I have been thinking a lot recently about why religion continues to hold such a big relevance to us as Africans. Aside our constant need to be told what to do by total strangers who say they have a closer connection to some God none of us has seen before, I have realised also the power of the social contract, which keeps most of us in line.
Social contract is a term I remember vaguely from school, a loose term encompassing the implicit agreement between a government and a people, you pay your taxes and we look after you, or something to that effect.
This is the same principle on which religion has spread throughout our society, and why it would be eons before we as a people, whether Ghanaians or Africans, move away from that mentality.
After buying into the social contract of religion, it becomes difficult, virtually impossible, to get out of it. After all, oftentimes we have no choice in the matter, most of us are raised that way and by the time you know better that is the only way of life you know.
So we become immersed in the lie, even when we realise it’s a lie there is no way out; because of another little thing I call the social obligation.
The social obligation refers to the need to conform, to fit in so as not to be an outcast from the society you have to live in. It’s why people get worried when they haven’t gotten married by a certain age, or have gotten married but don’t have kids after a certain period, and, I’m sure you get my drift by now.
I have realised the social obligation is what keeps most of us in line when it comes to religion, even more than the need to feel someone else is in charge of our fate.
Because so many people are living a lie that I do not see how they can wake up every Sunday morning and go to church. Because it’s difficult to fathom how you get some ideas beat into you all the time, live in stark contrast to those ideas, and yet still claim to hold true to those ideas.
It is a stark contradiction that makes me conclude most people keep persevering with religion because of the social obligation. I realised at a time that I always sounded like a phoney when praying, because I had done some very un-Christ like things just a short while before that, so I stopped altogether.
I realise that’s how most people must feel, because looking at the world as is you cannot draw any other conclusion. But we keep on, because we have no other choice, we must keep on living the lie to remain upstanding members of society.
Consider this dialogue, from the television show Game of Thrones, between its two best players.
Littlefinger: The realm, do you know what the realm is? It’s the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies, a story we agreed to tell each other over and over. Till we forget it’s a lie
Varys: But what do we have left, once we abandon the lie? Chaos, a gaping pit, waiting to swallow us all
So the lie is important, because it holds us together, but it doesn’t make it any less of a lie. Because that’s what religion is, and I think most people realise that at one point or another; but the social obligation requires we stay in line.
Because what do we have left, once we abandon the lie?
I look at my friends every day, the lives of debauchery we share, and wonder how they remain such regular Christians. Is there no shame, no guilt?
Perhaps there is, but the social obligation keeps us in line. That’s the conclusion I have reached anyway, feel free to disagree with me below.