This entry presents a brief, general picture of Africa's traditional religious heritage, focusing on the major beliefs because these underlie the general attitudes of individuals and society and shape their worldview. Various terms are used to refer to the indigenous religious heritage, including African religion, African traditional religions, African indigenous religions, and African religious traditions. This entry makes use of the most current term, "African religion." It is clear that in such a vast continent, there are diversities of religious life and concepts, but there are also similarities that make it possible to give a general picture.
After a brief word on the origin of African religion, this entry considers it in terms of belief in God and other spiritual beings, mystical power, and the continuation of human life after death. It describes how human beings are seen to be at the center of the world, and traces the journey of individual life from birth to death and beyond. Moral and ethical values are shown to regulate people's relationships with one another, nature, and God. African peoples give health and related problems much attention, for both their physical and their spiritual welfare. Religions originating outside of Africa, together with the influences of "modern" life, also have an impact upon the traditional religious heritage.
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