Bediako, K., 1995, Christianity in Africa: The renewal of a non-Western religion, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. Momen, M., 1999, Understanding religion: A thematic approach, Oneworld Publications, Oxford. ‘If there was such a thing approximating religion at all in Africa, they [Western scholars] argued, it was “animism” or “fetishism”, a multiplicity of ritual actions with natural objects as deities’ (Magesa 2002:14–15). This creates the idea of deism. It implies a core unity of all that exists. Mbiti (1970:12) refutes the assumption that God is only absent and transcendental by indicating that God can simultaneously be far (transcendental) and near (immanent). Not only can these attempts be arranged according to perspectives, but also according to theories (Crosby 1981:5), providing definitions for the groups of definitions. Crosby, D.A., 1981, Interpretive theory of religion, Mouton Publishers, New York. An African understanding of religion emphasises: • a holistic approach to understanding unity, • the importance of the meaning that religion creates, • religion as the framework within which rituals should be understood. Mbiti, J.S., 1970, Concepts of God in Africa, SPCK, London. The Supreme Being (God) would then be the culmination of this pool of power and not necessarily a person (Nürnberger 2007:29). Stinton (2004:135) identifies three distinct functions of ancestors. All humans are subject to these phases, which include birth, puberty, adulthood, old age and death. This conviction makes no distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world, creating a holistic worldview: everything and everyone is connected to everything and everyone else. Turaki (1999:69) lists the following main characteristics: • the use of magic, charms and spiritual forces. (ed. Westerlund 1993). Religious values and morals give direction and provide answers to life’s questions. Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural and passed down from one generation to another through folk tales, songs and festivals, include belief in an amount of higher and lower gods, sometimes including a supreme creator or force, … Spirits can be employed to bring harm to others and to tap the life force of others. Their way of life educates the living on proper social behaviour. Magesa, L., 2002, African religion: The moral traditions of abundant life, Orbis Books, Maryknoll. There are many answers to this question, in that there are those who would say that African scholars can indeed make a contribution to the understanding of religion (p’Bitek, cited in Maluleke 1998:125), but conditionally, depending on the use of acceptable methodology (cf. A sociologist would look through a sociological lens at religion, whereas a psychologist would give a definition based on a different (psychological) perspective. Rituals are an expression of this unity. Momen (2009:356), on the other hand, points out that it is presumptuous to think that followers of African Traditional Religion will have a greater sense of ecological responsibility. The way in which the mediator is approached and venerated is an indication of the devotion to God (Krüger et al. In this sense, the ancestors become the spiritual guides for people. Turaki, Y., 1999, Christianity and African gods: A method in theology, Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoër Onderwys, Potchefstroom. Tradition contains the moral code and prescriptions for an ethical life. Africans did not invent religion. African Traditional Religion has grown out of the African soil. Membership of a social community immediately means membership of a religious community. Guardians of traditions: It would seem as if ancestors function as the social conscience of a community. This also becomes clear from an African worldview. Personal growth is restricted to an internal process. The assumption was that some religions progressed in development and others did not. Nürnberger, K., 2007, The living dead and the living God, Cluster Publications, Pietermaritzburg. This dynamistic understanding of the universe influences all human behaviour. By listening to the religious experience of others, one’s own understanding of religion is broadened. Morality originates with God and flows into the ancestors. Ancestors have a personal relationship with their descendents. Is the African understanding of religion merely a way to focus on different characteristics of religion? Rites are undeniable an integral part of religion. They also share a sufficient number of characteristics’. African religion and the West African Traditional Religion has a specific understanding of the origin and function of ethics. Redemption is mediated. Myths provide the theoretic background to the meaning of rites. After death the human spirit returns to its place of origin in the spiritual world. Some of these regional cultures once had great civilizations and Kingdoms but a minimum of texts survived to record their ideas and achievements.1 What remains of them are fragmentary pictures: icons from ritual life, … The transcendental in terms of life forceAfrican Traditional Religion is strongly based on belief in impersonal power. In West Africa, these religions include the Akan religion, Dahomey (Fon) mythology, Efik mythology, Odinani, Serer religion (A ƭat Roog), and Yoruba religion, while Bushongo mythology, Mbuti (Pygmy) mythology, Lugbara mythology, Dinka religion, and Lotuko mythology come from central Africa. Wealth is … The Maasai People of East Africa have a rich and unique culture worth learning. One that is too narrow (a minimal definition) would exclude those elements that are normally accepted as religion. 2009:38). West African Religion revolves around one core, unique Supreme Being; a single, distant God, who is credited with creating the world either him/herself or delegating that task to lesser divinities. The primary objective of this paper is to define the African traditional religious system as the basis of understanding Christian spiritual warfare within an African context. Not all the living have the privilege of becoming an ancestor. Sundermeier (1999:88) points out how rites in some religions have developed a profane character. In five of these countries—Benin, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast—African religion is the majority religion. In doing so, there is continuity with the past and the social structure of the extended family is maintained. These moral principles fit into the framework of an African understanding of religion. As there is no threat or condition from which humanity is in need of deliverance or redemption, African Traditional Religion sees worshipping God as imploring the Provider to keep on doing so. People know who they are, as well as who the people they encounter are, on the basis of the identity of the ancestors. The system is independent and indigenous taking a 23.7% of the black community and constitutes 11.1% of the whole population of the country. This presumption rests on the understanding that the conditioning circumstances, motivations, modes, agendas, and importance of the philosophically articulate thought and aesthetic expressions of persons African and of African descent can be identified, understood, researched, taught, commented on, and taken up with respectful competence by persons neither African nor of African … It is necessary to maintain a vague understanding of the transcendental, as it may refer to a dynamistic power and/or a personal god. 1The Africa Institute for Missiology, Pretoria, South Africa, 2Hervormde Teologiese Kollege, University of Pretoria, South Africa, Postal address: Mediators: Ancestors act as mediators between God and humans. Introduction): equality of religions, pluralism and parity of all religions are accepted (Turaki 1999:29). There are those who now believe that there are no proper equivalents to the term ‘religion’ in other cultures (Figl 2003:73). Krüger et al. The implication would be that there is no hierarchy in creation. Myths are the vehicle that ensures the handing over of tradition from one generation to the next (Magesa 1997:36). The inhabitants of the invisible world are called the ‘forces of life’ or ‘vital forces’ by Tempels (cited in Magesa 1997:39). The appeal of the transcendence of the human spirit is universal and the response to this is varied. Higher mysterious powers, called the mysterium tremendum by Smith (cited in Turaki 1999:78), fill objects with power that can have either a positive or negative effect on people. It is described as the product of thinking and experience of African forefathers and mothers of former generations. no longer supports Internet Explorer. Sundermeier, T., 1999, Was ist Religion? Exemplarity: Ancestors are considered to be good models for human behaviour. It is believed that they still take part in the daily routine of the family (Mbiti 1990:82). African Religions and Philosophy is a systematic study of the attitudes of mind and belief that have evolved in the many societies of Africa. The universe consists of two spheres, the one being visible and the other invisible. As Turaki (1999:29) argues, pluralism and parity of all religions are accepted. There are many traps on the road to defining religion. Everything, no matter how profane it seems, has sacred significance. Sources. Homo ritualisHuman life is determined by rites. All living things receive the energy for life from the same source. 2009:36). of our African forebears, it provides answers to the stirring of the human spirit and elaborates on the profundity of the experience People belonging to an African religion do indeed have closer ties with nature, but the exploitation of nature is not excluded. (2009:35) concede to this fact: ‘religions of black Africa are similar enough to talk of African Religion in a generic sense. He is accessible to all humankind (Opoku 1993:70–71). Their views of the spirit-world is contrasted in many aspects against the New Testament teachings. One of the most important developments in African American culture in this era was the spread of Christianity within both the slave and free black communities. Through religious rites, humans ‘leap into the framework of the sacred’ (Schmidt 1980:150). Some scholars would even argue that an African understanding is nothing more than an internalised form of Western perspectives. (2009:38) emphasise the unified community. Everything in life has to do with religion. Without adding to the long list of existing definitions of religion, this study does require a point of departure. This religious worldview informs the philosophical understanding of African myths, customs, traditions, beliefs, morals, actions and social relationships (Mbiti 1999:15). Execution and slavery are unknown in Maasai society, and arguments are usually settled via cattle payment. Religion is an effort by humans to search for meaning, to understand reality and place themselves in a relationship with reality. Ancestors are mostly acknowledged for up to four or five generations, whereupon the memory of these ancestors dies out and they are considered to be truly dead (Mbiti 1990:83). Original Research - Special Collection: Ethics education and social justice Socially just pedagogies and social justice: The intersection of teaching ethics at higher education level and social justice. It is a large and diverse and sometimes enigmatic continent with a diversity of cultures. Sundermeier (1999:27) sees religion as the communal answer given to the experience of the transcendental and its manifestation in rites and ethics. Gods might possess divine characteristics. Some scholars would even argue that an African understanding is nothing more than an internalised form of Western perspectives. Modernism, focusing on human rationality, reduced religion to a set of correctly formulated dogmas and doctrines. • Idowu says religion is the means by which God as a spirit and man’s essential self communicate’. Vodou … The same ancestors that can bestow gifts of good fortune can also cause harm and misfortune for those who neglect to acknowledge the ancestors. These traps make one aware of the limitations of all definitions of religion. Ancestors are worshipped and venerated ambiguously. Ancestors thus seem only to mediate the power emanating from the Supreme Being. Truth has its source in God and not in humans. This holistic understanding of reality holds that all elements in nature (i.e. All of reality is one. Mbiti (1975:10) identifies five elements as being constitutive of all religion: beliefs, practices (ceremonies and festivals), objects and places, values and morals, and religious officials. To browse and the wider internet faster and more securely, please take a few seconds to upgrade your browser. What is religion? Religiously, as well as a culturally, there is huge diversity on the vast continent of Africa; Africa consists of ‘multiple identities’ (Maluleke 2001:37). The traditional belief systems, spirituality and faith of West African peoples has been described in more or less disparaging terms over the course of history, broad terms that fail to reflect the complexity and depth of these beliefs: “paganism”, “animism”, “ancestor-worship”, “idolatry”, “fetishism”, “heathenism”, etc. The example set by the ancestors ensures a harmonious community where everybody knows and understands their place and function. 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