Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Traditional African Religions Continue To Thrive

According to a new Pew Forum study on Christianity and Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa:
Side by side with their high levels of commitment to Christianity and Islam, many people in the countries surveyed retain beliefs and rituals that are characteristic of traditional African religions. In four countries, for instance, half or more of the population believes that sacrifices to ancestors or spirits can protect them from harm. In addition, roughly a quarter or more of the population in 11 countries say they believe in the protective power of juju (charms or amulets), shrines and other sacred objects.
The Pew study focussed on 19 countries. The country found to have the highest rate of belief in "the power of [traditional] shrines and other sacred objects" is Senegal, where 75% of those surveyed reported such beliefs.

Other clear indications of the continued survival of traditional religious beliefs at odds with both Christianity and Islam are:

"In most countries surveyed, at least three-in-ten people believe in reincarnation."

"in 14 of the 19 countries surveyed, more than three-in-ten people say they sometimes consult traditional healers when someone in their household is sick."

"sizable minorities (roughly 20% or more) in 12 countries say they possess traditional African sacred objects, such as shrines to ancestors, feathers, skins, skulls, skeletons, powder, carved figures or branches, spears, cutlasses or animal horns." [Sound like anyone you know??]

"Substantial minorities (roughly 20% or more) in many countries also say they participate in ceremonies or rituals to honor their ancestors."

Overall, one quarter of all those surveyed "exhibited high levels of belief and practice" in traditional African religions. In three countries this was over 50%: Tanzania (62%), Senegal (55%), and Mali (52%). In four more countries (Cameroon, South Africa, Guinea Bissau, and Chad) these "high levels of belief and practice" continue to be found in over 1/3 of the population.

If these results are typical for all of Sub-Saharan Africa, it would mean that now, in the 21st century, there are over 100 million Africans who continue to believe in and practice the religious traditions that Christianity and Islam have tried so hard to destroy. This is certainly good news!!

Those interested in traditional African religions might also want to check out this post on Fela Kuti, and also this one on the Afro-Caribbean religion of Candomble in Brazil.

Also see the series "Heart of Darkness", consisting of five posts on topics related to Christianity and Colonialism in Africa:
Part One:
"By This Sign We Prosper"
Part Two: Christian Demographics Fun Facts
Part Three: Doing the Lord's Work In Rwanda
Part Four: Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from Rwanda
Part Five: Preparing the Way for Genocide in Rwanda

Other posts on Traditional African Religions:
"Africa became Christian by Submission not by Conversion"
You might be Pagan if .... (Part Deux)
You might be a Pagan if ....
Every picture tells a story
Traditional African Religions Continue To Thrive
More On Traditional African Religions

Fela Kuti and Traditional African Religion
Secret Knowledge, Sacred Knowledge (on Candomble)

[And, finally, for those who don't know already, I'm not really a big fan of the Pew outfit. If you are interested to know why, check out my earlier post on "
Push Polling For Jesus".]


Kullervo said...

Oh man, I love that you put a picture of Mormon missionaries.

When I was filling out the paperwork to go on a mission, I wanted to go to Africa so bad I couldn't stand it. This had no real relationship with a desire to convert the African people to Mormonism per se, but had more to do with some powerful spiritual expeirences I had had that were based on or related to Africa. I had the vague proto-idea that somehow going to Africa would complete me spiritually.

I was certain that I knew by personal revelation that I was going to be sent to Africa on my mission, that Africa was where Heavenly Father wanted me to go. My Patriarchal Blessing strongly seemed to support this idea.

Then, my mission call came from the Church: to Duesseldorf, Germany. I was absolutely devastated.

If you want to figure out where and when my Mormon faith began to unravel, that would probably be one of your choicest starting points.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

I honestly did not go looking for a picture of Mormon missionaries. What I did was a google image search on "traditional african religions", and that pic was on the very first page of hits! I thought "perfect"!

Very interesting story about your Mormon youth. Mormonism is definitely one of my favorite forms of Christianity. With a little tweaking it would actually make an excellent religion, in my opinion.

We have a huge Mormon Temple out here in the DC area. It's one of the most recognizable landmarks now, since it is visible for many miles along the Capital Beltway. One of the members of our Wiccan Coven was married in it!!!

Kullervo said...

I have mentioned this before, but up until I moved to Chicago in December, you and I lived in the same county. I used to live in downtown Silver Spring, at 16th and East-West highway. I would have been glad to stay there, too, but I got a great job offer in the windy city.

My parents were married in that temple, too, for the record--up until a few decades ago, it was pretty much the only Mormon temple east of the Mississippi.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

That's right! Sorry, I forgot all about that. I really do love that Temple.