A recently released Pew Survey finds that Africa is the “most religious part of the world.” As the HuffPo Religion section reports:
Islam and Christianity dominate as the most popular religions in the region–a stark reversal from a century ago when Muslims and Christians were outnumbered by followers of traditional indigenous religions. But for the past 100 years, indigenous spirituality has been diluted as missionaries carried Islam and Christianity throughout the African continent.
Indigenous African beliefs have not disappeared, but are often incorporated into Islam and Christianity, the report found. A number of sub-Saharan Africans believe in witchcraft, evil spirits, reincarnation and other elements of African spirituality. More than half of the people surveyed in Tanzania, Mali, Senegal and South Africa believe that sacrifices to ancestors or spirits can protect them from harm.
Such syncretism of religions is not uncommon in Africa.
Given the dire conditions in much of Africa, the turn to religion is understandable — people need hope and faith is free. In an unpublished paper, I explored the roots of Africa’s current predicament and its connection to the explosive growth of Pentecostalism on the continent. If you are interested in these issues, you can find the paper here: African-Pentecostals-Globalization