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

Feb 2017
423
Latin America
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.
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.

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.
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.

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.

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.
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.


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.
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.

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.
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.
 
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Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,899
Western Eurasia
Both Sub-saharan Africa and North Africa were under West European rule(United Kingdom,France,Germany,Belgium etc).Today Sub-saharan Africa has got 63% christian majority: Projected Religious Population Changes in Sub-Saharan Africa for tgis reason.But why North Africa hasn't got also christian majority for the same reason?
North Africa already had a more or less unified, formally established Organized religion - Wikipedia which would resist and counter a large scale christian missionary activity and in extreme case it would cause larger popular resistance, destabilize the European colonial rule if they pushed that too much. In sub-saharan Africa traditional African religions generally lacked this level of institutionalization to counter missionaries, there was a space to be filled up.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
Arabs never bothered to travel south of the Sahara.
And as Europeans were Christians, they saw it as an opportunity to do as the Bible says - spread the word.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
Patently untrue...

It's rather obvious that a lot of the missionary work served the purpose of pacifying local populations and checking the spread of Islam even further into Africa...
Islamic conversions stopped at the Sahel. Muslims, whether Arab or not, had little contact with what are now the Gulf of Guinea coast, Congo, or the southern tip of Africa.
 
Jul 2019
179
Ghana
Islamic conversions stopped at the Sahel. Muslims, whether Arab or not, had little contact with what are now the Gulf of Guinea coast, Congo, or the southern tip of Africa.
Why do you insist on commenting on a subject you clearly don't even know the first thing about? It's embarrassing. Especially in the Information Age...
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
Why do you insist on commenting on a subject you clearly don't even know the first thing about? It's embarrassing. Especially in the Information Age...
Why do insist on assuming I know nothing about this subject? and insisting on where I can comment on?

I know since I used to live in Africa. I know that in the region I lived in (have family in for many generations) that no Islamic contact occurred. Possibly ever.
You can gain power over random Web people via assumptions, or move on elsewhere.
The Romans visited parts of sub-Saharan Africa, but there arent many aqeducts, temples, or camps there. Though there are rumours of a bust of Vespasian in the Niger River in Mali somewhere.....
 
Feb 2017
423
Latin America
North Africa already had a more or less unified, formally established Organized religion - Wikipedia which would resist and counter a large scale christian missionary activity and in extreme case it would cause larger popular resistance, destabilize the European colonial rule if they pushed that too much. In sub-saharan Africa traditional African religions generally lacked this level of institutionalization to counter missionaries, there was a space to be filled up.
And we should doubt these ideas of both "organised religion" and especially "world religion". Islam failed in uprooting rival African religions even in the Sahel. Heck, even in a place like Senegal, several people still worship Rog, the supreme god of the local Serer religion. Islam was also outcompeted by Vodun/Ifa and Candomble in Latin America and the Caribbean, where all presence of Islam completely disappear despite the high volume of African Muslim slaves. There's a reason why Afro-Caribbeans, in conjunction with indigenous Africans, want their religions to be recognised as "world religions" as well.

Like I keep saying, the reason Europeans didn't convert North Africa is not because Islam has any better development than African religions, it's simply because the Ottoman Empire kept existing -mainly due to rivalry among colonial powers to keep the balance of power, since by the late 18th century at least it was clear that the Ottomans could be partitioned similar to the PLC, as demonstrated especially with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt- and European colonisers thought it would be far easier to keep the Ottoman Sultan as the spiritual leader (the equivalent of the Pope) of Muslims to more easily control them, and when they conquered the Ottoman Empire, that role moved to the Sherif of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

We can for example compare this to Portuguese attempts at converting the Bantu around Angola and western Congo. Even the elites they managed to baptise kept much of their non-Catholic religion, and it is recognised that after over 500 years of a Catholic presence, the local Bantu religion is still very strong.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
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...
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I lived in Ghana too and never saw any Arab descent customs.
I suppose you can tell me any proven records of Arab contact with the Akan peoples. Though I'm sure you can "prove" the stories of Akans originatonig from Ancient Egyp?