BRIEF ASSESSMENT OF AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION

BRIEF ASSESSMENT OF AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION

2.1       Background to the Study of African Traditional Religion

            One of the most important areas of human life is religion – reverence to the Supreme Being.[1] The concept that Africans are very religious has been the position of many African Scholars,[2] and that has given rise to the religion in Africa, which has a powerful influence on the thought and the behaviors of many Africans within and outside Africa.[3]Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazamaassert that African Traditional Religion is the religion of Africa, and one of the religions that profess unity in diversity. Unlike Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, or other human religions, African Traditional Religion is a religion that anticipates its unity in the universal appeal to the spirits that animate all of nature. They went on to say that humans, stones, trees, animals, lakes, rivers, and mountains etc., are adjoined in one grand movement toward the continuation of life.[4]

African Traditional Religion everywhere, is designed to unite the nature of the God of Gods or, at least, to provide the necessary and attendant assistants in the process of maintaining ethics without the universe.[5]In an ideal sense, African Traditional Religion is dominantly a religion, of reverence for the supreme, the ancestors and everything that exist within the universal community.[6]

2.2       Meaningof Traditional Religion

African Traditional Religion is a religion from Africa, by Africans and for Africans.[7] Robert S. Elwood in Encyclopedia of World Religions asserts that African Traditional Religion is an indigenous religion of Africa.[8] African Traditional Religion (ATR) is an indigenous system of beliefs and practices integrated into the culture and worldviews of the African peoples.[9] A. C. K. Chukwunonyelum et al, posit that African Traditional Religion is a religion founded on the African soil and its natural environment, interwoven with the culture of the people.[10] American Academy of Religion observed in 1993, in its Spotlight on Teaching African Religions in American Universities, within the field of religious studies, says that African Traditional Religion still remains a residual (fragment, remains) category, variously characterized as traditional, primal, primitive, oral, and non-literate. They also define African Traditional Religion as antithetical (opposing) to world religions and are viewed as less complex, less reflective, less theoretical, and, most important, less moral and less spiritual.[11]

African Traditional Religion is the religion that has survived death and torture from within and outside the continent of Africa, yet it has not been written off since it is a product of Africans’ experience with the Supreme Being via the mysteries of the universe they worshipped, adored and revered. Unlike other religions like Christianity and Islam, African Traditional Religion neither has a founder nor a sacred book, rather, it has been handed over from one generation to another by oral means of communication.[12] Therefore, African Traditional Religion is defined as a religion that has been with Africans from many generations, and with which they have lived and solved their existential problems from time immemorial. It is a religion that is co-terminus with the African people and their society.[13]

Every religion has its origin. African Traditional Religion is identified with African continent. The first African Traditional Religions evolved gradually as people experienced different life situations, raising questions and reflecting on such mysteries of life as birth and death, joy and suffering, the forces of nature, and the purpose of life. Its history is bound up with the history of each people or tribe, and goes back to prehistoric times.[14] Some values in African Traditional Religion are also dominant in Christianity and Islam, which are considered as the major religion in the world. African Traditional religion is predominantly practiced in the twenty first Century mostly in the Southern hemisphere two thirds of Africa, including Madagascar, where Christianity is considerably dominant.[15] Generally speaking, according to Aolfi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama, African Traditional Religions are present everywhere, even in the minds of black Christians and Muslims.[16]Understanding the origins of African Traditional Religion helps the people in understanding the inter – connectivity of the philosophical stream underlying all of the ideas in this African Traditional Religion.[17]


[1]Robert S. Ellwood; Gregory D. Alles and  McDaniel College, 2007,The Encyclopedia of World Religions Revised Edition by DWJ Books LLC p.ix

[2] Bolaji Idowu,1973, African Traditional Religion, Fountain Publications, Nigeria.107; Mbiti, John S., African Religions and Philosophy, London, Heinemann; Robert S. Ellwood; Gregory D. Alles and  McDaniel College, 2007,The Encyclopedia of World Religions Revised Edition by DWJ BOOKS LLC p.IX

[3] Prof. Philemon O. Amanze, Lecture Notes, by Religious Study Department, Babckcock University, Ilishan Remo Ogun State.

[4] Molefi Kete Asante and  Ama Mazama; Encyclopedia of African Religion, 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc,  California, xxii

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid 47

[7]Prof. Philemon O. Amanze, Lecture Notes, Religious Study Department, Babckcock University, Ilishan Remo Ogun State.

[8] Robert S. Ellwood; Gregory D. Alles and  McDaniel College, 2007,The Encyclopedia of World Religions Revised Edition by DWJ BOOKS LLC p.7

[9] Hance A. O. Mwakabana, 2002 Crises of Life in African Religion and Christianity LWF The Lutheran World Federation Department for Theology and Studies Office for the Church and People of Other Faiths

[10] Ani Casimir Kingston Chukwunonyelum,2013 Philosophy, Religion and the Environment in Africa: The Challenge of Human Value Scientific Research Publishing Ltd., Irvine, USA, Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2013. Vol.1, No.6, 62-72  (http://www.scirp.org/journal/jss)

[11] Molefi Kete Asante and  Ama Mazama; 2009  Encyclopedia of African Religion, by SAGE Publications,California, Inc, 285

[12]Philemon O. Amanze, PhD, is a Senior lecturer in the Religious Studies Department, and director of Acedamic  planning,  Babcock University, Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria.

[13] KAN, Ikechukwu Anthon( OSA), 2014, African Traditional Religion in a Globalizing World, in International Journal of Humanities Social Science and Education, Volume 1, Issue8, , pp4-12

[14]https://mlblogsmiranda.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/origin-and-sources-of-african-religion/accessed/18/10/2017

[15] Ibid

[16] Aolfi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama, 2005, Encyclopedia of Black Studies, Sage Publications, Inc. United Kingdom

[17] Ibid, 13

inim kufre
Author: inim kufre

CEO Happy Choice

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