OP-ED Opinions 

COVID-19: Common Sense Religion And Amnesia Concerning Afterlife By Leo Igwe



You may be wondering if a common-sense religion has a place for an afterlife. That is indeed a valid concern because life is a key element in the religious enterprise. In fact without life, human life, there is no religion, whether in the common or uncommon sense. Life is central to religious teachings and positions. Afterlife has been an exclusive preserve of religions and other supernatural permutations. Thus it is pertinent to ascertain how common sense religion, if at all, relates to this basic concern. Before zeroing in on that, it is important to highlight the connection between religion and life. Religions teach about life, how life started, how life should be lived in this world and what happens to life after death. These doctrines shape everyday religious behaviors and actions. Religion is concerned about life in three phases- life before life as we know it, life before death, and life after death. These three life dimensional preoccupations encapsulate religion in its fullness, in its commonsensical and uncommonsensical formations.

To better understand how common sense religion relates to the project of afterlife, an insight into the idea of common sense religion may be helpful. As I noted in an earlier article, common sense religion is a child of necessity, occasioned by the emergence of a common threat, or a major tragedy such as a coronavirus pandemic, that could extinct humanity, life, and religions. The emergence of a common enemy compels religions to recalibrate and to suspend their uncommon preoccupations. This tragic situation forces existing religions into forging an alliance to tackle and eliminate the threat. 

The main preoccupation of the common sense religion is the immediate need. It focuses on what works, what is useful in the here and now, what solves the problem that menacingly stares humankind on the face. Common sense religion’s point of reference is removing or neutralizing the threat that could engulf humanity. Thus common sense religion is a religion with a pragmatic proclivity. It is a religion that yields the wanted results and solutions for all. So life is of interest to the common-sense religious enterprise. Like existing religions, common sense religion is a pro-life religion. It is predicated on enriching and nourishing human life and existence. But this religious project is not pro-life in the sense of life before this life or life after this life. It is pro-this life; pro-life in the here and now. 

Afterlife or life in the hereafter is inconsequential because afterlife is a property of the uncommon-sense. It is a facility that is not reckoned with in the face of an immediate threat or calamity such as COVID-19. Think about it, a pandemic such as a coronavirus constitutes a threat to this life, to life in this world, or to life in the here and now. Look going by religion’s otherworldliness, the pandemic is a mechanism that could expedite the realization of the afterlife. A pandemic or any natural disaster is -and should be a welcome development. Such a calamity should be an asset, not a liability because it guarantees easy and immediate transition and access to the afterlife. COVID-19 is a development that would readily usher pro-afterlife persons into their much-cherished and awaited realm, heaven, paradise, and ancestorship. Thus believers in their uncommon sense should not respond to the coronavirus with panic and fear. Incidentally, in the old religions and in religious lurks the common and uncommon senses.

As widely observed in the case of a pandemic such as a coronavirus, religions quickly adopt, and switches to a common-sense mode. Religious believers are reluctant, and unwilling to embrace the afterlife that they claim to strongly believe in. In fact in the face of a pandemic, religious believers act like those persons who have stayed so long on the bank of an ocean proclaiming how joyful and magnificent life inside the ocean is or would be. These self styled ocean bound persons have expended so much energy preaching to all passers-by about the blissful life on the ocean floor, about how life under the waters was far better than life on the bank or anywhere else on land. They declared that they were looking forward to a life of perfect peace and happiness inside the ocean with all the bounteous rewards that awaited them. And one day, suddenly a huge ocean wave that was capable of engulfing all at the bank was sighted ferociously advancing towards them. Lo and behold these preachers and propagators of paradise at the ocean floor quickly took to their heels. They scattered and scampered for safety and shield from the ocean waves. They ran upland, in every imaginable direction but not towards the ocean wave, looking for any object that they could cling to, any rock or high land where they could stand, hide or stay to avoid being swept away by the waves. They fled the bank of the river hoping and wishing that the wave never returned. 
The scenario captures the clash between common and uncommon sense disposition towards life before and after death in the religious enterprise whenever some tragedy of a global dimension strikes.

Given their position on afterlife as an islamic theocracy, the government of Saudi Arabia should not have cancelled the Umrah. Should they? Iran should have allowed the Friday prayers to go ahead. Believers in Italy should have congregated in churches and temples, shaking hands, kissing and embracing one another as religiously demanded. But these rituals have been suspended or cancelled in submission to a common-sense religion that does not reckon with an afterlife.

Motivated by common-sense religious dictates, governments and religious authorities have been compelled to disallow rituals that guarantee an afterlife and instead act to protect and safeguard life in the here and now. Life in this world is momentarily prioritized over life in the next world. Characterized by forgetfulness of the afterlife, in the face of a pandemic, the great beyond does not look so great. The acclaimed blissfulness suddenly disappears. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the dawn of a common sense religion and a temporary amnesia concerning life in the hereafter.

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