Pew Forum Study Shows Rich Diversity Among African Faiths

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has long been a credible source for in-depth analysis of how people view faith, and a new survey released today continues that pattern with interesting findings about the religious views of sub-Saharan Africans.

The overwhelming majority of sub-Saharan Africa is divided between Christianity and Islam. The study shows there is broad acceptance and tolerance of each faith by the other, but that many still blend in traditional African beliefs that pre-date the establishment of global religions. This includes belief in witchcraft, evil spirits, sacrifices to ancestors and reincarnation.

For example, 27 percent of the 25,000 Africans interviewed face-to-face for the study indicated that they believed in the protective power of sacrifices to spirits or ancestors. Twenty-five percent of those believers are Christians and 30 percent are Muslims. The country with the highest crossover between theses specific traditional and world religion beliefs is Tanzania at 60 percent.

I invite you to dig into the details of the report further, but here a few more interesting nuggets:

  • Unemployment, crime and corruption are listed as larger problems than religious tensions.
  • Religious extremism is a concern. Interestingly, both Christians and Muslim are more worried about Muslim extremism than Christian extremism.
  • About half of Christians in every surveyed country believe Jesus will return to Earth in their lifetime. About 30 percent of Muslims think they will witness a return to a caliphate, the golden age of Islamic rule.
  • A majority of Christians in the surveyed countries believe in the prosperity gospel.

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