By James L. Cox

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Hastings describes the period of the late 1970s ‘as a wonderful time to be a member of the Aberdeen African Religions team brought together by Andrew Walls’, whom, Hastings adds, had created a department with a ‘remarkable balance, at least in African terms’ (Hastings, 2004: 269). In 1967, just after taking up his post in Church History in Aberdeen, Walls founded the Journal of Religion in Africa, which he continued to edit until 1985, and in the process solicited numerous articles and book reviews from Aberdeen staff and postgraduate students (Hastings, 1986: 5–9; Hastings, 2004: 265–74).

She adds that for the most part ‘they have been suppressed by, or fused with, the religions of cultures which are more politically powerful, such as Christianity or Hinduism’ (1999: 30). This observation derives from Fisher’s analysis of power relations between local societies and globalizing forces, rather than implying a theological connection between Indigenous Religions and the universal religions. The development of new academic programmes and publications related to Indigenous Religions, such as those at the Open University and that of the New Lion Handbook and Fisher’s introductory texts, supports my contention that ‘Indigenous’ now has overtaken ‘Primal’ as the preferred designation amongst religious studies scholars, although, as we will see, much clarification and further analyses are needed if this trend is to be sustained and legitimated.

Parrinder then asks if the designation ‘Supreme Being’ corresponds to the Christian usage of the same term. He notes, ‘The word ‘supreme’ is easily comprehensible in European theology, but it may be fatally misleading to transfer our ideas into the African hierarchy. God the Father is supreme in Christian theology’ (1949: 30). In West Africa this cannot be regarded as the case, since generally ‘worship is scant enough’. Parrinder concludes: ‘In short, while to us belief in God is the “highest” article of religion, and practised as such, it is not in the forefront of practised West African religion’ (1949: 31).

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