New Trends and Developments in African Religions

New Trends and Developments in African Religions

New Trends and Developments in African Religions

New Trends and Developments in African Religions

Synopsis

African religions, as well as those religions that derive much of their cosmology, beliefs, and rituals from African religions, are becoming more international in scope and appeal. Yet they continue to be viewed either as indiscriminately adaptable or as static traditions. Neither view suggests much spiritual or psychological value outside their original milieu when compared with the so-called world religions. The chapters in this volume focus on African and African-derived religions, and challenge many of these positions. They examine how these religions display themselves in the contemporary world, particularly in the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe, and look at their continued dynamism and their relationship with other religious traditions, especially through the process of syncretism.

Excerpt

Peter B. Clarke

While African religions, and religions that have derived much of their cosmology, beliefs, ideology, rituals, and ethos from African religions, are becoming more international in scope and appeal--more than ethnic religions confined to people of African descent--they continue to be seen by many as either endlessly and indiscriminately adaptable, or as static traditions grounded in magic that has very particularistic and specific aims. From either perspective they are deemed to be of little spiritual and psychological value outside their original milieu when compared with the large-scale impact of the so-called world religions. They are not serious religions, it is implied, nor are their beliefs and rituals of much spiritual value for the world as a whole. Whether referring to their adaptability and openness or to their apparently changeless nature, it is usually suggested that these stem from their lack of a developed theology and/ or philosophy comparable to that found in Christianity or Islam or Buddhism, and to their lack of fit with modernity.

Those who see African religions as powerless and highly vulnerable when confronted with allegedly more sophisticated belief systems point to evidence from sub-Saharan Africa of the rapid growth of Islam and Christianity there, particularly in this century. This is to ignore the continuing vitality of African religions in Africa itself and of religions derived from Africa in the Caribbean and the Americas and parts of Europe, among other places. While the question of whether African religions in Africa have been largely displaced or replaced by incoming world religions or whether the latter have been domesticated by the former is not easy to answer. It is arguable, none-the-less, that the essentially two-tiered African cosmology, and the beliefs and ritual forms most closely associated with African traditional religion have not only survived but have played and continue to play an essential role in shaping the form and content of . . .

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