Why Sub-Saharan Africa has got chriatian majority today and North Africa still has got muslim majority

Sep 2012
1,140
Tarkington, Texas
The Muslims from the Middle East took North Africa. Christians and Jews paid taxes, while believers did not.

Pruitt
 
Feb 2017
110
Latin America
The Muslims from the Middle East took North Africa. Christians and Jews paid taxes, while believers did not.

Pruitt
I think the question is why North Africa remained Muslim when it was also colonised by Europeans.

Should be pointed out that the Christianity of Sub-Saharan Africa is very syncretised, far more so than Latin America which is the other major Third World colonised region in the world where Christianity is the majority religion. Christian missionaries have always found it annoying and distressing how they find it unable to stamp out what they, and their liberal secular anthropologist allies, call "animism" and "fetishism" (because Africans can't conceive gods, only some sort of spirit, according to said Western missionaries and anthropologists). It's even worse for them when they find religious movements positively reasserting African indigenous religions, like Yoruba Orisha worship. What I'm trying to say is that Sub-Saharan Africa is only more nominally Christian than Northern Africa, but it is hardly more so in practice.

I highly recommend Joseph Massad's Islam in Liberalism which explains why European colonial powers didn't engage in as much missionary work in Muslim regions. They found the Ottoman Empire and its claim to world leadership of Muslims useful for colonial domination. When the Ottoman Empire fell, Saudi Arabia (a British protectorate or semi-protectorate and later US ally) essentially took over this role.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,427
To say that sub Saharan Africa is Christian is misleading. It is probably mostly pagan /animist. Even most people who are officially Pentacostal, Roman Catholic, Anglican, or whatever probably practice the older religions. This is true to a lesser extent in Latin America. Even in Europe there are remnants of pagan practices.

North Africa was mostly conquered by Muslims and gradually became overwhelmingly Muslim. European powers controlled some of North Africa for a relatively short time.
 
Feb 2017
110
Latin America
North Africa was mostly conquered by Muslims and gradually became overwhelmingly Muslim. European powers controlled some of North Africa for a relatively short time.
They also controlled the rest of Africa for a relatively short time. North African places like Egypt and Algeria were actually conquered before Sub-Saharan places like Rwanda, Nigeria, Cameroon or Kenya by the European colonial powers. There are also other Muslim countries and regions outside of Africa conquered by Europeans before Sub-Saharan African regions, like India, Indonesia and Central Asia, that weren't converted to Christianity.

Even in Europe there are remnants of pagan practices.
No one can't compare the pagan remnants of Europe with the non-Christian religions, like Yoruba Orisha worship, of Sub-Saharan Africa. One thing is to have Yule trees, another entirely is for whole countries or at least regions to worship Odin, Cernunnos or Zeus, unlike in Africa where we see millions attending festivals to Obatala or Mbizi. Nor are there any druids or volvas, unlike the (offensively termed) many "witch doctors" who are even more prominent than bishops or pastors and who regularly compete with them and get their opprobrium.

And no, European neopagans don't count, for anyone wondering this.
 
Nov 2019
2
Istanbul
To say that sub Saharan Africa is Christian is misleading. It is probably mostly pagan /animist. Even most people who are officially Pentacostal, Roman Catholic, Anglican, or whatever probably practice the older religions. This is true to a lesser extent in Latin America. Even in Europe there are remnants of pagan practices.

North Africa was mostly conquered by Muslims and gradually became overwhelmingly Muslim. European powers controlled some of North Africa for a relatively short time.
Christians make up some 63% of the population in Sub-saharan Africa: Projected Religious Population Changes in Sub-Saharan Africa .Also christians in Sub-saharan Africa looks like that they are the most religious christians in the world(by researches).
 
Feb 2017
110
Latin America
Christians make up some 63% of the population in Sub-saharan Africa: Projected Religious Population Changes in Sub-Saharan Africa .Also christians in Sub-saharan Africa looks like that they are the most religious christians in the world(by researches).
That paper ignores the high amounts of syncretism that render any "Christian" identity highly deceptive. Any paper on African religiosity that ignores syncretism can't be taken seriously.
 
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Jul 2019
135
Ghana
First thing to mention when discussing Christianity in Sub Saharan African history, is the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which was established in the 4th century AD. Christianity had probably entered Ethiopia and Eritrea as early as the 1st century AD. These Christian traditions predate most European traditions and some would argue that they constitute a more original form of Christianity. This is not a trivial fact, considering that there are 45-50 million Ethiopian Tewahedo Christians, and another 3 million Eritrean Tewahedo Christians. These people did not convert to European forms of Christianity even though they were under significant pressure to do so, neither did they convert to Islam, even though they were under significant pressure to do so.

With regard to Christianity in other parts of Sub Saharan Africa, brought by Europeans, the story is not so black and white either. Christian traditions (Catholicism) in some of the coastal regions of West and Central Africa have 500 years of history, and there are many millions of Africans who practice Christianity in ways that are very comparable to the ways in which Europeans and Americans practice Christianity. Syncretism is definitely a big part of many other African Christian traditions, but there's a difference between urbanite Africans attending century old (and more) churches in old colonial centers, and rural inland populations that see a higher prevalence of relatively recent, informal bush churches which do indeed practice some funny forms of "Christianity". I've never seen a study trying to come up with actual figures on this syncretic African vs European/American forms of Christianity in Africa. Faith is difficult to quantify.

To answer OP's question: Christianity and Islam are world religions. Most pre-Islamic and pre-Christian religious traditions in Africa are not. Converting to a religion that affirms your proximity to power and wealth just makes good sense to most people. Clinging to the religious traditions that were unable to safeguard your sovereignty, your safety or your access to new opportunities just didn't make sense to most people. In crude terms, "the white man's magic" was considered more powerful, because they defeated most of the traditional rulers through military conquest or cultural dominance. That doesn't mean that people just forgot centuries of pre-Christian traditions, which is where a lot of the syncretism comes from (just like Europe, or any other place that converted to Christianity for that matter). People tend to convert to world religions, not smaller, increasingly marginalized religions.

There are important exceptions to note, Vodun and related traditions in particular, which are still widely practiced in Benin, Togo, Ghana and Nigeria. Those countries have at least 20 million practitioners of traditional religions, and they're quite resistant to conversion. Forms of these religions also spread to the Caribbean and Latin America. I'm sure they're not the only examples but I'm not a specialist on the subject.

Also, don't mistake religious tolerance for syncretism. It doesn't mean just because we all live together, that we believe in the same things.

These are some pictures I took at the funeral of the Omanhene of Akuapem (basically our king), in 2016. Very strictly Christian clergy payed their respects, and relations with the traditional priests were very cordial. But trust me, their lifestyles and belief systems are not even remotely comparable.
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This fetish priest looks like he just found his sacrificial victim :)
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The hand gestures by the traditionalists in this picture are an overt sign of approval towards the (famous) Christian clergyman who's name I can't remember. Everyone was happy about the friendly nature of this meeting between utterly opposing religious traditions.
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This picture is actually hilarious. The traditional priest seemed to be deliberately using his incense to keep the suspected "Christian magic" in check :p The Christians didn't seem too bothered about it.
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That day was an amazing expression of traditional culture, but that doesn't mean that the majority of the people in this picture don't go to church or practice any kind of traditional religion or syncretism. A lot of them are just good ol' Christians, no funny business... Others however are not. It's a pretty diverse place. We have muslim minorities here as well...
Omanhene Akuapem Akuapim Akwapim mountains ghana Eastern region Akropong royal funeral.jpg
 
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May 2018
139
On earth.
Very nice photos. I'd be curious as to what 'Vodun' actually is, as the more I look into it, the more it just seems like a catch-all for multiple unique religious practices.
 
Aug 2017
9
Cape Town
Christianity, Islam and Judaism differ from most other belief systems in that they claim there is only one God and all the other so-called gods are imposters. Historically, what we consider now three separate religions were thought of as different strands of the same belief.

Most ancient religions could co-exist with others just fine. Just consider the Roman Empire - As long as you obeyed the Imperial Cult, they didn't give a **** about who else you prayed to. This also applies to most forms of animist and shamanistic belief systems. They don't have gods in the sense of Yahwe, God or Allah, for their followers being animist/shamanistic and Jew/Muslim/Christian at the same time is not a contradiction at all. This is where the syncretism comes from.

The history of Islam in the Sahel region with it being at times used by the elites and at times by the common people is instructive.

Exchanging one monotheistic strand for the other is much harder. North Africa was part of the Arab Empire and then the Ottomans' for centuries, ingraining Islam deeply into their culture. If you have been taught all your life that Allah is the only God, you are unlikely to exchange him for the Christian God. Despite all the hardship falling on them the north african regions also suffered much less severe change than the Sahelian and SSA ones.

There was slavery of course ( converting to Islam prevented you from being enslaved, in theory anyway, a strong motivation for Sahelians to join the flock ), and some political entities like Egypt were kept somewhat intact, whereas "countries" in SSA were largely arbitrarily constructed at the whim of the former colonial masters.