I should begin this review with a preamble about the thematic purview of the book, or any random relative that would arrest the attention adequately.
This work however makes nonsense of any such academic pretentiousness.
‘Religion – The Ultimate Curse on Mankind’ by Imoh David does not hesitate in the least. It starts right off sounding like a sudden loud clap in dormitory of sleeping bodies, and like such a sudden intrusion into the ongoing somnolence, it audaciously demands and grabs attention…from title to conclusion.
If nudging people aside in a crowd to get to an elevation of safety during a melee which threatens to lead to a life-threatening riot is considered rude, then this book can be safely adjudged as rude.
The style is at once argumentative and confrontational, but it is a brusqueness which begs its necessity from sheer expediency.
Written in form of a soliloquy in parts, and a factually historical treatise in a few others, ‘Religion – The Ultimate Curse on Mankind’ reads more like one side of a conversation with a somewhat overbearing, but astutely observant and engaging lunch companion. The language is at times brusque, the style uncompromisingly opinionated.
It is a hard book to read, and this not because of its language. It is as tasking in the same sense that listening to a speech that challenges a hitherto cherished Life stance can be arduous. This book does not try to make friends. It takes brazen swipes at the Nigerian society in particular, and extends its reach to the broader African society and the black race in general.
The author switches easily between extremes of sarcasm to a strait-laced excoriation of prevailing popular culture and religion with suggestions of a deep exasperation which at once intimate the reader with a probable inner worldview of the artist as one who must either have endured some deep personal injury from the behemoths he confronts, or else is an especially prolific artist who may have just created an important sub-genre of the literary form of the Spoken Word.
The reader swings with the author from the same pendulum, but it is not altogether an unpleasant experience, as mental interruptions like these usually go…much like watching a performance by a skilled word artist.
The reader is aware of his own separation from the performer. At the same time, he frowns, smiles or jerks upright in tune with the performer’s changing cues.
The political incorrectness is in parts cringe worthy, and in other parts endearing.
The author uses epithets like ‘’sheeple’’ and ‘’religitard’’ in describing religious persons with an audacity some might find vexatious.
Perhaps it could be argued that the author could not possibly escape such descents into bare-knuckled affronts to social niceties and related courtesies, as this work takes on an unmistakably formidable adversary – Religion.
This author laughs at Religion, even taking broad swipes at God in parts. He takes a swipe at the holy writs of the two biggest world religions with the least of apprehensions, boldly taking on those questions most have always grappled with, but did not dare voice. A lack of civility quickly becomes the least of the reader’s concerns as he progresses in the delightfully interesting tour of religious and socio-cultural reality the author so eagerly takes him on.
The book makes a few claims which must be questioned. The process of querying these claims however throws up an interesting conundrum.
Take this instance:
‘’If God hears not the prayers of the religious Nigerians and accord the largely irreligious Japanese military triumph over Nigeria, does it not show that God is on the side of the man whose abilities and resources will make his work easier? …’’
The Japanese are not irreligious. Buddhism is the popular religion in Japan.
Then again in a rather queer twist, the author’s argument is redeemed, seeing as his ‘God’ in focus is clearly the Muslim god, Allah, and the Christian god, Jehovah (or Yahweh).
If Yahweh or Allah is not the controlling deities of the Japanese, how then is the argument by born again Christians that economic success is dependent on affiliation with Jehovah (Yahweh) tenable?
Who prospers Muslims? Who ensures success and progress to Hindus, Buddhists and Ifa adherents?
This is yet another way this work intrigues. It creates a special difficulty in its critique, because it drags you into its queries. It is like an inquisition the whole community of its readers cannot help but attend. Problem is it is their inquisition. They are their own examiners.
Again, in questioning the recent Forbes list of wealthiest preachers on the globe, the author wonders:
. ‘’…isn’t it ironic that people like (the) Dalai Lama and Rumi did not make the list?’’
If this ‘’Rumi’’ refers to the Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad Din Rumi, then one has to imagine that citation could only be asking for a posthumous listing, just as of Mansa Musa of the ancient Malian empire, as Rumi has been dead since 1273.
I was in the process of writing this review when news broke that a state governor in Nigeria had approved the sum of fifty five million Naira to sponsor a Quran recitation fest. This just after it was reported that all 36 states governors in Nigeria were agonizing over the payment of a mere N18, 000.00 (about $95 USD) monthly minimum wage for government workers.
I struggled to deal with the sense of despair this engendered in my insides, so I could be detached adequately from the task before me.
It wouldn’t have done for me to immerse myself in the raw ire seeping through the pages of the work before me.
If I did, I would have been content to simply say:
‘’you know what?
Read ‘Religion – The Ultimate Curse on Mankind’ by the hugely promising new-kid-on-the-block, Imoh David, the Nigerian atheist, visual artist and writer.
Read this book and be substantially wiser.
You might be indicted. You will be indignant for the most. You will come out smarter nonetheless.
What’s more, you could perhaps manage some sense of gratitude that in your lifetime you had the privilege of entering the mind of another human who made the venture of being human the most profoundly honourable privilege there ever could be.
If nothing, this sense of gratitude could be your own personal salvation from the Hobbesian drudgery the larger swathes of our shared humanity seem so bent on pulling everyone and everything into!’’
I would finish with that exclamatory flourish, and publish, content with the conviction that I have in the space of those few words managed to encapsulate my honest opinion and the entire review necessary of this work.
The Caveats would have been sufficiently conveyed. The overall conclusions as to the readability and quality of the work would have been settled too.
This would have been a good review, and as the exercise goes, that should one of the most imperative concerns of any critique of a creative work, whether it is of architecture or of literature – its necessity and usability.
This honestly brave work would have however suffered an unfair injury from such a review.
It would have been visited by a rather cruel malison delivered by the hands of this reviewer.
If you are left scrambling as I did, for a dictionary to look up ‘’malison’’, then be sure that you are not in any way imagining my smug grin of a ‘’serves you right’’ satisfaction. The one who elects to find companions to share their misery would understand my contentment only too well.
This was my major grouse with this work. One has to wonder if perhaps the author was either enjoying himself a bit too much for general comfort, or worse, was just being clever.
While I can understand the possibility of someone who delves into the decidedly difficult terrain of daring to challenge the behemoths of Religion and even God with a charmingly dexterous literalism such as this author employs so breezily, finding some heady exhilaration with the whole exercise, I have to wonder also if the author is not delving into sheer cleverness at the expense of his own creation.
And while I yet mull over the author’s intents, I would take the liberty to say this book makes no attempts at bending to the irenic in any way.
I wanted to say ‘’irenic’’. I came across it in my foray into Webster’s world in my search for the meaning of ‘’malison’’.
Forgive me. Such is the unwitting effect of reading this book. The charm is subtle, but its effects are unmistakable. Imoh David can make you enjoy words just a bit more.
This book paints a haunting picture of today’s society, so that the reader is immediately unsettled.
‘’Nigeria is a country that boasts of some of “God’s best generals”. Some of these so called God’s generals work so hard and are in constant demand for miracles by their flock that they have purchased private jets to improve their efficiency. Yet, not once has God used them or any number of millions of devoted Christians to separate our Siamese twins or grow the limbs of our amputees. When it comes to these types of cases, it appears that God prefers the miracle of medical science…’’
The age-long question evangelizing persons have always posed to the potential proselyte has always been: ‘’why don’t you believe (in God)?’’
The respondent is usually left squirming for good reason. Seeing as our society is so rampantly pious, the idea that there could ever be a remotely honourable reason for not believing in God is inconceivable.
The query of our age has begun to shift, and not a moment too soon. Courageous secularists, humanists, atheists and other shades of freethinkers have helped reshape the query to:
‘’Why do you believe (in God)?’’
The venture of belief is under attack.
This would logically unsettle anyone who strives for tolerance and some measure at least of ecumenism within and among religious philosophies and adherents.
Imoh David queries this discomfort
There is very little conciliation to the finer points of the highest counter-arguments in favour of Religion by scholars and all shades of apologetics in that realm. The author wields his scythe a little too brutally, and so might have opened up his conclusions to vociferous excoriation by those his weapon injures, as well as other critics.
The author leaves a few blindsides in his most compelling arguments. For a work taking on a subject that is as vexingly controversial as criticizing religion, such oversight could prove grievously injurious in the hands of the aggrieved.
The author takes a quite literal view of the religious texts for one. He highlights one of the most questionable Muslim hadiths:
Tabari 1:280: “Allah said, ‘it is my obligation to make Eve bleed once every month as she made this tree bleed. I must also make Eve stupid, although I created her intelligent.’ Because Allah afflicted Eve, all of the women of this world menstruate and are stupid.”
The more significant numbers of religious apologetics usually interpret these troubling verses in largely metaphorical terms, when the argument of contextual expedience does not suffice.
‘’Stupid ‘here is usually explained away by apologists as the Ancients’ understanding of pre-menstrual symptoms.
Again even without much strain, the author makes a solidly good case against the opponent. If the ancients were so terribly misled, how could the present age not be endangering civilization and human progress itself by following the dictates of men so flawed in reasoning and rationalization of natural phenomena?
The book is peppered with famous quotes from contemporary and historical thought icons – from the fields of philosophy, the humanities, arts and science, but I daresay it is the originally quirky quips by the author himself that would more likely remain indelible in the readers memory, what with their uncanny ability to stir either mirth or vexation in the mind long after the book has been put down.
The possibility that you would never hear or witness most commonplace cliché events without recalling a quote from this book is especially strong.
‘’ Sex sells, but Fear is the superior salesman’’, is one of such instances.
The author displays a skill with descriptive coinages that most would find delightful, as they interrupt the somberness of the discussion at choice points.
The fact that they are easily understood helps quite some.
Words like ‘’Pastorpreneur’’ which have slowly crept into the informal Nigerian street lexicon, and ‘’Pulpitarian’’ come to mind here.
‘’Pimpingstry’’, which is obviously the author’s creation suggest a carefully restrained wit, the kind which provokes a winsome smile of comprehension from not a few readers especially in the millennial demographic.
This work does not sneak itself into the tapestry social discourse. It comes bellowing. Querulously.
It is not abashed at its imperfections. The author for instance admits to an unawareness of Islamic Feminism.
‘’ I do not know if there are any such people as Muslim feminists, but if they are, I won’t be surprised…’’
For a work which so carefully researched much of Islamic history in its course, this oversight would appear to be deliberately dismissive.
In all, the author’s thoughts on Feminism Vis a Vis Religion, with special emphasis on Christendom is groundbreaking and audacious. Considering the general audacity of the thrust of the entire book, this is not surprising.
‘’…A Christian feminist sounds as awesome a Jewish Nazi.’’
The author in a nutshell, challenges the Christian woman to throw religion overboard without apologies. As he holds that the idea of the religious feminist is quite the offensive paradox.
The commonsense logicality of some of his assertions is self-evident. The fact that they bear repeating, and have to be defended or emphasized with any strain at all is the major indictment against our present age. It is also the most compelling argument for this work.
What this reveals is that Religion – The Ultimate Curse on Mankind is much more than just a book. It is an ongoing conversation which merges into the long-term sociopolitical discourse of our civilization – a world grappling with the inevitable berthing of Reason and Secularism on the philosophical landscape.
Sequels to this monumental work would certainly not be unexpected…and why not? Works of art should be about Life. The creativity worth its adjective is that creativity that transcends the confines of its presentational form and sneaks its tentacles into and around just about every area of human engagement, affecting the very realities that undergird their existence.
This book delivers on these grounds. It delivers well. I daresay it is one book that is expected to earn a very comfortable listing beside some of the best known works by the leading voices on Secularism, Humanism and Atheism.
Nigeria’s answer to the Dawkins, the Hitchens and the Hirsi Alis of our world might have just been born in Imoh David.
In conclusion, the author makes a solidly good case for the re-examination of the venture of Belief; the necessity of Religion, especially as an integral aspect of our public life; of the impeccability of Faith.
This book is a worthy read across all fields of thought.
I personally hope this author finds and keeps his voice for a very long time to come.
Nov. 22, 2015.
You can get Imoh Son of David’s best selling book The Ultimate Curse on Mankind on Amazon here http://www.amazon.com/dp/1770765484/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_awdm_FGFhwb024RR8Q
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