Religion gives comfort and hope to people. It is a moral barometer of grace and spiritual support in the daily struggles of life.
It affects the social, economic, emotional and moral fibre of society.
Freedom of religion means that everyone can choose how to worship the Almighty without hindrance from others in their community.
That said, we note that charismatic leader Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Nigeria has taken South Africa by storm, promising to heal the sick and enrich the poor in his Christ Embassy Church.
Citizens are particularly vulnerable at this time of transition, beset by poverty, social change and crime. To deal with these, they seek and find hope in every promise of change for the better.
It is against this background that happy-clappy churches have mushroomed all over the country as troubled people search for spiritual contentment.
The disparities in class and wealth have made many in South African society gullible. Our people have fallen prey to pyramid schemes and have been conned into paying for nonexistent jobs in a bid to chase the almighty buck.
Pastor Chris' charismatic style of religion has garnered many believers who desperately need a message of hope to alleviate their suffering.
But there is a danger in blindly following self-styled religious leaders who claim to be faith healers and the conduit for the voice of God. In the past they have tended to spawn fanaticism, torture and war.
Flocking in great numbers to his church consistently are the poor and destitute. They give money they cannot afford to the church. This strips them of the little they have in a vain bid to garner elusive gifts.
The pastor has created controversy in that he gives blessings and comfort in exchange for cash. It is of concern that he lives a life of extraordinary luxury in comparison to his faithful flock.
It is doubtful that money generated in such churches ever finds its way into poverty alleviation initiatives in the communities.
What our people need is development, jobs, education and housing, not a false paradise. They do not need to be side-tracked by promises of an elusive nirvana.