Religious Studies and I
Contrary to what many people think, Religious Studies is not a training ground for future pastors. Rather, it is a place where you learn to put your own faith to test, whether you are a Christian, Muslim or even a believer in the indigenous religion of Africa. You learn and unlearn. In the department of Religious Studies, you do not only learn the language with which the biblical texts are written, but also dig deep into why they were written, who wrote them, when they were written and the processes involved in compiling them. None of these is theological but are some of the basic knowledge about the Bible that an average Nigerian preacher does not have. They know little about the history of the religion they practice, yet they go about professing it as the best of all. Little wonder there is so much religious confusion. People don’t know what they are supposed to know. And the few that know don’t often have the platform to teach others because as they say, the letter kills.
In the religious circle, what we ought to know is what we are all ignorant of. What we are often taught about religion makes it easy for us to place our beliefs above our humanity. The consequence of this is that we fail to understand that we are human beings first before being a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, an agnostics or even an atheist. What we need to know is that religion is a tool for integration and not of discrimination. Religion is developed by humans as a means of knowing God and the aggregate of their thoughts about understanding Him. But the question remains if we can really know all about God or even understand Him perfectly. Oftentimes, it has nothing to do with what God says about Himself.
There is one fundamental truth about all humans. That truth is that none of us begged to be born into the families we were born into. A good number of us would have loved to be born in Norway or the Republic of Ireland if we had a choice to choose our family first. And when we were born into the families that nature herself chose for us, we unconsciously adopted the religion they practiced. Thus, the religions we practice are oftentimes chosen for us by our parents and those before them. Except in some cases, many of us practice the religion of the families we were born into and will most probably remain an adherent until death do us part.
This and many more is what Religious Studies is all about – to see the good in people regardless of their religion, to use religion as a unifying factor for a better society and to use the power of religion to preach peace because that is what religion is all about (having peace within and without). It is only a distorted mind that believes that religion is a tool for violence, terrorism, and oppression. Every religion preaches the brotherhood of mankind. This is the greatest lesson Religious Studies taught me.
So, if you want to be a priest, Religious Studies is not the place for you. In my opinion, you learn very little about what priesthood entails. As a matter of fact, you could end up more confused than you were before joining the department. When you start taking courses that shattered your long-held opinions about your religion and replaces them with objective opinions, taking them to heart means your understanding of the religion you practice and its “holy Scripture” will never remain the same again. When you start to learn about different religions besides yours, you will find out that many of those religions have many things in common than they admit.
AFAS Press and I
When I decided to join AFAS Press in 2017, it wasn’t because I know how to write or that I wanted to become the best writer and I needed a platform to showcase that. I joined primarily because I needed a place where I could stand for something and discover more about myself. I realised all of us cannot be politicians and because of our temperaments, some of us aren’t cut out to be public speakers either. Finding something I love and using it for a purpose is worthwhile. Fortunately, AFAS Press provided these and more. The longer you spend as an active member of the press, the better you become in your dealings. And when you become better, you will surely get the reward.
At AFAS Press, you do not only become better in writing, you learn some other things that can benefit you in your everyday life. Well, that is if you keep up with writing at least one article and/or one news story per week or every two weeks. Writing every week is not easy sometimes. To become better, you have to push yourself to write.
One of the things you learn and that will benefit you is time management. At AFAS Press, the deadline for submission is officially 3 pm on Friday but unofficially extended till 11:59 pm on Saturday. Now, you could decide to write more than is required of you, but that’s on you. But the real test is when you have been really busy during the week and didn’t have till the weekend to start preparing your article.
For a guy like me, it was really difficult sometimes. On a regular Saturday, I did my laundry and then went out to watch one or two Premier League matches. Besides, there were some assignments and term papers I sometimes put off till the weekend. But in the middle of all doing the laundry, choosing the Premier League matches to watch and doing the assignments, a voice constantly whispered in my ears that I had an article to write for AFAS Press.
And if you had attended the FLC sitting during the week, it is double jeopardy because you wouldn’t want to write a piece that seemed to put either the FLC or the executive council at war against the other. So, you would want to maintain a middle ground sometimes which is something that is difficult to maintain sometimes. This is so because members of the executive council have until recent times often being at the mercy of the FLC and sometimes you might be tempted to join voices with them in telling the honourable members to use their power with a modicum of human that is expected in an intellectual environment such as the University of Ibadan.
To push all of these through and then come out unscathed as someone without a social life takes a great deal of energy. You need to manage time well so you wouldn’t spend more time than is necessary one on activity in a way that affects others.
What I did was to set time for each of my activities during the weekend. If I said I was going to spend two hours on one or two articles, once it was time I would leave it and move on to the next activity on my list. Sometimes, it is not the time you spent writing that matters but the quality of the thoughts you have put into the writing. As I have learned, it is not enough to criticize. Criticism means you have something better to offer than what is currently accepted.
Also, being a member teaches you objectivity because your job requires you to interrogate matters from different angles. By this I mean you are around when certain decisions are taken. When you are writing them, you are to maintain objectivity. And when you write or pass comments on certain issues, you don’t do so like those that are not aware of anything but base their judgment on what they hear others say about the topic. When you have enough information and you are able to link events before drawing conclusions on issues without being subjective, you will be a respected writer. At some point, your friends and classmates that are politicians will begin to be cautious of what they say around you. This is because your reasoning capabilities have risen above theirs since you don’t only write but also analyse which takes a great deal of intellectual effort and you could easily pick out the errors in their thought. They will not want to invite you because if they give a hundred subjective reasons why things should be the way they are, you can give a thousand objective reasons why they shouldn’t be.
There is a story I like to share from my time as the Political Editor of AFAS Press. It was during the 2017/2018 session. At the time, I had no laptop or a working phone. In fact, I had told my brother before the start of the session that I would resign as the Political Editor because of my situation. Of course, being an editor without a phone or a laptop in AFAS Press or any press organisation for that matter isn’t easy. You won’t know what trouble you are in until people under your desk don’t submit articles on time or they don’t even submit at all and you need to fill in for them.
To deliver my duties meant I needed to get a laptop from my friends and roommates. Somehow, I survived as the Political Editor without a laptop or a smartphone for almost an entire session. As a matter of fact, I got the Union of Campus Journalists award for the best political writer; perhaps it was to compensate me for my ordeal. Then it dawned on me that sometimes it isn’t what we don’t have that stops us from doing the things we are supposed to do but what we have but we are not aware of. Many times, you don’t know all the things you are capable of because you have too many alternatives. When you realise you only have a shot at either succeeding or failing at something, you will put on your thinking cap.
Willpower is greater than any resources you have but don’t know how to use. As they say, if something is important to you, you will find a way to do it and not give excuses. AFAS Press taught me that and for that, I will forever be grateful. It is indeed a life lesson. I hope you learn one or two things from it.