The African belief in the Supreme being.
Might you have wondered about the influence and the impact of the traditional African belief in one Supreme Being upon the whole of African life?
You have read about African cosmologies, by African scholars for the past three decades; you will see that they have tried their best to establish that Africans have a concept of a universal God and the Creator. Every culture and tradition in Africa revere this creator God as the mighty and refer to him with different names from their different traditions.
Most African traditional religions have a diffused monotheistic religion, taking a look at the Yoruba religion “diffused” monotheism. This means that the Yoruba had a “monotheistic” religion originally, but as the religion gradually decayed over the centuries, the growing proliferation of the divinities was overshadowing the earlier monotheistic beliefs and practices of the religion. The same with the Igbo Omenala.
Even with this definition of “diffused” monotheism in most African religions, coupled with similar notions scattered across the continent of Africa, the overwhelming facts show that Africans generally have an awareness and belief in the Supreme Being. The truth is, this Supreme Being is not known to have been exclusively worshipped by traditional Africans.
Instead, the African divinities and the ancestors, who are the lesser beings, have been actively involved in the everyday religious life of the traditional Africans.
They directly receive sacrifices, offerings, and prayers offered by traditional Africans. In most traditional African societies, the Supreme Being was not actively involved in the everyday religious practices of the people, but the divinities, the gods and the ancestors were. The Supreme Being is usually mentioned in prayers, songs, and in most religious ceremonies.
Traditional Africans believe in a Supreme Being, who is “above the lesser” divinities and the hierarchy of beings. This belief has its profound theological influence upon the traditional Africans.
The God who is above the lesser gods seems “not to be intimately involved or concerned with man’s world. Instead, men seek out the lesser powers to meet their desires”.
This leads man to turn to the impersonal powers, the divinities, the gods, the ancestors, and the spirit beings for help. God is only occasionally mentioned or remembered.
Not every ethnic group in traditional Africa has divinities or gods.
In Africa, most traditional religious belief does not generate any religious fervor or any intimate relationship with the Supreme Being as with the Divinities and the gods. Just like in Christianity, there’s not a intimate relationship between the creator God with most Christians. Rather, the link is with Jesus Christ.
The Supreme Being seems to be far remote or less functional in the traditional African everyday life. The religious activities of the traditional Africans revolve mainly around the Divinities and the gods.
The fundamental African beliefs can be surmised to be that the material and the spiritual are intertwined. Man needs power from outside the wall of himself to control his environment. That life’s purpose is to seek and maintain balance and harmony that result in success, happiness, and security. To do this, man must deal with the spirit powers correctly. Thus by rites, rituals, and liturgies, he must impress and manipulate spirit beings to produce success, happiness, and security.