Christian perceptions of Islam and society in relation to Boko Haram … in Nigeria” by Henry Gyang Mang (2014) published in Boko Haram: Islamism, politics, security and the state in Nigeria, p, 85 edited by Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos, French Institute of the African Studies Centre, Leiden - West African Politics and Society Series, Vol. 2, the faith war between Christians and Muslims is not relenting. It is even exacerbated by the legal implications of Shari'ah and the country's constitution in the Northern region.

The gap between the two major faiths has been accounted for to arise from embracing circular western education by Christians against Muslims who chose the Islamic tradition with its students called Koranic Students. It is important to state that popular circular education encouraged by flexible Christian values in the south of the country resulted in a persona of ‘Christian modernism’, relative to ‘Muslim inflexibility’ and low pace to compete. Other issues noted include a common fear by most Christians of the theocratic character of Islam. Although evident throughout the late colonial era and most especially in relation to the politics of independence and the First Republic came with two events - first the controversy surrounding Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1986, with a resurgence of the issue in 2001.

Second issue is that the increasing Christian apologist's fear over the dominance of Islamism in Nigerian politics. The legal roots for Christian view of justice and morality was accused of being English law oriented contrary to Arabic Islamic Shari'ah. Christians in the south fear the northern Islamic practices depicting Arabian lifestyle in Nigeria not ready to assimilate and accommodate non-Muslims as an overwhelming force on the polity which must be neutralized generally. That way, it has become convenient to see any symbolism of Islam as a threat to an established modern and secular system and vice versa.

The squabbles for representation of one religion over the other constantly lead to not only sporadic symbolism but also to expressed fights and uncontrolled violence from time to time. Interfaith religious manifestations should be encouraged in both local and national televisions as well as in public spaces shared. Religious faiths and peaceful relationships need to be shown for one another as violence has not helped in the history of nation building.


At this juncture, we might ask the noble question thus, has the world lost its religious hope for peace and order to religious technology and aggression? I do not suppose the world will in any way loose the battle of religion for peace to the battle of religion for disorder and war. We just need to re-adapt our ways of relating and connecting the idioms of faith as Charles Darwin has said in line with the various backgrounds of the world’s religions that life is in constant need of the supernatural God for survival of the fittest.

Apply your religious faith today against terrorism and all forms of corruption and evil anywhere you school, work and live. We have a good life to live in order to gain eternal life. We cannot afford to miss our chance to be with God, will you? If religion is still what the cultural backgrounds highlighted in this review, protest with it for the good of the society.

Religions and the faith principles they enunciate matter and we must put them into positive action to work for us and God - to certainly drive our will to be and become good professors of our benign faiths. In the summary given by Brandon Toropov and Fr. Luke Buckles, religions provide us with some critical down to earth advice for bridging gaps with people of other faiths.

It suggests that when we encounter other faiths that seemingly put out shady ways for peace and unity, we must equally expect to do something to be able to get along with difficult peoples and faiths to restrain and degrade terrorism, and indeed, corruption. We must connect and therefore surge for peace and order for a better interfaith relationships and practices in the contemporary situations.

African societies engage in ecumenical chores and they do dare to keep continental and sectarian faiths and ethnicity relevant. In that sense Nigerians, in particular, are faced with ideological religious pluralism in a circular state. Nigerians are more likely to go into conflicts against each other because of religion and ethnic divides generally but in regional specifics because of powerful Islamic and Christian value and operational differences and control of national power and wealth sharing.

Pope Francis sincerely modeled the critical power for interfaith collaborations for peace and obligation to everyone in his recent highly rated successful Papal outings among others in Cuba and the United States of America in September 2015. Nigerians love churches and faiths, we can do better to emancipate from ignorance and wrong ways for a beautiful nation based on plural churches and faiths. No other nation worships like Nigerians do with organized religions and spontaneous adoring reactions to gospel music, dance and God.

Reference Book

Brandon Toropov and Fr. Luke Burckles, O.P. 1997. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Religions. Alpha Books.