Yesterday, the news of Mrs. Olufunsho Amosun’s confession about how she became a Muslim broke and here’s the brief story. She’s a Bishop’s daughter who, despite her parents’ initial misgivings, went ahead to marry Mr. Kunle Amosun, a Muslim. What a taboo! What an abomination! She didn’t think she would one day convert to Islam. But few years into the marriage, the domestic pressure took its toll and Funsho decided to join her husband in Allah’s worship. The children were part of the process. They asked her why she wasn’t joining her husband for prayers and she felt the need to be united with her husband in spirit. She was always convinced that even though her husband worshipped Allah, he believed in God and that was it. And she’s yet to regret the decision for the religious conversion.
Just as it’s usual of humans, bandwagonism has taken over. There are two sides — the Muslims and the Christians — having a go at each other.
The Muslims welcome her to Paradise and praise her decision to move from the darkness to the light. Now she has avoided hell fire. Now she has done what is expected of all humans — become a Muslim. Anybody that refuses to do that is condemned to the everlasting fire that will be personally supervised by Allah. Anyone that is not a Muslim can not know peace in this world and the world to come. Congratulatory messages keep pouring out to her for following the call of Allah and to her husband for successfully adding one more soul to the worship of Allah. Anyone that converts one soul to Allah shall receive a blessing from Allah. Blah blah blah.
On the other hand, the Christians are cursing and throwing bile at her. She has moved from the light to the darkness, from God to the devil. She was worshiping God, now she’s worshipping an idol (by the way, Allah is an idol as far as Christians are concerned). She was never really a genuine child of God as no child of God would abandon Christianity. In fact, she shouldn’t have married a Muslim. It shows that she wasn’t well brought up in the way of the Lord. Her parents (especially the Bishop father) should be ashamed of themselves right now. ‘A life without Christ is in crisis’ and henceforth, she will not know peace as ‘there’s no peace for the wicked’. And in the end, she’s going to the everlasting fire that will be personally supervised by Jehovah God. Blah blah blah.
Three months ago, another celebrity spoke of his conversion from one of these two powerhouses of religions to the other. Mr. Adewale Ayuba moved in the opposite direction to Mrs. Olufunsho Amosun. While she converted from Christianity to Islam, Ayuba converted from Islam to Christianity. And it’s the same thing. Just flip the coin over. Everything one group said about Funsho was what the other group said about Ayuba. No difference. He took to the podium in a Redeemed Church Parish in Lagos to share testimonies of God’s goodness since he converted. Christians rejoiced with him (‘joy in heaven over a soul that repents’) while his Muslim brother and sisters cursed him. Exactly the same thing.
Their stories are kind of similar. Olufunsho Amosun was a Christian that got married to a Muslim and she remained a Christian till they had grownup children. Her husband and her children were Muslims and she was the odd one out. Proverbial black sheep of the family? She got tired of being alone. She joined the rest of her family in Islam. Mr. Ayuba was a Muslim that got married to a Christian and he remained a Muslim till they had grownup children. His wife and his children were Christians and he was the odd one out. Proverbial black sheep of the family too? He got tired of being alone. He joined the rest of his family in Christianity.
This brings to the fore what to make of religious conversion in a place like Africa. I tried to think about it and I came up with five things.
1. Family Plays A Role in Your Religion of Choice
Religion is a binding force that binds a community, a clan, or a family. You’re a Christian or a Muslim today largely because the other members of your nuclear family are Christians or Muslims. Of course, there are situations where someone belongs to a religion that’s different from the one his parents, siblings or spouse is practising but those are very few occasions. Few and far in-between. The same family forces have played out here. Olufunsho bowed and followed the line of her nuclear family while Ayuba did exactly the same thing. In both cases, the majority of the family influenced the direction of the religious conversion.
2. Religion is Politics — A Game of Numbers
Religion is a binding force that binds a community. The higher the number, the more the comfort and assurance that the religion offers. So many people even feel that they’re in the right path just because a large number of people the world over are walking the same path. That’s why whenever a religion loses a member, the members of that religion go into some anguish. It’s as if their existence has been threatened one more unit. And the religion that’s receiving the convert rejoices because their existence has been strengthened one more unit. Every religion derives its substance and credibility from numbers. The higher the number, the more credible it appears. That’s where the politics comes in.
That’s why both religions evangelize and work hard towards increasing their numerical strength. The two religions were spread by political conquest. They thrive by politics. This is very similar to when members decamp from APC to PDP or vice versa: there’s joy on one side and anguish on the other. Picture religious groups as political parties and you will understand what I’m saying.
3. There’s No Much Difference in How Both Religions Treat Converts and Apostates
Neither religion is better or worse in how they handle their converts and apostates. If you convert away from either religion, you will meet the same persecution. Nothing much will happen to Ayuba and Funsho as they’re celebrities with high social statuses. But for people of lowly statuses, the story is different. People get sacked from work because of things like this. People get divorced by their spouses — in cases where the couple are in the same religion before one of the spouses converts away. In fact, life threats have greeted some cases of religious conversion.
The social pressure is much. The battle is hard. If anything good happens to the convert, members of the receiving religion celebrate it as the sign of the authenticity of their religion while the members of the losing religion see it as temporary goodness that will herald an impending doom. If anything bad happens to the convert, the members of the receiving religion see it as the devil’s attempt to discourage the convert from the good path he has chosen. They encourage him to stay focused on the way. The members of the losing religion see it as God’s punishment for abandoning light for darkness. The narratives are never hard to pick up.
It’s really crazy. However these two individuals are sort of beyond persecution but anything that happens to them henceforth (good or bad), the public will be eager to explain it in relation to their religious conversion.
4. Besides Social Persecution, Nothing Else Happens to An Apostate
As you can see, people who undertake religious conversion don’t manifest any changes. Apart from social persecution that may be associated with such scenarios, they hardly become sad or sink into crisis. People move from Islam to Christianity and they’re happier for it. People move in the opposite direction and they’re happier for it too.
Summary. Neither religion has the monopoly of happiness. ‘A life without Christ is in crisis’ is no more or less true than ‘A life without Allah is in crisis’. And ‘Christ is the only source of joy’ is no more or less true than ‘Allah is the only source of joy’. There’s no evidence that members of one religion are happier and more fulfilled than the members of the other religion. Any advertisement that says otherwise is just a false, fraudulent, claim.
5. Religious Conversion Is Rare Because Neither Religion Actually Has A More Convincing Story Than The Other
In an environment like ours, both religions actually record the same number of converts in both directions. While military conquests by the Arabs caused a sharp rise in religious conversion from indigenous spiritualities to Islam in the North and military conquests by Europeans caused a sharp rise in religious conversion from indigenous spiritualities in the South, nothing much has happened ever since. Proselytizing hasn’t done much to the numbers. Since independence, Christian evangelists haven’t succeeded in converting Muslims to Christians in large numbers. Similarly, Islam hasn’t successfully convinced Christians to voluntarily convert to Islam. Therefore, without military conquests and political harassment, large sections of the population won’t change religions overnight. If their ‘gospels’ were convincing, this would’ve happened. But that it has not happened is a testimony that the message of Islam and that of Christianity are not more or less convincing than the other.
Moral of the story
It’s sad that we Africans have become wrestlers in the name of these imported religions. The zeal to convert people from one religion to the other is based on false advertisement and the desire to feel comfortable in a crowd. This is one of the reasons why in one of my previous articles I advised that we should learn to keep our religions from public discussion. One religion won’t benefit anybody more than the other. Stop persecuting anyone who decides for a religious conversion. Nothing good or evil will happen to them except the ones you cause them. Religious conversion is not a big deal.