Religious identity and social instability in Nigeria: Interogating social identity theory
The importance of religion towards enhancing social stability cannot be over- emphasized. Emily Durkheim viewed religion as a unified system of beliefs and practices whose purpose is to maintain and foster social stability and cohesion by removing tension that can disrupt social order. He believed that a cohesive society is of fundamental importance and that religion is just one mechanism that helps to achieve this. However, the challenges emanating from religious sentiments seem to have contradicted this noble goal of religion. Instead, the destructive role of religion dominates most literature today. The experience is not something to write home about in Nigeria. One of the major factors threatening the unity and stability of Nigeria as a nation is traceable to religious sentiments. Past studies have associated the cause of religious tension to the activities of religious fanatics. Unfortunately the main factor that instigates fanaticism is yet to be unveiled and it is this gap that the present study proposes to fill. Data for the study was sourced through the secondary method of data collection. The study traced the root cause of fanaticism to the psychological impulse of positive distinctiveness of religious groups. Impulse, which if not regulated is capable of inducing tension in the society, be it among religious, social or political groups. The theoretical framework in which the study is anchored upon is the Social Identity Theory. The study recommends that since the psychological impulse for positive distinctiveness is a natural phenomenon, the different groups should not only acknowledge but should also respect this reality. Unity -in -diversity should remain the ideal principle of unity.