A PHILOSOPHICAL EXAMINATION OF THE NIGERIAN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE IN THE LIGHT OF ANDRE GODIN’S IDEAS
Majority of the humans in the world are born into one religion or the other.The environment in which we live is densely religious. As a result, one starts to hear, see and touch things about God very early in life. In the market, on the road, even in drinking houses you see and hear people talk about God. Even when you are in your house a loud speaker is at your window telling you about God. As a child, and a Christian, you look at a corner of your sitting room and see an altar set up by your parents for the worship of God. Every morning you are disturbed from an early morning dose of sleep in order to say the morning prayers. In the school, before you settle for studies, you are confronted with a session of prayers. These are what we call religious encounters, the conscious assimilation of which becomes our experience – religious experience. We start having these experiences very early in life, and as we grow up we internalize the one that appealed to us. This will be our religious affiliation. But the question rests on the possibility and texture or quality of this experience. Its all about whether these encounters are necessarily qualified to be called an experience and how we can come to that. Is religious experience possible? How do we encounter God? Can we encounter God directly with or without the religious experiences? What is the nature of the Nigerian religious experience? Is it possible to encounter God in the country’s religious atmosphere? What are the factors that underlie the Nigerians’ religious attitude? These questions summarize what we shall discuss in this essay.
Andre Godin, in his book, The Psychological Dynamics Of Religious Experience, gave a psychological insight to these issues. He pointed out the different aspects and dynamics of religious experience. In a very profound manner, he tried to show how they could lead one to or away from the profound reality of the individual which he referred to as the experience of God. Mine is a philosophical exposition of this view, in relation to the religious experience in Nigeria (particularly Christian). Bringing out its relevance to Christians here in Nigeria, I will then make a leap, in a way of remark, to the way forward – from functional religion to the experience of God. The first chapter is the introduction. The second chapter examines the notion and dynamics of religious experience, as was posited by Andre Godin. Chapter three is devoted to a philosophical analysis of the Nigerian religious experience (Christian perspective), in relation to the ideas of Andre Godin. Chapter four is an effort to reconcile the experience of God with the end of religion. In this chapter also we shall evaluate the whole essay.
1.1 Statement Of The Problem
The word “experience” is very diversified. Often times we hear people talk about their religious experiences. And as each day passes we encounter people with one or more experiences, which can qualify to be called religious. From the sharing in the public transports, market places, to the activities at the revival and crusade grounds, people have stories to tell about their experiences. Most times, these issues are made more confusing and complicated by the outward signs and changes (both physical and psychological) the persons exhibit. A “rough” man who had been a drunkard and a smoker now appears more sober and responsible. A girl who had been reckless and wayward suddenly becomes more modest and “religious”. Consequently, one begins to wonder what these changes are all about. The questions now would be, “what brought about these changes?” what are they for? What motivated these people or what still motivates them? It may be a motivation born out of a desire to see a wish fulfilled (functional religion), or a longing to meet, to encounter the otherness of God (experience of God). Then what could be said of the Nigerian Christian community with regards to this?
1.2 Purpose Of The Study
The fact of the existence of religion is so obvious that any rational being can hardly ignore it. Its effects in the society are so conspicuous that it becomes odd and irrational to question its pervading presence. History is replete with the impact of religion in the life of people and the society at large. This fact is reiterated by Omoregbe when he affirmed that, “there is no other phenomenon which moulds and controls man’s life as much as religion does.” It has both sociological and psychological implications such that religious belief can have such a firm grip on people’s life as to impart a permanent change on them. This is what Godin took up and explored. In his book The Dynamics Of Religious Experience, he tried to bring out clearly, from a psychological point of view, the motive behind those impacts and changes, which religion could have on people’s lives. The concern of this study is to examine the dynamics of religious experience as posited by Andre Godin. Then we take a look at the nature of the Nigerian Christian religious experience so as to see how it can enhance the worship of God by Christians in Nigeria.
1.3 Scope Of The Study
Having said already that the concern of this essay is an examination of the Nigerian religious experience in relation to Andre Godin’s ideas on religiousExperience, it is pertinent, therefore, that we limit ourselves to Andre Godin’s view of religious experience and some other related, relevant themes. Other authors will be introduced when necessary.
The first and major method we shall adopt in this work is expository. In the second chapter, we shall use it to explore Godin’s view on religious experience. This will help in a comprehensive understanding of his argument. Then again, we shall as well employ it in the third chapter to view the dynamics and nature of the Nigerian Christian religious experience. Secondly, we shall adopt the method of critical analysis. This we shall use in the last chapter to make a philosophical evaluation and justification of the ideas presented in the course of the work. A. Godin; Psychologie des experiences religieuses: la desir et la realite, Eng. Trans. The psychological Dynamics of Religious Experience by M. Turton, (Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press, 1985), p.10.  J. Omoregbe; A Philosophical Look at Religion, (Lagos: Joja Educational Books and Research, 1993), p. xii.