Apr 21, 2010
A new survey by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reveals sub-Saharan Africa to be very religious. The dominant religions are Christianity and Islam, but there is plenty of mixing with local religious traditions. Thus, witch doctors are in demand as much as regular religious prayers:
Despite the dominance of Christianity and Islam, traditional African religious beliefs and practices have not disappeared. Rather, they coexist with Islam and Christianity. Whether or not this entails some theological tension, it is a reality in people’s lives: Large numbers of Africans actively participate in Christianity or Islam yet also believe in witchcraft, evil spirits, sacrifices to ancestors, traditional religious healers, reincarnation, and other elements of traditional African religions.
I don’t know why places like Rwanda, Nigeria, and Zambia have such low numbers compared with the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, especially because they don’t really stand out in terms of religiosity.
I could not help but remember another Pew study that showed that people in the United States were mixing up religions by picking and choosing various aspects of different religious traditions. In Africa, however, the mixing has happened because of strong local cultural elements encountering large expansionist religions. Will more globalization bring more religions into the mix in Africa?