What World Religions Teach

By E. G. Parrinder | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
AFRICAN AND NON-SCPIPTURAL RELIGIONS

From Shinto in far eastern Japan to Africa in the distant southwestern tropics is a long way, but there are religious similarities that provide a link between these two chapters. Both in Japan and in Africa many nature spirits are believed in, one of which is supreme above all others, and ancestors are believed to direct conduct. Japan without the literacy brought by China was much like illiterate Africa.

In many parts of the world there are groups of people who are outside the reach of the great historical religions. Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism may be near neighbours, and they have their teachers and reformers, their scriptures and later writings. But the forest and hill peoples had no scriptures, because the art of writing had not penetrated to them. So, whatever history they may have had, and whatever religious geniuses may have arisen, these have disappeared, leaving scarcely a trace, because there was no writing to preserve their teachings.

Such non-scriptural religions are found in many parts of the world: in the jungles and mountains of Central and South America, among the North American Indians, in the hills and forests of India, Burma, and China, in Siberia and Australia. But they are by far the most numerous in Africa. The Australian aborigines or the North American Indians, with their curious remains of totemism, are often written about, yet they number only some tens of thousands. The tribes of central and southern Africa number more than fifty million, who are still outside the sway of Islam and Christianity. And although these latter religions are now making great inroads into their numbers, many

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