Proliferation of Churches: A Leeway to Commercialization of Religion Anthonia M. Essien Department of Religious and Cultural Studies Faculty of Arts, University of Uyo, Nigeria E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +234(0)8033596961 Abstract This paper posits that religion has become a top bracket business in Nigeria. This is occasioned by the agglomeration of autonomous, non-centralized, independent and illegally established religious movements in Nigeria. This situation favours commercialization of religion. Although the founders and leaders postulate spiritual reasons for the emergence and expeditious growth of these religious movements but our research has shown that the pivotal reason of their emergence is basically economic. When religious adherents go to see ‘men and women of God’ who are assumed to develop power, predict the future, explain the present and uncover the past, they pay for the supposedly religious services rendered. Strikingly and paradoxically, the poor pay to be freed from poverty. Religion is now one of the easy means of achieving riches rather than a means of making people better citizens for a healthier society. This paper concludes that this situation can be revolutionized by improving social and health care services for the vulnerable in society. Basic theological education is to be given to people in the school system to help them understand the workings of the authentic religion. Religious leaders who commercialize religion should heed Jesus’ mandate: freely you have received freely you must give.
Keywords: Religion, Commercialization, Manipulations, Prophecy, Proliferation, Money, Faith, Healing.
Nigeria, like other nations in the third-world, has been witnessing the agglomeration of autonomous and non-centralized religious groups and movements in the past few decades. The country is a procreant ground for all kinds of religious movements. The founders of these religious movements postulate diversified reasons for their emergence and expeditious growth. For instance, during a field research1, I interviewed eight-six founders of the current independent religious movements and the reasons given as causative factors for the emergence and rapid increase of these movements include the following: a) direct Revelation from God through dreams and visions b) towards a search for spiritual development in private mannerism This field-work was carried out during my doctoral research “New Religious Movements in Annang Community: A study of the GoodNews Community” at the University of Ibadan on August 16, 1995. 1
Proliferation of Churches: A Leeway to Commercialization of Religion c) d) e) f)
doctrinal differences/Biblical Interpretations misunderstandings, quarrels and cheats a desire not to be controlled by others political motivations: to establish a church for one's village as it exists in other villages. Despite the reasons for the foundations of these religious groups by their Founders there appear to be a common notion that the pivotal reason of the emergence of these religious groups is commercial2. But most founders of the independent religious groups would hardly accept this fact. For instance, in my recent research illustrated above, none of founders of the religious groups identified commercial tendencies as a motivated factor for the commencement of the religious group. Commercial tendencies of the many religious groups in Nigeria have of late become overtly evident that it cannot be safely ignored. Religion has been largely seen in Nigeria as a source of making money. Nigeria has been described as basically a money-worshipping nation3. The money-business in colours of religion find comfortable a place in many churches in Nigeria today. Religion has been twisted as it were to suit the intents and...