Find Content

Why African Indigenous Religion is not regarded as a world religion

Why African Indigenous Religion is not regarded as a world religion?


Africans did not think of the smart idea of sending their missionaries to spread the Gospel or Islam.And anyway, after the missionaries were done scouting the continent for their governments, slavery came. A swift exchange in the form of barter trade was done. A good number of Africans gave up their land and received foreign religion and language. A win-win scenario, right?Most Africans eventually appealed to the religion of their oppressors. Besides, the western standards of education was widely accepted as the only education and it was taught by missionaries.Know how Catholic Schools do not force you to be Catholic but expect you to learn their ways?Side note: I still do not undestand why that Religion that did not belong to my ancestors is forced down out throats in school.

Although many universities offer classes on “World Religions” – I teach such a class myself – the very concept of a “world religion” is considered highly dubious today. There are lots of books that discuss the history of the concept of a world religion, in writing this answer, I’ve made use of The Invention of World Religions by Tomoko Masuzawa.The concept of a “world religion” originated in an article published in 1827 by Johann Sebastian von Drey, a Catholic theologian, who drew a contrast between a Landesreligion (national religion) and a Weltreligion (world religion). A national religion is the religion of one people, a world religion is capable of transcending national and cultural boundaries to become a universal religion that unites the whole of humanity. Drey thought that there was only one world religion – his religion, obviously.Scholars of religion who were aiming for a more neutral perspective contested this claim. They pointed out that followers of any religion might claim “Only my religion can unite the whole of humanity”, but, as a matter of historical fact, Christianity is not the only religion that has transcended national boundaries. Buddhism was used as an example, because Buddhist missionaries deliberately adapted their practices to fit different cultures, incorporating local religious practices into a Buddhist framework, just as Catholic missionaries (sometimes) did. If Buddhism counts as a world religion, why not Islam? Why not, indeed?Very soon, among people who wanted to promote a sense of harmony and equality between people of different religions, talking of their being many world religions became a way of undermining the claim of any one religion to be the true religion, the only one capable of uniting humanity.

It became, so to speak, politically correct to describe someone else’s religion as a “world religion.” Max Weber came up with a list of five world religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Why just these five? What separates these “world religions” from other religions? Weber didn’t justify his choice of five, he just made it. People are, of course, free to add others. Sikhism has more followers worldwide than Judaism, so it makes sense to add it to the list. Any why stop there? Why not add Jainism or the Bahai religion? Why not add the Yoruba religion? After all, it has transcended its national origin and adapted itself to different cultures. When people categorize religions by numbers of followers, you will see that about 6% of the world’s population are classified as followers of “folk religions” – African tribal religions would be included in that. No single folk religion has a sufficient number of followers that one is forced to include it, but if students never learn anything about the variety of folk religions, that is a gap in their knowledge.The problem is, the category of “world religion” no longer really has a meaning outside of a decision about “religion worth including in a introductory survey of religions class.” The tendency is to focus on religions with large numbers of followers, so that by the end of the class, students will have learned about the beliefs of a large percentage of the world’s population. But is the focus on preparing students to understand the beliefs of as many people as possible in today’s world, on preparing them to understand ancient history, on introducing them to theoretical concepts that can be used to explain religious activity, or what? Personally, I’d rather teach a class on “Religions of the World” than “World Religions”, trying to make sure that every religion is covered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *