In this book, we have seen that all the three types of religion believe there is a Supreme God (Allah) who created everything in the world. They also believe that God makes good people happy, but punishes bad people. We also realized that all the three religions believe in praying, i.e., talking to God.
A. Christian Religion and Beliefs
There are beliefs which make up the Christian faith. Knowing the beliefs helps us to grow in the Christian life, to avoid doing the wrong things, and to teach or explain to others what we believe. Let us discuss some of these Christian beliefs.
i. Belief in God
Christians believe that God is their Father. They believe that He is Almighty. God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and is everywhere at every time. He knows all things and nothing can be hidden from Him.
Christians believe also that God can reveal Himself to man. For example, God revealed Himself to the Israelites during the time of Moses and taught them His name as Yahweh (Exodus 5:13-15). This is usually written as Jehovah.
God is also LOVE. This is seen in how He has made the world and continues to take care of all the things He has created. It is because of His love that He sent His only Son into the world to save mankind (1 John 4:8-10).
ii. Belief in the Scriptures
Christians believe that the words in the Bible were inspired by God and the men who wrote them were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) (2 Peter 1:21).
The Bible is believed to be the word of God and it is therefore regarded as holy. This is why it is described as the Holy Bible.
Christians take the Bible as the authority on all matters of faith, conduct, and practice. It is used for teaching the truth, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living.
If people follow the principles and teachings of the Bible they will prosper and succeed in life. For example, Joshua was advised to study the laws of God day and night. He did and he was successful.
iii. Belief in Jesus Christ
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When Jesus was baptized there was a sign in heaven, and a voice said, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
The belief in Jesus goes further to say that He is the only Son of God. He was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified and died to save mankind. Therefore, Christians must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
iv. Belief in The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is spoken of in the Bible as a power from God, which comes to those who believe in Him.
When the Holy Spirit came upon people, they got power to do wonderful things such as healing the sick, performing miracles, speaking in different languages, and interpreting the word of God. For example, Jesus promised His disciples, after His resurrection, that He would send the Holy Spirit to them, and He did (John 14:15-23, 16:5-15).
v. Belief in Judgment Day
Christians believe that Jesus is coming again. Jesus Himself said he would come back as a ruler and a judge (Matt: 25:31 and 46). When He comes He will save the righteous and send them to heaven and condemn the sinners and send them to hell. We should, therefore, prepare and live holy lives and do good works.
B. Christian Religious Practices
i. Christian Worship
Christians worship God because they want to honor, adore, and give Him the greatest respect. In doing these, certain days of the week have been set aside for His worship. Some Christians go to church and worship Him on Sundays, others on Saturdays. Apart from these days, other days are also set aside for prayer meetings, Bible discussions, and so on. All these practices help them to strengthen their faith in Him. At worship, they usually sing hymns and songs of praise, say prayers, read passages from the Bible, preach sermons, and give offertory. The most important thing is that worship must be done sincerely (John 4:23 and 24).
Jesus Himself asked His followers to go everywhere in the world to preach the gospel and baptize everyone who believes (Mark 16:15 and 16).
Among some Christian groups, children are baptized, others wait till their members fully understand the scriptures before they are baptized. In churches where children are baptized, the parents and elders promise to bring up their children to believe in the gospel and live like Christians.
Christians regard marriage as very important because they believe it has been approved by God. The Bible talks about its importance, and advises about it (Genesis 2:21-24, 1 Corinthians 7:1-16, Ephesians 5:21-33). Usually, after the customary marriage rites have been performed, Christians have their marriage blessed by the priest or pastor in their church.
Christians regard preaching or evangelism as very important. It is important because through evangelism people believe in the word of God and become Christians.
It was Jesus Christ Himself who, in the Bible, said, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all mankind” (Mark 16:15). And Christians obey His command by evangelizing.
Although there are trained priests and evangelists, every Christian is expected to take part in helping to make more people become Christians. Christians can invite others to believe in Jesus by their way of life. When Christians show qualities such as kindness, truthfulness, helpfulness, and love, they draw other people to become Christians too.
These days, there are many church crusades and conventions where the gospel is preached to win more souls for Christ.
A. Islamic Religion
i. Belief in Allah
In trying to know Allah, we must remember that Allah is One and has no partner. He has no equal, no beginning and no end.
Allah is not like anything that exists, neither does anything resemble Him. He does not become tired so He needs no rest nor sleep.
Allah is all powerful and nothing can defeat Him. He created everything including man and determined their lives. Nothing is hidden from Him.
ii. Belief in Angels
The second basic belief in Islam is the belief in angels. Every Muslim is required to believe in angels. The Quran describes angels as supernatural beings. They do not act on their own except on Allah’s command. The belief in angels is very important since one of their functions is to carry Allah’s revelations, orders, and messages to His Prophets and Messengers.
iii. Belief in the Holy Books
The scriptures are the messages of Allah to mankind. They are brought down by angels. We must believe in the Holy Books because they contain instructions to mankind on beliefs and basic laws which will guide man in carrying out his duties and enjoy his rights.
iv. Belief in Allah’s Prophets and Messengers
Islam teaches that we should believe in the Prophets and the Messengers through whom the scriptures were revealed. Examples of the Prophets and the Messengers are: Ibrahim (Abraham), Dawud (David), Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus), and Muhammed.
v. Belief in the Last Day
The Last Day is also known as the Day of Judgment or the day of Resurrection. The belief in this day is important because it is on this day that the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished.
vi. Belief in Destiny
According to the teachings of Islam, man chooses either good or evil by his own free will and is rewarded or punished according to his deeds. Man is only guided and advised by the messages of Allah. In Islam, belief in destiny does not mean that everything will happen by itself, whether we wish it or not. Destiny in Islam is that Allah created an orderly world and we are expected to obey His orders.
B. Islamic Religious Practices
Religious practices in Islam are grouped under two main headings. The first is Ibadat, which is the worship of Allah, and the second is Mu’amalat, which is service to mankind.
i. Worship of Allah (Ibadat)
When a person gets to know Allah and believes in Him, he has to make this known willingly and publicly.
A Moslem has to perform five daily prayers called Salat. The aim of Salat is to make a Muslim think of God, have a pure heart, clean body and clothes, overcome evil desires and to be a good and decent person in all respects.
Another religious practice in Islam is Zakat, which means legal alms. In Islam Zakat is obligatory for all Muslims. Zakat requires that the rich should show concern for the poor and the needy. This promotes good neighborliness, love, and brotherhood among Muslims.
Every adult Muslim should fast during the month of Ramadan. However, the sick, the aged, travelers, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempted. Fasting promotes the moral development of a Muslim. According to the Quran, fasting is prescribed for a Muslim so that he may be able to guard against evil (Quran 2:183).
In Islam, fasting does not only mean abstaining from food and drink but also from all kinds of evil. The Ramadan fast is meant to train the Muslim to submit to the Will of Allah and thereby become a true believer.
In Islam, a pilgrimage to Mecca or to the sacred house of Allah in Mecca is called the Hajj. It is performed in the month of Zul Hijja, the twelfth month of the Islamic year. The first rite of pilgrimage is ?Ihram which requires a pilgrim to war simple white cloth. This shows that in his love for Allah he is ready to forego all his worldly desires.
The second rite in Hajj is called Tawaf which means going around the Ka’ba seven times. That is followed by Sa’y which is running between two small hills known as al-safer and al-marwah.
The other rite of the Hajj is the kissing of the Black Stone.
Muslim pilgrims get spiritual and moral benefits from the performance of Hajj. It also serves as an international gathering where Muslims of all races and colors exchange ideas and experiences as one people serving God.
ii. Punishments and Rewards
According to the teachings of Islam, Allah knows all our deeds. He will therefore punish the evil doer and reward the righteous. So, we should all try to do good. The worst form of punishment is given to people who commit serious crimes purposely or intentionally. Some of the serious crimes are murder, adultery, fornication, robbery, and damaging property. Punishments for these crimes may take the following forms: a warning, a fine, caning, imprisonment, or death.
Allah is good and kind; when a person does good he is rewarded ten times, but for evil, he gets a punishment.
C. Traditional Religious Beliefs and Practices
i. The Supreme God
We have already learnt that the traditional religious man believes that there is God and that this God is a spirit and is supreme. To show that He exists, the traditional man uses the expression, “One does not show the child God.” The name God is often used in everyday speech. We hear of such expressions as ‘if God permits…’, ‘May God go with you…’, and so on. Ghanaian languages are also full of proverbs and wise sayings which refer to God.
In our folktales and songs, we show that we very much depend on Him. People also express this knowledge of God by the names they give to their children, e.g., ‘Mawuli’ (God is there), ‘Nyamekye’ (God’s gift). In their prayers, God’s name is often mentioned.
In most Ghanaian arts and designs, we show this belief in God. There are such designs or emblems as ‘Gye Nyame’ (Except God) and many others stamped in some of our cloths to show our belief in God. The traditional man believes that God is the creator of all things. He knows all things and is everywhere. These attributes of God are found in such expressions as: ‘He who knows, or sees all’, ‘Nothing can be hidden from God’, and ‘God is the source of all wisdom’. He is the protector of both the strong and the weak. This belief too is expressed in some Ghanaian sayings as: “God is the helper of those who suffer” and “If God does not decree your death, you do not die”. He is also believed to be powerful and He is regarded as a ruler. This is why in our everyday speech, we often hear, ‘God is King’, ‘God is great’ and so on. On the other hand, they believe that when they sin, God will punish them. This may take the form of drought, famine, floods, or death.
ii. Belief in the Gods
In addition to the Supreme God, there are other lesser gods according to our traditional religion. The lesser gods use their powers to protect, guard, and help man. The traditional believer prays to God through these gods.
Worshippers of these gods build shrines, temples, or altars for them. They have priests or priestesses who take care of these places and carry out the instructions of the gods. The worshippers believe that, since the gods help in many ways, they must obey and worship them. Sacrifices and offerings are, therefore, made to them either for a favor or as a thanksgiving.
iii. The Ancestors
Believers of traditional religion believe in the spirit of the dead. They believe that these spirits have influence on the lives of the living. After death, the dead enter the underworld or spirit world where they become ancestors. It is also believed that not everybody who dies becomes an ancestor. For example, babies, young children, the youth, and those who are said to have died from unnatural causes such as suicide and bad people do not become ancestors. On the other hand, those who had children and died at an old age as well as those who lived good and exemplary lives become ancestors.
Traditional believers do not worship ancestors; they have great respect for them. They respect them because they regard the ancestors as their elders who have lived exemplary lives on this earth.
Ancestors are believed to be everywhere and are ready to help the living when called upon to do so. This is why when libation is poured, all the ancestors in the family or community are mentioned. It is also believed that they need certain things like food, drink and water. So, they are given drinks when libation is poured for them. When believers eat, they leave bits of food on the ground for them, and when drinking water or wine, some of it is poured on the ground for them. They believe their ancestors visit them often. Some people, therefore, leave water in drinking pots and pieces of food so that their ancestors can have something to drink and eat when they visit them.
During religious or traditional festivals, priests or priestesses offer food and drinks to the ancestors.
A traditional believer believes that all dead people turn into ghosts. They also believe that there are both good and bad ghosts. Those who die unnatural death through suicide, drowning, accidents, child birth, and so on become bad ghosts. They are bad ghosts because their spirits are not admitted into the ancestral world. Their spirits, therefore, become unhappy and their ghosts move about frightening the living. In order to stop the bag ghosts from haunting people, some sacrifices are made to pacify them.
However, people who die a natural death are admitted into the spirit world to become ancestors, and thus become good ghosts. They advise and bless us and sometimes even show where a family treasure is hidden. Since they are good ghosts, the living treat them with respect.
The Ghanaian traditional society has special rules to control the behavior of its members. Such rules are called taboos. Anyone who breaks any of them is said to have offended the gods and ancestors. It is believed that when a person breaks a taboo, the gods get angry and punish him as well as the community in which he lives. Some of the punishments could be famine and the outbreak of an epidemic. When such a situation arises, the chief and the priests try to find out the cause. When the cause is known, they will ritually cleanse the offender and the community. To avoid such calamities, everybody tries to observe all the taboos.
In the past, each community had its own punishments for those who broke a taboo. Such punishments took the form of a fine, the slaughtering of a sheep or a cow, banishment or death depending upon the seriousness of the offence. Different communities have different taboos. We shall, therefore, look at some general taboos.
Examples of Serious Taboos:
1. It is a taboo for a man to run away from the battlefield,
2. To steal the property of a god or a shrine,
3. To insult a chief or a god,
4. To make a girl pregnant before her puberty rites,
5. To commit murder,
6. To marry or have sex with close relations, and
7. To commit suicide.
There are more of such serous taboos and all of them help the smooth running of our community. They make the members of the community behave in the proper manner.