THE REMORSE OF ORESTES: the Evolution of Morality and the Advent of Hypocrisy

“When you think of it, really there are four fundamental questions of life. You’ve asked them, I’ve asked them, every thinking person asks them. They boil down to this: origin, meaning, morality and destiny. ‘How did I come into being? What brings life meaning? How do I know right from wrong? Where am I headed after I die?’” – Ravi Zacharias

“Behaving morally because of a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is not morality. Morality is not bribery or threats. Religion is bribery and threats. Humans have morality. We don’t need religion” – Penn Jillette

“Morality is not just any old topic in psychology but close to our conception of the meaning of life. Moral goodness is what gives each of us the sense that we are worthy human beings” – Steven Pinker

 “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle” – George Washington


Pardon me, y’all good people that inhabit the earth. I am about to bore y’all a lil’ bit with some dreary story in Greek mythology. Should I go ahead? Yeah, sure you can! OK, Gratitude…I have to do this; I really gotta do this.

Story, Story…Storyyyyyy! One…Two…Ready…Go!

Once upon a time during the Trojan War, a coalition of Greek states laid siege to the city of Troy (Ilium) over a ten year period. During this period, an ancient Greek epic poem, The Iliad, was written. In the poem, the King of Argos, Agamemnon, sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the gods to assure good sailing weather to Troy. Before the war ended, Agamemnon is murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus as vengeance for sacrificing their daughter. Orestia (or Orestes), Agamemnon’s son returns home to take revenge on his mother for murdering his father. He eventually does murder his mother and afterward, is tortured by The Furies (who are beings that personify the anger of the dead). Orestes becomes plagued with guilt and asks Apollo for forgiveness but the other gods won’t have it. After much debate amongst the gods at the temple of Athena in Athens, he was forgiven because he accepted responsibility for his act and experienced guilt. Afterwards, The Furies became known as The Eumenides, who are the protectors of all those who ask forgiveness for their acts. By this change of heart, The Furies become more rational beings, no longer erratic and unpredictable, learning how to love and nourish instead of how to hate and destroy. And from that time onward, the old law of vengeance was replaced by laws of justice and mercy, while on earth, humans evolved to a level closer to the gods.

Story ends! Boring, I guess? Phewww…I understand! This is not a Sociology class!

Well, this extempore prologue is a necessary one. It would prep the reader’s mind to understand the role of morality in shaping and maintaining a stable society.

The evolution of morality refers to the emergence of human moral behavior over the course of human evolution. Morality can be defined as a system of ideas about right and wrong conduct. Socio-biological explanations of human behavior are still controversial but the traditional view of social scientists has been that morality is a construct and is thus culturally relative, although others argue that there is a science of morality.

Since Wallace and Darwin proposed natural selection to explain the complexities of organisms, evolutionary biologists have sought elucidations for all facets of human nature including morality. In his famous lecture Evolution and Ethics (1894), Thomas Huxley (a staunch supporter and friend of Darwin) argued the case that human nature is essentially evil – the consequence of a cruel and unforgiving natural environment. He suggested that morality was simply a human cultural construction, created in order to counter egotistical human nature. Nonetheless, it is now clear that moral systems occur and are adhered to universally across cultures, signifying that morality does have evolutionary origins and is a basic component of human nature, contrary to Huxley’s ideas.

Also, Flack and de Waal questioned Richard Dawkins’ notion that people are “born selfish”. They reasoned that if morals are not biologically inherent, then what force aided humans in denying their nature and establishing societal norms?

Lemme state categorically: Morality is essential to human identity. It is a pity that in our contemporary times, we have sacrificed morality on the altar of religious bigotry and pointless narrow-mindedness. We place religious dictates ahead of our roles as moral beings. Why lynch a person that stole a thing as flimsy as a tuber of yam while singing the praises of a corrupt politician that attends the same church as us? That is the height of hypocrisy…the dearth of morality.

Just like the furies focused on Orestes’ act of matricide and turned a blind eye to the fact that he was actually avenging the death of his father, we have turned a blind eye to what morality demands of us as humans. The furies simply chose to believe what they wanted to instead of being rational and unbiased in their judgment, which is no different from the hypocritical lifestyles we’ve adopted as a people.

The cornerstone of morality is this: do not harm anyone. Humans are social animals and if we cooperate rather than fight each other, our species has a higher chance of survival. But religious dictates have succeeded in twisting our minds into behaving like brainwashed puppets, akin to Lego Toys on the floor…manipulated by the scheming prophets, imams, rabbis and ‘the chosen ones’.

Poor kids are labeled child witches and murdered in God’s name; hallucinating psychos are labeled wizards and sent to a makeshift guillotine. People fear what they don’t understand and hate what is not ingrained in their doctrine. That is why a man with gynaecomastia would be tagged a wizard that is causing havoc to the community in which he was found and prosecuted for what is no fault of his.

Morality is dead in our society…it has become an alien tradition to do good to one another. If it is not stipulated in the good book, then it wouldn’t be done. We’ve become dummies walking about in God’s name. Suffer not the witch to live but touch not mine anointed and do my prophet no harm; what a conundrum? That’s why we rush to celebrate a pastor purchasing the latest automobile in town while the suffering members without any means of transportation would proclaim loudly: The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth. Keep inheriting the earth until kwashiorkor deals decisively with you and your children!

Religious snitches would gladly drop dimes on a neighbor smoking weed in peace but won’t do the same when she sees the priest with an underage sister in the Lord coming out of the parish house by 5am in the morning. We would gladly sow seeds of faith for our favorite football team to win the Champions League finals while neglecting a neighbor’s kid with no money to pay for school fees. The leaders don’t give a phuck if the country keeps spiraling headlong into desolation as long as Grants are collected from World Bank. And they won’t forget the 10% meant for the ukochukwu. Religious gatherings cause holdups and disrupt our daily activities but we frown when such happens as D’Banj and 2face hold shows that cause traffic gridlock. Oh, I get it…we could cause mayhem as long as it is in God’s name!

An Islamic cleric would spend the whole day looking for the next victim to decapitate for insulting Islam while doing little or nothing to improve the lives of the almajiris littered across his hometown. The greedy priests encourage the gullible brethren to sow seeds of faith, pay their first fruits and keep throwing in more money into the church’s coffer…in a bid to test God and appease him or rather, provoke him into doing miracles. We have reduced the Almighty to a mere idol at the dibia’s shrine that needs kola and a little frothy palmwine before telling you the solution to your problems. Next Sunday, we would still contribute money towards building schools for our pastors to inherit; schools that our kids will never get the opportunity to attend. Issorait!

This is not a sermon on the mount neither is it an epistle of condemnation. This is just an article written by a godless brother to remind us of what our responsibilities were, long before the advent of religion. A dispatch on the way things should have been before the advent of hypocrisy and murder of morality in cold blood.

We can never achieve greatness as a nation by putting religion ahead of morality. Doing good shouldn’t be some form of religious inclination; rather, it should be our responsibility to our fellow human beings.

Just as Orestes did, we all must accept the blame and take responsibility for our actions. Stop blaming the government. Stop blaming unseen spirits in your village. Stop blaming the devil because he has suffered a lot. Blame yourself for any wrong deed you have done and seek absolution. We need to do a soul search in total honesty and humility and unlearn all the bullshits we’ve been taught from way back. And in the end, we’d gladly make a toast to the successful recuperation of morality in our society. Capisce!



*Now Playing: The Blacker The Berry by Kendrick Lamar

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