In this post, I presented the view of Mbiti that where the African is, there is his religion which would imply the African was always religious. But this, argues Okot P’Bitek, is not true. Mbiti was a Christian pastor and his biases influenced his thinking. It can be argued the same about Okot, that his irreligiosity influenced his thinking.
He writes for example.
in so far as Africans believed in certain ‘powers’, they may be called religious; but, as most of them did not hold beliefs in any deities similar in conception to the christian god, we may refer to traditional Africans as atheistic in their outlook.
What then should be the duty of the scholar interested in studying African religion(s)? He says it is remove the susty Greek metaphysical dressings as quickly as possible before African deities suffocate and die just like the Christian God has perished. He says further that deities exist to serve the interests of men. The African deities are for man, and not man for them.
The student should leave behind the idea that the temporal order of nature is in some sense inferior and illusory. There is no other-worldiness in African religious thought. The ethics is not grounded on a promise or threat by some god that the good people will, in the future, enjoy life in heaven, while the bad will cook in great fire. To the African, this is the only world, and it is neither inferior to any other not illusory.
While Christian apologists and theologians argue their god is unknowable, the knowledge of Africans about their deities is not limited, inadequate or ridiculous in anyway. It should be known that for most Africans, the names, abode and characteristics of their deities are known and knowable.
Finally, the student interested in African religion must leave behind the belief in a one God and the assumptions which arises from it.
Other practical lessons that can be derived from African religion is on matters of sex. On this Okot writes
Christian sex ethics, its other-worldiness, and its preoccupation with sin are important areas for study because, here Christianity contrasts vividly with African religions.
Maybe, the time has come for all of us to say with Fritz Mauthner that
God is dead. The time has come to write his history.