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In what ways are the characteristics of West African Traditional Religion (WATR) different from those of Christianity or Islam?


In what ways are the characteristics of West African Traditional Religion (WATR) different from those of Christianity or Islam?


Religion is an integral part of human life, with different beliefs and practices found in different parts of the world. West African Traditional Religion is one such belief system that has been practiced for thousands of years. Christianity and Islam are other major world religions that have had a major influence in the West African region. In this article, we will be exploring the characteristics that differentiate West African Traditional Religion from Christianity and Islam. By doing so, we will gain insight into the unique features of each religion, and how they have been shaped by the diverse culture and environment of West Africa.

Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the world's largest religion, with over 2.4 billion adherents, or followers, throughout the world. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of humanity whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Islam is a monotheistic Abrahamic religion that is based on the teachings of the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an. The core beliefs of Islam include the belief in Allah as the one and only deity, the belief in Muhammad as Allah's final prophet, the belief in the five Pillars of Islam (profession of faith, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage), and the belief in the Day of Judgment. Muslims practice their faith through rituals such as prayer, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, and hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

West African Traditional Religion is a set of beliefs and practices rooted in the indigenous spiritual and cultural traditions of West African societies, particularly those located in modern-day Nigeria, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. These beliefs and practices include ancestor worship, divination and healing rituals, and a belief in an all-encompassing divine energy often referred to as "God" or "the Supreme Being". These beliefs and practices are still widely practiced today among many West African communities.


West African Traditional Religion is a non-theistic spiritual practice

One of the ways in which West African Traditional Religion differs from Christianity or Islam is that the in the former, the adherents believe in a plethora of gods. West Africans believe there is a Supreme Being, the ultimate, but aside from that, there are other lesser gods that work in collaboration with the Supreme Being. These lesser gods are worshipped as individual deities but they recognize the supremacy of the Supreme Being. In Christianity and Islam on the other hand, there is the belief in the existence of one God. In the absence of God, the Almighty, there are no other god.

West African Traditional Religion emphasizes an individual’s personal relationship with the divine

Another characteristic that stands out when one compares West African Traditional Religion to Christianity and Islam is that West African Traditional Religion is based on how a man relates directly with his maker, he connects himself to his object of worship in a spiritually direct manner. In other words, it is based on the personal conviction of the person in question. In Christianity and Islam, the connection is more communal in nature. The Christians congregate in church while the Muslims congregate in the mosque. This does not mean Christians and Muslims do not have their personal relationships with God or Allah, just that communal worship is also emphasized in addition to the individual relationship with God.

West African Traditional Religion does not have a specific set of doctrines or beliefs

Again, followers of West African Traditional Religion do not have any centralized rules that members are expected to adhere to across the region as in the case of Christianity and Islam where all their followers are called upon to abide by a set of commandments. In Islam, every Muslim is required to pray five times a day. They are required to visit Mecca, at least, once in their lifetime. Give alms. In Christianity, going to church on Sundays is encouraged. These are not the case in West African Traditional Religion.

West African Traditional Religion does not have a central authority or hierarchy

Also, in West African Traditional Religion, there is no one leadership structure for the entire West Africa, overseeing the religion. There is no, for example, like having the Chief Priest domiciled in Lagos, Cotonou, or Nogokpo with an administrative structure at a secretariat. In Christianity, there is a whole hierarchy of leadership, with an administrative structure. The administration is centralized and doctrines developed and handed down the ladder for implementation. The Catholic Church, for example, has the Pope based in Rome and served as the leader of the global Catholic church. In Islam, there is also centralization of authority. In a country, for example, the highest point of authority is the Chief Imam and his voice counts.

West African Traditional Religion does not have elaborate ceremonies associated with it

Be aware that West African Traditional Religion is a spiritual philosophy founded on the idea that the natural world, the supernatural, and the ancestors all possess power. It is unrelated to any specific rituals or ceremonies in acknowledgment of the fact that numerous cultures and people in the area practice religion in a variety of ways.  Instead, it focuses on developing personal connections with the gods and ancestors as well as learning about and keeping a healthy relationship with Mother Nature.  Respect for divinity, awe for the ancestors, and preservation of peaceful relationships with the environment are the three guiding principles of West African traditional religion. Every society and group has a special way of attaining this.

West African Traditional Religion does not have any organized clergy

The last, but not least way in which West African Traditional Religion is different in character from Christianity and Islam is that there is no organized clergy. There are no formal schools or seminaries and so on to attend before one can become a priest of a deity. The clergy is not organized the way it is organized in Christianity or Islam. s


Overall, it is clear that there are significant differences between West African Traditional religion and Christianity or Islam. West African Traditional religion has its own unique set of beliefs and practices, while Christianity and Islam have their own distinct rituals and customs. While the three religions may share some similarities, they offer different ways of expressing faith and have different approaches to life and death. Ultimately, the differences between West African Traditional religion and Christianity or Islam provide a fascinating insight into how different cultures approach and express faith.

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