Religious belief systems often claim high moral values and the ability to unite people. They also claim that we primates have a special place in the world. All, I will claim, are false.

The promise of religion to unify, as we are all aware, is often very different. Recently I came across two examples from Ghana showing how religious leaders attempt to split up families and friends and create feelings of suspicion and paranoia in society.

Whilst a schoolboy, my friend met a visiting pastor who received a revelation that his best friend would lead him into trouble. The convincer was the pastor’s apparent ability to supernaturally reveal the friend’s name. It doesn’t take much thought to work out the many ways the pastor could have known the name but this is not the issue here. The boys had never been in trouble and my friend was not known for taking the wrong path. It seems a malicious comment to make based on the assumption that boys will get into trouble. It made my friend question his friendship and wonder if he had wrongly assessed his best friend. Negativity was the result of this ‘revelation’.

My second example is a friend who visited a spiritualist. He told her that a difficult relationship was the result of a spell. She was relieved to know there was a reason behind it and now wanted to uncover the spell caster. He also revealed that she had not really forgiven a family member. My friend was very impressed with the last revelation because she was convinced she had resolved her problems with the relative and was now at peace. But she now came to believe that, in reality, she hadn’t forgiven her relative despite what she felt. She was willing to reject her own feelings because of this statement from the spiritualist.

It reminds me of the South Park episode, Trapped in the Closet, where Stan learns, through a Scientology personality test, that he was miserable and depressed – something he had never realised before! The pattern in many religions is the same – to create a non-existent problem then claim to be the solution.

These religious men consolidate power in their hands even if, rather generously, that isn’t a conscious aim. Their methods are to destroy our trust of loved ones so that once our support is removed we become dependent on them.

These attitudes stem from the idea that things have gone out of balance in the world and that there has to be a reason. It’s a rather egocentric belief which expects that things are supposed to go well for us, especially if we hold a religious belief!

Our world is a self-sustaining system that, if knocked out of balance, is able to rebalance itself. Humans, just one aspect of nature, have no special place or consideration in this rebalancing operation. Moreover, the notion that personal difficulties are the result of imbalance rather than being a component part of life itself seems to negate life in all its richness. Our arrogance, that we are owed special consideration, is no more than self-centred, wishful thinking.

Until we stop shifting blame onto outside forces, take responsibility and reject the false worldview of religious belief, we will forever be sheep at the mercy of self-proclaimed shepherds, leading us into constant conflict.