Africa and Africanity Lecture Series: Future of Religion and Religiosity of the Future

This was the second Lecture in our lecture series on 'Africa and Africanity'. This Lecture on 'Future of Religion and Religiosity of the Future' is grounded on the dimension of human identity that cannot be expressed empirically of which is religiosity.

January 04, 2021

There is a dimension of human identity that cannot be expressed empirically. That is the essence of religiosity. Some call it spirituality; others call it sacredness. Through whatever label we prefer, we acknowledge that our senses are not adequate for expressing our innermost feelings and aspirations- our ultimate concerns.

Professor John S. Mbiti, who passed on in October 2020, emphasized that Africans are “notoriously” religious. I would suggest that humans are” incurably” religious- not only Africans but all humans. Africa is the Theater in which the Drama of competing religions is played. Africans are both the Actors and the Audience in their own Drama, cheered by onlookers and bystanders who from time to time toss tokens of appreciation or disdain.

There was a time when religiosity pervaded the cultures of Europe and North America. Those were the days when Constitutions took God for granted. A new deity entered the cultural stage. It was called Reason, with a sister called Technology. The whirlwinds of technology and progress without ado swept aside religiosity, and secularity became the norm. In the meantime, Africa wore the garbs of Europe and North America, spoke their languages, played their music while dancing their dances. But African religiosity remained intact, underneath the new religion. The Third Millennium has begun with Africans taking religion seriously, while elsewhere technology and progress took center stage. The future will tell, whether Africa will go secular, or return where it all began, in the core of our being.

Program Moderator:

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi – Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at The University of Nairobi.



Prof. Josef Sorett – Professor and Chair, Department of Religion; Professor, Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Columbia University.


Webinar Highlights:

Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia- Religion remains at the center of life for the African people. (Time frame from minute 9:49- 10:00)

Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia- Our Kenyan anthem is a prayer and it opens with ‘O God of all creations bless this our land and nation’. (Time frame from minute 11:18- 11:30)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- It is ironic that those nations and places where religion came from are becoming less and less religious while Africa is becoming increasingly more and more religious. (Time frame from minute 17:45- 18:04)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- If we look at the constitutions of the continent of Africa, it's very interesting to note that very few African countries have national anthems that are either poems or hymns of religion and this speaks for itself that for us in Africa, religion is so important that it’s an integral part of our self-understanding and existence. (Time frame from minute 18:18- 18:53)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- The universe preceded us, we should not behave as if it is ours. We belong in it for us to bequeath to future generations, it does not belong to us, future generations are entitled to enjoy it also. (Time frame from minute 27:57- 28:18)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- John Mbiti, observed and made a very profound statement that nobody teaches a child, God, in other words, our awareness of the beyond does not require volumes of books or scrolls. (Time frame from minute 36:07- 36:30)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- The crisis in African Christianity is that the teachings and rituals are foreign. The source languages are Hebrew and Greek, and the missionary languages are such as English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and so on. The language of the colonizing powers during the missionary era, in this process evangelization, becomes ideological propaganda. (Time frame from minute 44:14- 44:46)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- The question about the future of religion and religiosity demands of us that we admit our ignorance rather than continue to pretend that we know everything when in fact the unknowable remains unknowable. (Time frame from minute 51:55- 52:13)

Prof. Josef Sorett- Africa as notoriously or incurably religious is very much a human phenomenon it's not that Africa was behind or lacked the capacity of civilization but it’s the western narrative of Africa in a particular way as the world was moving forward that Africa and African Americans were unable to move forward with science and reason and secularization. (Time frame from minute 59:20- 1:00:12)

Prof. Josef Sorett- That insight from the lecture colonialism was not the beginning nor end but a definitive moment but what Africans were doing before and continue to do in a set of new relationships is still an important way to think of the relationship between Africa and Christianity.  (Time frame from minute 1:08:25- 1:08:44)