Continuities and Changes of Religions in Sub-Saharan Africa

Topics: Islam, Christianity, Religion Pages: 2 (619 words) Published: March 3, 2014
Religions in Sub-Saharan Africa
“Listen more often the Things Beings, Voice of Fire means, Hear the Voice of Water. Listen to the Wind Le Buisson into tears: It is the breath of the ancestors.” This excerpt comes from Senegalese Birago Diop’s poem “Souffles” which shows ancestor worship in Sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout history, Sub-Saharan Africa experienced multi-religious changes throughout 500 BCE - 1750 AD, beginning with animism, polytheism, and anthropomorphic worship of a god; however they were affected by globalization in which other religions, such as Christianity and Islam, vastly changed their beliefs and practices.

As far back as historians date in 500 BCE, Sub-Saharan Africa had polytheistic religions such as animism, voodoo, and ancestry worship. During this Paleolithic Era, humans were hunter-gatherers and lived in tribes, traveling from place to place. The tribes believed in a supreme being as the highest power and had a polytheistic mindset. One of the religions they believed was animism, which British anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Taylor believed was the most primitive and essential form of religion. It suggests that non-human entities are spiritual beings. Another example of their polytheistic views is worshipping forces of nature, as if it were a god. Polytheism continued across tribal Africa until 500 AD when monotheism, such as Christianity and Islam, traveled south from Eurasia into Africa due to trade and globalization.

By 500 AD, exchanges and trade between Eurasia and Africa began, in which the merchants and trade networks spread their two dominant religions, Islam and Christianity, extensively. Muhammad started the Islamic faith when he proclaimed he was the prophet of Allah after having a spiritual realization. Since Muhammad was once a merchant, Muslims thought highly of the merchant class and held many way stations for them. As Islam grew into an empire, it highly affected Africa by creating urban centers that appealed to...
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