Religion and Morality in the African Traditional Setting

When Immanuel Kant calimed, almost two centuries ago, that there is a rational moral basis to religion – a ‘religion of reason’ at the core of historical religious faiths – he was speaking within the context of a highly ethicalized Western religious tradition. Set against the radically different background of African traditional religion, however, Kant’s claims initially appear unsustainable. Major features of religious life in Africa, including spirit mediumship, ancestor cults and witchcraft, all seem worlds removed from the ethical monotheism which Kant presupposed. The less apparently ethical dimensions of African religious life such as witchcraft accusations, pose a special challenge to any view which claims that religious activity everywhere possesses an underlying moral basis. The author takes up this challenge by arguing that despite initial appearances, African traditional religion dose have a rational basis and displays essential conformity to a ‘deep structure’ (suggested by Kant in his own pioneering work on the philosophy of religion) of universal moral and religious reason. Notes.

Title: Religion and Morality in the African Traditional Setting
Author: Green, Ronald M.
Year: 1983
Periodical: Journal of Religion in Africa
Volume: 14
Issue: 1
Pages: 1-23
Language: English
Geographic terms: Subsaharan Africa
Africa
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1594931.pdf
Abstract: When Immanuel Kant calimed, almost two centuries ago, that there is a rational moral basis to religion – a ‘religion of reason’ at the core of historical religious faiths – he was speaking within the context of a highly ethicalized Western religious tradition. Set against the radically different background of African traditional religion, however, Kant’s claims initially appear unsustainable. Major features of religious life in Africa, including spirit mediumship, ancestor cults and witchcraft, all seem worlds removed from the ethical monotheism which Kant presupposed. The less apparently ethical dimensions of African religious life such as witchcraft accusations, pose a special challenge to any view which claims that religious activity everywhere possesses an underlying moral basis. The author takes up this challenge by arguing that despite initial appearances, African traditional religion dose have a rational basis and displays essential conformity to a ‘deep structure’ (suggested by Kant in his own pioneering work on the philosophy of religion) of universal moral and religious reason. Notes.