It has been interesting to watch the debate on and accusation being leveled against the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s articulation on the issue of religion and law. I have decided that those who have jumped into the ‘anti-Chief Justice’ (CJ) bandwagon suffer from serious poverty of appreciating the philosophical debate that he has raised.
The primary point of departure arises from the fact that they cannot appreciate that religion has both function and content. In haste to denounce the CJ many failed to realize that his point is addressing the function of religion in society; i.e. its ability to shape a value based society. In this haste the detractors of the CJ chose to pin their arguments on content of religion.
Even the deeply religious of nearly every faith should be able to agree that it is the differences on content of religion that has confused and spread false beliefs than pretty much any other belief systems ever conceived by humankind.
Another fault line in this debate is the belief that religion occurs only in the church, temple, or other spiritual place of gathering. They only see religion and society as complete, separate entities. While this view may appear correct on the surface, a closer look at religion and society reveals that the two are not separate at all, but intricately interconnected and codependent.
The CJ was also speaking about law. I hope we agree that law and society are related to each other. Nothing can explain without any of them. Society becomes the jungle without the law. Law also needs to be changed according to the changes the society faces, because without the necessary changes law cannot keep pace with society.
Without the control of the law, the society became the jungle or at least barbaric. So, to keep the society peaceful, we need to create a harmonious relationship between law and society.
It must therefore be clear that law, religion and society have a dynamic relation relationship. Marx once said; “The religious world is but the reflex of the real world.” I would dare say, given the above description of law and society, that so is law!
The two are like other social institutions in that they are dependent upon the material and economic realities in a given society. They have no independent history; instead they are the expression of productive forces.
An interesting question was once asked on the role of religion in 'corporate behaviour' was asked. This was largely because the corporate world is seen as a place, largely believed and understood to be ruled by the professionals and professionalism, business interest and pragmatic thinking, planning and achievements etc.,
Hence, the room for religion, religious faiths and practices are expected to be completely absent in the corporate. This is a popularly belief about corporate culture in general but such beliefs are far from truth and we all know it.
People in the most corporates are highly religious at their gene level. In every conduct of people’s behavior, we can see the effect and impact of the religion. People in the corporate across the globe do carry religion in their behavior and in their leadership approach as well.
Ukuhlaba (animal sacrifice) is well known to mankind. All religions, whether it is Christianity, Islam, Hindu etc., have been practicing some form of sacrifice in one form or other. The genesis of such practice has its roots in pleasing and appeasing the god in order to get the blessings. To get rid of the evils also, animal sacrifices are practiced.
Such practices are very common among boss-subordinates, at peer level and at intra department functions. Most of the a-religious men in corporate (and in the legal fraternity) are highly religious and do all religious practices to get their dividends, may be without the knowledge.
Look at the legal fraternity setup closely, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to be precise. There have been and are several commotions and wars. Whenever things go wrong, the people move from pillar to post to spot a 'sacrificial goat'. Once such a goat is identified, in a well-orchestrated manner, the person identified will be blamed for the entire chaos and put him onto a cross.
So what is this fuss about? Could it be about the person who raised a philosophical issue? Is it about poverty of philosophical thought? May be is it the usual sensation to create a ‘sacrificial lamb’ out of the CJ? Or much ado about nothing? All we can say is; Oh Lord, why Lord?
Our democracy is built on the ideal of creating an open society that shares information. When there is information there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When people are besieged because they dare to challenge common belief, we create information dearth and democracy is not deepened.
In reality, religion is inherent within many aspects of society, and religious beliefs inevitably affect areas such as politics, law, economics, and cultural values. This relationship between religion and society can be seen in Islamic religion and Muslim social culture, Christianity and economics, and Buddhism and politics.
In each of these religions we can find insight for understanding the society in which it exists, as well as in the comparison of these religions and their relationships with society.
Religion is the self-conscious effort to understand and act correctly in this world. Religious beliefs give meaning to life, and experiences associated with them provide personal gratification as well as release us from the frustrations and anxieties of daily life.