Book Title: Belief: A Trail Of Blood
Author: Ikechukwu Nwanze
Reviewer: Boye Salau
Ignorance, according to Molly Ivins, is the root of all evil. And the legendary Martin Lurther King Jnr. also said “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”.
Regrettably, ignorance constitutes the quintessential elements of livelihood in our society. While ignorance and follies in the olden days could be attributed to backwardness, primitiveness, paganism and barbarism, ignorance in the modern world is rooted in religious beliefs, intolerance, extremism and destructive fundamentalism.
In the medieval ages for instance, ritual murder was a daily routine in many parts of the world. Thousands of innocent people were killed to make sacrifices, with the belief that by so doing they would appease the gods who they believed, were capable of providing them wealth, power, good health and long life.
Even in today’s world of civilisation, high technology and religious awareness, certain irrational, obnoxious and mysterious beliefs, myths, superstitutions, traditional cosmology and foolish bravado leading to needless deaths still dominate some societies.
For instance, every failure, misfortune in African society is attributed to witchcraft. Whenever a man dies a sudden death, witches or enemies are blamed for it. Whenever business fails, it is attributed to witchcraft. Whenever car accident occurs, accusing fingers are pointed at witches, even when it is obvious that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol.
In other words, witchcraft is made a convenient scapegoat for every natural and man-made disaster and misfortune.
These are some of the beliefs and traditions Ikechukwu Nwanze captures with a demur in the Volume Two of his Random Reflections which he titled Belief: A Trail of Blood.
Nwanze makes argument that most of these atrocious beliefs and traditions are rooted in human ignorance and follies. He justifies this through historical analysis supported with dates, employment of quotable quotes of great writers and authors like Martin Lurther King Jnr., James Michener, Molly Ivins etc, and by making references to Biblical verses and some mysterious happenings around the world.
He particularly devotes a whole chapter to some of these beliefs, and another chapter to some ancient practices and traditions, some of them still subsist till today, such as voodoism, witchcraft, reincarnation, ritual murders, supernaturalism and other mysterious happenings that are commonly found among the natives of West Indies, South America and ultimately among Africans.
Nwanze gives an historical overview of some absurd and dangerous beliefs and traditions from the medieval Europe to modern Africa and how these beliefs and myths have claimed millions of lives.
He writes, “Today, the world suffers the consequences of the actions of some groups that believe that if they wear vests laden with bombs, and blow themselves up along with numerous innocent people, they would be doing God a huge favour and earn His commendation and reward in heaven with multiple virgins and other indulgences in the eternal paradise of heavenly comfort…”
He argues categorically that these atrocious and stupid beliefs and fantasies are founded on sheer ignorance.
Although, Nwanze believes it is what a man professes that comes to pass, as in the case of the Rivers State governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi whose judicial victory at the Supreme Court, he says, was attributed to his avowed and professed belief, faith and conviction that “I prayed myself to this office… I prayed and prayed and I believed that God will make me the Governor”, he says it is wrong and foolish for people to subject themselves to the beliefs of other people without subjecting such beliefs to questioning, examination, investigation, scrutiny and analysis.
He states, “Yet, some of us carry on with our inherited beliefs without questioning, without examination, without scrutiny, without investigation, without analysis.Our faith in our religion is therefore superficial and lacks depth and is absolutely dependent upon what the teacher of the religion told us. We fail to realise that, had it been intended for us to be totally dependent on what we are told, the holy books would not have been necessary. There would not have been need for the mind in the first place. We were given a mind and the capacity to think, to make choices, so we can analyse things independently. The holy books enjoin us to be critical in things we hear and to subject what we are told to examination, to be sure that the teacher is following the doctrine as the scriptures provided”.
Nwanze gives example of the Guyana tragedy in which “a preacher in the USA was able to convince his followers that if they all took poison and die, they would all go to heaven and live with God in eternal paradise. His followers believed him and they all took poison and died in their numbers”.
He also gives examples of how many people choose their respective denominations just because they are either infatuated by the eloquence and oratorical prowess of their Pastors, or admire the beauty and dressing style of their Pastors.
In a nutshell, Nwanze’s book reflects on human follies and how many people have taken absurdity to a high level in their beliefs, especially in Africa.
Nwanze is indeed right. If our ancestors could be forgiven for doing all what they did in ignorance, in this so-called modern times of civilisation when we brag about accomplishments in science and technology, and when we preach religious tolerance and appear to have divine endorsement, what excuse do we supply for all the oppressive, repressive and coercive tendencies that characterise our existence that go with our beliefs?
The way out of these erroneous beliefs and absurd perceptions, according to Nwanze, is to give room to education and enlightenment, which would provide us the ability to examine, question and scrutinise our beliefs.
He states, “To continue to live in the error of our absurd perceptions is to accept we are less than human”. After all, he continues, “no one should see or be told of fire and dip their (his) hand(s) in it”.
Nwanze’s book might be considered as a confrontational work against some beliefs and traditions, it is a well-researched and must-read piece that should be seen as a wake-up call to all our religious leaders and their followers in Africa, some of who have taken absurdity to a high and noble level in their beliefs.
It also serves as a wake-up call forAfrican nations to retrace their steps from the belief systems that are not only injurious to natural justice, but also retard African progress and development.
The book is indeed a great improvement on its volume one. However, the voluminous pages of the book might be in bad taste to impatient readers, while lack of references to other religious books apart from the Bible makes Nwanze’s argument narrow and religious biased, and may make the book less appealing to adherents of other religions.