Role of Religion

New World

Animistic:

Religion
The animistic religion of the Aztec is similar to many other animistic religions. They started with the myths of the creation that was orally passed down through the generations. They had a Master Spirit that took different forms at different times. Below the Master Spirit there were many smaller deities that cover specific areas of their life. The religion of the Inca was similar in many respects to the Aztec religion. The main god of the Inca was the Sun God. The inca, ruler, of the people was the direct representative of the Sun God on the earth. The calendar was made the same way that the Aztecs made their calendar. They used the festivals and ceremonies to mark time. The people sacrificed young people to appease the gods the same as the Aztec. Women in the tribe were more closely affiliated to the gods of Fertility such as the moon and earth than the men. The men were more in tune with the gods of War.

Soceity
Their religion tied into every part of their lives. One of the things that was special in their religion is that the deities of their religion have both male and female forms. This is because they believe in the duality of all things. The religious events and ceremonies are the way that they arranged their calendar. They measured the year by what festival came next. The political system of the Aztec was just as closely related to the religion. The leader of the people was supposed to be the patron, Huitzilopochti, of the War cult. They sacrificed their young people to the gods all of the time to appease them. The religion had a big affect on the Native American people. The religion is like the Earth and the rest of their culture is like the moon that orbits around the Earth. Their religion dictated the rest of their lives.

Christianity
As the Spanish and Portuguese conquered lands in the New World, they brought their religion, Christianity, along with them. When the Spanish conquered, the church was at first represented by individual priests. Soon missionaries such as the Dominicans represented the church in participating in enterprise. By 1530, a cathedral was being built on Hispaniola. The mistreatment and destruction of the American Indians led to attempts by clerics and royal administrators to end the worst abuses. The activities of men such as Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas, a conquistador turned priest, initiated the struggle for justice. Under the Spanish authority, the old Indian religion and its priestly class were eliminated. Catholic religious orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits carried out the widespread conversion of the Indians, establishing churches in the towns and villages of the sedentary Indians and setting up mission in frontier areas where nomadic peoples were forced to settle. Taking seriously the pope’s admonition to Christianize the peoples of the new lands, some of the early missionaries became ardent defenders of Indian rights and even admirers of aspects of Indian culture. In core areas, the missionary church eventually was replaced by an institutional structure of parishes and bishoprics.
The Catholic Church deeply influenced the cultural and intellectual life of the colonies in many ways. The construction of churches, especially the great baroque cathedrals of the capitals, stimulated the work of architects and artist, usually reflecting European models but sometimes taking up local themes and subjects. When Africans began to be sold as slaves in the New World, they too were forced to convert to Christianity. The church and state combined to create an ideological and political framework for the societies.

Africa

Animistic:

Religion
The main belief of the African people was animism. They believed in a single god that ruled over the other gods. The smaller gods have specific areas of life that they influence. The lesser gods are represented in animals on Earth and are sometimes sacrificed to ensure divine generosity. The people of Africa also venerated their ancestors. They believed that the ancestors could be helpful to the family or mischievous. It is custom to give sacrifices to the ancestors to try and ensure their aid. They also believed that the shamans and religious clergy had powers of healing. They used potions and herbs along with divine aid to help their victims.

Soceity
In Things Fall Apart there are many references to the role of religion in the community. At the beginning when Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, goes to the priestess he says “Every year … I sacrifice a cock to Ani, the owner of the land … I also kill a cock at the shrine of Ifejioku, the god of yams … And when a man is at peace with his god and his ancestor”. This reference hints on the fact that they sacrifice animals to their gods to try and win some favor so that the gods will be generous to them. Also the priestess Agbala hints on the fact that they venerate their ancestors as well as their gods. This shows that the people of the african tribes used their religion in their everyday lives because of their influence on agriculture. The other parts also have specific dieties where they influence the people.

Christianity

Soceity
Before the Islamic spread Christianity had already been through Africa. The main areas of the conversion were in Egypt and Nubia.
The Egyptians were very intense in their copying of the scripture into their own language. They eventually split from the Byzantine Empire over a religious issue. Muslims conquered the Egyptians and many of them were forced to become Muslims. A few of the Christians retained their faith. These faithful were called the Copts and they were tolerated by their Muslim conquerors. The fervor that they had spread up to Nubia and the land of the Kush caused the Kush to resist the Islamic push until the 13th century.
The other large Christian kingdom in Africa was in Ethiopia. Non-Christians surrounded the Ethiopians and this caused them to turn inward. They did not have as much contact with the other countries around them because of this difference in religion. When the Muslim nations rose up against Ethiopia the looked to the West for help. The Portuguese came to their aid to stave off the Muslim push. The Portuguese tried to convert the Ethiopians to Roman Catholicism and this didn’t work.
Some of the things that their beliefs caused are separateness from the other territories around them. The Ethiopians especially had little to do with their neighbors and this still has some truth today.
In Things Fall Apart one of the issues that arises later in the book is the Christians that move in to South Africa. The two countries that were mentioned before were in northern Africa and they were accepting to this new religion. The point of view in the book is that the people were not very accepting of the new faith. Many of the people thought that they should fight for their beliefs and the right to have them continue without the outside influence of competing religions. The culture of the tribes was intricately tied to their religion and this intrusion caused unwanted change to their culture. One of the things that we can see is that the people were not always accepting of new religions.

Islam
The Islamic spread into North Africa occurred due to their proximity to the Mediterranean cultures. The spread of Islam really started in the middle of the 7th century. The followers of Muhammad started in Suez and went across northern Africa. France stopped them and so their conversion centered on northern Africa. The Islamic conversion was successful at first in much of northern Africa. The decline and the problems that occurred with the Abbasid Empire caused the unity of the religion in Africa to crumble. This caused division within the different parts of Africa.
In the 12th century there was another major push into Africa from the Islamic religion. Groups from northern Africa pushed deeper into the sub-Sahara Africa.
One of the reasons that the people of Africa were so accepting of Islam is because Islam was so accepting of them. The teachings of Islam were that all Muslims were equal which made the African and Muslims equal. Politically the unifying of the church and state caused some of the kingdoms to accept the religion because the leader thought that it would give him more power.
Some of the conflicts that occurred because of Islam are due to the fact that the Muslims were hypocritical. Many of the practices showed an inequality between the Berbers and their Muslim counterparts as well as between men and women. Social stratification is important to the Islamic culture and this was a cause of some of the revolts of the African people against the Muslims.

Comparison
The religions of the Aztec and African tribes are very similar in the structure of their pantheon. They have the same concept of a chief god and lesser gods who govern specific areas of the people’s lives. The main difference between the religions is the Aztec religion was very bloody. The Aztecs sacrificed human beings to appease the gods and the Africans used animals. Human sacrifice was not part of their religious practices. The other major difference is that the Aztec and Inca people choose their leaders based on divine influence and the African people did not use religion as much of a factor in determining their leader. The difference in the way that they arranged their calendars is also due to a difference in their cultures and religions. The African people used the crops and the harvests to determine their calendar while the Native Americans used their religion to make the calendar. The conclusion that is drawn is that while the Africans are rooted in religion the Native Americans are more in depth to their religion. It is a much more demanding religion. The influence of Christianity on the different societies was not the same. The Christian push in Africa left behind religious states that were surrounded by Muslim nations and other animistic religions. They were not forced to take the religion. In the Americas the Portuguese and the Spanish forced upon the natives their religion. They used their religion as a hammer that swept all of the Native Americans religion away. One of the differences is that the African people didn’t accept the Roman Catholic version that the Spanish and Portuguese imposed on the Native Americans. One of the similarities is in the construction of the churches. In the New World and Africa they constructed many large churches in the main towns. One of the main differences between the two countries was that some parts of Africa were introduced to the Islamic religion.

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