- Feb 2017
- Latin America
And this hardly means that the supposed polytheistic religions will disappear. Christianity and Islam have both failed at uprooting Hinduism, Buddhism and Daoism (and Shinto if it's not consider a subset within Daoism) despite their polytheism.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.
This is a racist belief that can't be taken seriously. There is no conceptual difference between African gods like Olorun and Rog, and Yahweh. They're all seen as the supreme beings who created the universe. Africans have gods just like everyone else and are not "animist", which is a colonial creation (since at least the 18th century when Charles de Brosses coined the term "fetishism" to describe African religions) based on the assumption that Africans have lower cognitive abilities and shouldn't be taken seriously.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.
Also, no one can't seriously take this idea that the "pagan" Romans didn't impose their religion, when Jupiter/Zeus was clearly worshipped in every province in the Roman Empire, not to mention that the idea that the Romans were religiously tolerant is completely false. They devastated and pretty much got rid of the religion of the Celts, Illyrians and Phoenicians with little of their religion remaining. In the case of the Celts, they intentionally repressed and got rid of the Druids as a matter of policy. Germanicus in his campaigns in Germany destroyed a temple to Tamfana, while the Batavian revolt included a religious element as it was led in part by the priestess Veleda that the Romans duly persecuted. The Romans also crucified Isis priests in the first century CE and repressed completely the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus. Of course, we all know of their persecutions of Jews and Christians, and they also persecuted Manichaeans (and thus, by extension, Zoroastrians). Even their adoption of non-Roman and non-Greek gods has to be qualified. We see most non-Roman gods either explicitly identified with Roman gods, as in the case of Atargatis whom Lucian of Samosata tells us was identified with Hera/Juno, while we see Celtic and Iberian gods regularly having the name of a Roman god, like Sulis Minerva. We even see the Roman name completely replacing the original god's name, such as in Mars Thingsus, which some scholars tell us is the god Tyr but which we can't really be sure because the original name has been lost.
Much of the Sahel remained non-Muslim, and we see Africans who had contact and even conflict with Muslims for centuries who didn't convert. See the Yoruba and their Ifa and Vodun religions. We also see Muslim slaves brought to the Americas interact with non-Muslim slaves and it was the latter's religions, like Santeria and Candomble, that replaced Islam with Islam having no tangible influence whatsoever in the American continent.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.
If anything the opposite is true. Islam spread and rooted itself so strongly in the Mediterranean world (when we see the religions of other conquerors not rooting themselves as strongly, such as Tengriism or Odinism) precisely because it resembled Christianity and Judaism so much. It's very likely that Arabs would have assimilated to the local Christian culture had their religion not resemble Christianity. We see Muslims failing to convert India, for instance. They managed to convert large sections of the Indian subcontinent (a process that took several centuries, however), to be sure, but Hinduism still outnumbers Muslims in all of Asia, and only when including the numbers of African Muslims does Islam manage to outnumber Hinduism. And again, they failed in converting Sub-Saharan Africa as well, since Muslims are still outnumbered by non-Muslims there.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.
Europeans enslaved Muslims as well and yet, like I said above, in spite of this, Islam got completely replaced by non-Islamic African religions, and I don't see how territories being defined arbitrarily has anything to do with conversion. Egypt could have been left with its Ottoman borders yet be converted to Christianity. In reality, the reason why Egypt wasn't converted is simply that it proved useful to have the Ottoman Empire have spiritual dominion over Muslims, or to have any kind of Muslim spiritual leader for that matter, not necessarily the Ottoman "caliph" since Saudi Arabia would later take over this role, for colonial rule. And the Ottoman Empire didn't fall not because it was powerful or "advanced" - by the 18th century, the Ottomans had declined to such an extent they could have lost far more of their territory than they did in that century if not get conquered entirely - but because it proved useful for colonial powers to have the Ottomans remain for the European colonial balance of power, especially in the competition between Russia and Britain. Read Joseph Massad's "Islam in Liberalism" for this.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.