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African Religion and Globalization

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Uwah (2017, p.81) defines globalization as the mechanism by which social, political, economic, and cultural relations are intensified to international levels. As a result, the driving force behind globalization is to allow cross-border transcendental integration of socioeconomic and political ideologies. Furthermore, Kasongo (2010, p.309) defines globalization as the dispersion of people's social habits, relations, memory, and remembrance on global scale. Religion is one of the oldest structures of human civilization. Globalization, on the other hand, is seen as a transformative movement that accelerated after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Globalization of religion traces its start from the times of Alexander the Great and when Buddhism was first conceived by Chandragupta Maurya. In this period, the increasing powers of religion cased significant effects on imperial armies and trade economies. According to Nggong (2014), globalization caused the unification of religions and cultural ways of life; leading to the emergence of civilizations, and evolution of trade routes. These activities marked great historical periods like colonization of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The current study looks into the impacts of globalization on local religious practices and how global movement of people, ideas, finance and technologies impacted the religious practices of Africans.

Impacts of Globalization on African Religious Practices

According to Ezenweke and Nwadialor (2013), globalization acted as one of the greatest threats to previously upheld traditional values. Based on the definition of globalization, there is no doubt that it caused great effects on the religious and cultural ideologies of the local populace. Disguised in the aspects of diversity, proliferation is cited by Swidler (2013 p.680) as the main polarizing factor in religion. For instance, African religions have been great victims of transmogrification of traditional beliefs and systems of life. On the other hand, ()0 explain that proliferation led to the inversion of the ideologies of consumerism which in turn led to differences in previously shared norms and religious ethics. According to Herington (2013 p.145), globalization brought a detrimental religious interface in most African economies through strengthening the ideologies of extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism which were sponsored with the aim of destabilizing these nations based on their diverse cultures and pluralistic ways of life.

Globalization is a threat to the religious security of people in their local settings. According to Petterson (2014 p.181), globalization is one of the strongest form of revolution. And according to Ngong (2014), all forms of revolution threaten the identity, security and safety of a populace based on the distortions they cause on previously held traditions and customs. For instance, Western Capitalists are known for their invasion of heir subjects’ traditional and religious norms. In North and Central Africa, Western Capitalists’ values of accumulation of wealth and property are in great contradiction to those of Islam which dominate this region. As a matter of fact, the greatest achievement of globalization in such settings has been looked at by Ezenweke and Nwadialor (2013 p.63)0 as a hidden form of imperialism whose aim is to increase the dominance of capitalist systems in “naïve” religions.

Globalization is one of the greatest causes of the culture of pluralism which is greatly embraced in many religious experiences. According to Uwah (2017), proliferation has led to the emergence of significant social facets like the human rights organizations and environmentalist societies which protect the rights of the victims of globalization. On the other hand, the inception of humanitarian organizations like the United Nations and the World Health Organization has not only increased the extents of global security and transparency but also participation in eradication of poverty and war. According to Herington (2013 p.147), the immense integrations brought about by globalization have eroded the initially upheld religious boundaries and ideologies which steered divisive agendas. With strengthened values that promote free movement of people, globalization has brought about the development of mutual understanding between individuals from different religious upbringings. All religions embrace the shared values of love, equality, justice and peace. Globalization only strengthens these values by allowing human interactions without consideration of religious, social, geographical and economic boundaries.

Globalization caused great shifts in the cultural structures of traditional African societies. According to Swidler (2013 p.683), globalization led to great shifts in the religious roles of African women as managers and policy makers to housekeepers. The intrinsic norms of modernity is considered as the greatest cause of conflict between the instrumentation of the religious practices that brought about the new conflicts between civilization and upholding the previously held traditional African ways of life and values of religion.

Effects of Global Movement of People, Ideas, Technology and Finance on African Religious Practices

Technology has spread its realm of authority to African religion based on the aspects of teaching, systems of belief and proselyte dimensions. One of the notable aspects of globalization is its effects on spreading religion beyond national and regional boundaries. Many African religions have moved towards adopting new technological platforms to spearhead their proselytization agenda. According to Kasongo (2010), evolution and rapid spread of technology in African societies has led to efficient and timely availability of information in different religious settings.

The globalization of technology is considered by Patterson (2014 p. 181) as the course of current transformations in traditional African religious doctrines and rituals. According to Ngong (2014 p. 196), global movement of technology has continuously brewed intentional amalgamation of religious doctrines and rituals. For instance, Africa enjoys the presence of a wider range of religions which are traced to the doctrines of their colonial masters and strengthened by technological platforms.

Global spread of ideas accounts for immense shifts in components of African traditional systems of religion. According to Ezenweke and Nwadialor (2013), African traditional religious beliefs were founded on four key principles; mystical powers, spirits, divinities and a Supreme Being. For instance, the traditional African religions upheld the fact that impersonal powers dominated the world and were in full control of all aspects of life. However, the spread and inception of foreign religious ideologies like the theological stands of creation led to great distortions in the previously upheld mysterium tremendum. Initially, Africans upheld the practices of seers and diviners who used plant and animal extracts, amulets and charms and magic to manifest their impersonal strengths. In these settings, Kasongo (2010 p.312) explains that mystical powers were sent to varied places with good and evil intentions. However, the globalization of ideas led to massive transformations in such doctrines which played a significant role in the religious ways of traditional African societies.

The global movement of people is one on the greatest causes of interreligious conversions among Africans. Thousands of Africans convert to other religions every day. According to Swidler (2013), countries like Nigeria receive more than 20 new religious sects on a monthly basis. Africa has been looked at as a rainbow continent based on its diversities of cultures, democracies and religions. The free movement of people across borders accounts for the immense spread of different spiritual faiths and traditions in Africa over the years. As a matter of fact, most African constitutions have included clauses to protect people’s rights and freedoms of religion because of the widespread global movements which call for institutionalization of policies aimed at fostering religious integration. According to Uwah (2017 p.181), movement of colonial masters and foreigners on African soils led to great shifts in previously set traditional religious paradigms. As a result, massive dilutions of religion as a way of life among Africans took place. Ezenweke and Nwadialor (2013 p.65) explain that many Africans started to shift their religious norms in such a way that they conformed to those of their foreign masters.

The strife for financial stability and global movement of monetary resources has led to significant shifts in the traditional African religious stands. African economies are faced with the challenge of maximizing their levels of economic investment as well as capital inflows. A greater percentage of these countries greatly depend on agriculture to steer their economic progress. As a result, they have periodically encroached places considered to be sacred and of great religious importance. Most traditional African religions believed that their supernatural beings settled in forests, mountains and other natural landforms. Distortion of these areas for financial gains accounts for the current shifts in religion and traditional African faiths.


Globalization caused massive shifts in the religious stands of Africans from their traditional beliefs. Effects like strengthening the ideologies of extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism, threatening of previously held traditional identities, and spread of capitalist ideologies were detrimental on the moralities and values of Africans. On the other hand, the inception of the culture of pluralism and changing the previously held primitive roles in different societal structures acted as a boost on African religion.


Ezenweke, E.O. and Nwadialor, L.K., 2013. Understanding human relations in African traditional religious context in the face of globalization: Nigerian perspectives. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 3(2), pp.61-70.

Herrington, L.M., 2013. Globalization and religion in historical perspective: A paradoxical relationship. Religions, 4(1), pp.145-165.

Kasongo, A., 2010. Impact of globalization on traditional African religion and cultural conflict. Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences, 2(1), pp.309-322.

Ngong, D., 2014. African Pentecostalism and Religious Pluralism. Pentecostal Theology in Africa. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, pp.193-208.

Patterson, A.S., 2014. Religion and the Rise of Africa. Brown J. World Aff., 21, p.181.

Swidler, A., 2013. African affirmations: The religion of modernity and the modernity of religion. International Sociology, 28(6), pp.680-696.

Uwah, I.E., 2017. The representation of African traditional religion and culture in Nigeria popular films. Politics and Religion Journal, 5(1), pp.81-102.

November 11, 2021


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