ONE of the positions that my spirit strongly rejects in the exclusivist philosophies of Christianity and Islam is the ineluctable fate that they say awaits those who do not share their views on the Almighty: Hell fire.
I wonder why a good God, or Allah, would consider hell for such great humanists and pure souls as the late Tai Solarin, who has now been joined in eternity by his devoted wife Sheila; and the late Gani Fawehinmi, only on the basis of their religious persuasions of Him.
I also wonder where, on the last day, the Almighty would put the army of ungodly men (and lately women) of God in Nigeria who define living by ostentation while their followers wallow in poverty.
The late Fawehinmi lived for the common man. He considered it nothing to die for them too. His legal practice thrived and he could easily have blended with the affluent, particularly the military, as many others did. Yet, Fawehinmi chose to side with the poor. He championed all sorts of causes that he felt would force the government to consider the weak in their policies. He gladly suffered personal indignities in the process. He remains the most detained Nigerian, dead or alive. Yet he committed no crime other than fighting the cause of the helpless.
Christian theology teaches that anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ will go to hell fire. So, I ask, is Gani Fawehinmi in hell today because by circumstances of birth (which he could not have helped) he lived and died a Muslim? Some would say he heard the gospel yet refused to accept Jesus Christ. But, I note that he also read the Quran which told him of a different route to heavenly peace! And God has not rained fire on the propagators of Islam or of any other religious persuasion!
The same puzzle goes to the preachers of the exclusivist Islam. I ask: Does it mean that anybody who because of the religious buffet in the world does not go the way of Islam will go to hell? Even if that person is Nelson Mandela, who considered it worthy sacrifice to be in prison for 27 years to liberate millions of his people while many Muslims and Christians remained in their comfort zones?
Will God throw the estimated 700 million Maoists (about 59 percent) of the over 1.3 billion people in China into hell fire? The same fate is coming the way of another 660 million Chinese who are Buddhists and Taoists? The 1.2 billion Indians are in the same shoes. According to Wikipedia, 80.5 percent of Indians are Hinduists, 13.4 percent Muslims, 2.3 percent Christians, 1.9 percent Sikhists, 0.8 percent Buddhists and 0.4 Jainists.
Going by the non inclusive views of Christianity and Islam (which make members of Boko Haram insist on exterminating those who do not share their religious persuasions, while many Christians also look down on the adherents of other views) Fawehinmi, Tai and Sheila Solarin are in hell now? China and India will also donate more than two billion people to the fiery lake?
The Solarins, like Fawehinmi, gave their all to improve the lot of the creations of the Almighty. Stories abound of how they gave shelter and free education to hundreds of children of indigent Biafra-returnees in their immensely successful school, Mayflower, Ikenne. Old man Tai slumped and died on June 27, 1994 shortly after participating in another round of street protests against the military, which proved fatal to his failing health.
Yet, most of the Christian and Muslim leaders who condemn the religious persuasion of Tai and Sheila, and dress themselves in the garb of men (and women) of God — who claim direct communication with God; who give incendiary interpretations to holy books and encourage religious strife, thereby resulting in the death of hundreds of the Almighty’s creation, who luxuriate in opulence while their followers literally feed from the dust bin — looked the other way.
In contrast, the Solarins who are credited with denying God’s existence lived modestly and gave their all to others. They died on duty, improving human lives. The Europeans who gave us Christianity rarely invite God into their affairs these days. Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam, does not erupt into violence anytime a perceived anti-Islam action is recorded in other parts of the world.
So, I wonder: For whom is hell fire reserved? The over two billion Chinese and Indians, Gani Fawehinmi, Tai Solarin, Sheila Solarin, or the religious yet ungodly people who dot the land? Just wondering…
- First published in the Nigerian Compass circa 25 October 2012