Divinities and Ancestors

Filosofia Theoretica 11 (1):187-196 (2022)
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Abstract

This paper reflects on two sets of terms in the field of religious studies, mainly through a comparative study with the divinities and ancestorship between African and Confucian cosmologies: the first one is the classification of monotheism, polytheism and animism; and the second is so-called ‘ancestor worship’. I argue that the classification system of monotheism, polytheism, and animism is partially invalidated in both African religions and Chinese Confucianism. This is because in both traditions, even if there is a supreme or original being, it is on a continuum or spectrum with other divinities and even human beings, rather than an absolute Other. Similarly, the use of the simple word ‘worship’ to summarise ancestorship in African religions and Chinese Confucianism is actually a simplification of the relationship between the living and ancestors across both traditions.

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