• The ugliest parts of world history were started by a random fellow citing religion
When the news broke of the horrific tales from Shakahola forest in Kilifi county last week, the news spread like wildfire in the country and was carried by several international media outlets.
A church leader by the name of Paul Mackenzie had been indoctrinating starvation to his followers. Police raided the village and the nearby forest, finding several unmarked shallow graves and exhuming bodies, mostly of children.
Mackenzie himself was taken into custody and refused food and drink, claiming to be fasting. Many members of the Good News International Church were rescued by police as they were found starving and some refused aid after being brainwashed by Mackenzie. Cult leader Mackenzie convinced his parishioners that in order to go to heaven and meet Jesus, they needed to starve themselves.
The only thing surprising after the news broke out was how unsurprised Kenyans were. As horrific and as sad as the news may be, we have become cynical of those who are imprudent and choose to follow blindly. With all that is going on in the world, we seem to have little sympathy left for those who blindly follow zealots into an early grave.
If history is any indicator, it warns us of following leaders, priests and groups blindly. Religion is often at the epicentre of cult formation. If you think about it, the ugliest parts of world history were started by a random fellow who used religious text for back-up. Colonisation, slavery, wars, terror attacks… All these incidents were caused by fanatics who used ‘the word of God’ to indoctrinate people into fighting for their cause and/or justified massacres by using religious text.
I don’t believe any religion at its core would preach nonsense such as murder or starvation. Religion gives believers an identity, a safe place to resonate their beliefs with their life choices. Religious texts are records of historical facts that are meant to enlighten those who read it. As is true with any piece of literature, religious texts remain open to interpretation. This is where dangerous people dressed in the facade of clergymen twist the meaning of the words to their advantage. They misconstrue the meanings of the written word and use it to prey on the weak.
They prey on people’s ignorance and vulnerability to lure them into their fold. Cults prey on the weaknesses of their followers to get the most out of them. They can completely brainwash a person to the point that they only see and hear the preacher's words. They sway them with the fear of the unknown when we die, and entice them with greater rewards in life after death.
As a religious person, I have never been one to endorse a religious leader. Sure, they might have read more scriptures and learnt more than I ever will, and it’s alright to listen to sermons with an open mind. But at the end of it all, Man is human and human is to err. What makes a religious leader prone to sin and fault? Nothing. Clergymen are humans as we are, they do not know the truth of anything past what is written in black and white. With that said, read scriptures for yourself so that you may promote your own understanding of religion. Stop following clergymen blindly!