Differences between African Traditional Religion and Christianity

Religion in Africa

African Religions and Beliefs

Differences between African Traditional Religion and Christianity

For centuries, African Traditional Religion in its myriad of forms was practiced by the majority of Africans, but in the last fifty years Christianity and Islam have become more prominent.  West African contains the largest populations that are still following African Traditional Religion.  There are differences and similarities between African Traditional Religion and Christianity.  To see some similarities between them, click here.

Below are list some of the major differences between Christianity and African Traditional Religion.


  • Most practitioners of African Traditional Religion have an understanding of a creator God, but this normally refined and broaden when one becomes a Christian.
  • In African Traditional Religion creator God is distant from man.
  • In Christianity God has been close to the human race throughout history and today reaches down in love to draw humans toward him.
  • In African Traditional Religion, man has often made covenants with God.
  • In Christianity God is the covenant maker and He gives the power to keep the covenant.

Eternal Rest of the Soul

  • Many forms of African Traditional Religion teach that the spirits of the dead can be born back into the realm of the living.
  • The Biblical teaching is that human have one life on earth, a single judgment, and then everlasting rest or punishment of the soul.

Indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God

  • There are many forms of spirits in African Traditional Religion, some can possess the living.
  • In African Traditional Religion when a spirit possesses a person there are negative consequences.
  • In African Traditional Religion one can be possessed in order to gain some privileged knowledge.
  • Christianity promises that the Holy Spirit of God comes into the lives of all believers.
  • In Christianity possession of the Holy Spirit of God is both the sign of being “sons of God” and the source of power and comfort.

Christianity is for All Ethnic Groups

  • African Traditional Religions are specific to each ethnic group on the continent.
  • No ethnic group is motivated to teach another ethnic group its forms of religion and convert them.
  • The evangelistic mandate of Christianity, and the very nature of Jehovah God, encompasses all ethnic groups on the planet for all time.
  • The Christian message calls people out of earthly kingdoms into the Kingdom of God.

Christ is the Mediator between Humans and God

  • In African Traditional Religion ancestral spirits, and lesser gods, are usually the spirits that communicate with humans on earth.
  • These spirit do not carry the desires of humans to the Creator God.
  • Christ Jesus, God’s own son, takes the “groaning” of humans to God.
  • Christ was tempted in all the ways men were tempted, so He is a sympathetic mediator.

Definition of Sin

  • Sin in African Traditional Religion is mostly concerned with transgression of morals or community norms.
  • In African Traditional Religion there is a difference in the severity or degree of a sins.  If one does harm to someone in your his own ethnic group, it a more serious sin than if one commits it against someone of another group.
  • In the Christian sin is against and in rebellion to God.
  • In Christianity all sins are equal.


  • Sacrifices are offered in African Traditional Religion in order placate, appease, or ask favors of the spirits.
  • They are often offered when a wrong is committed.
  • The will of God, as revealed in the Bible, is that all people be forgiven and saved through the sacrifice of His son.

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