Animism

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Animism is a metaphysical worldview that acknowledges supernatural phenomena such as spirits or magic, but does not include belief in beings properly described as a God or gods. Generally, animism is used to describe belief systems of people in Africa, or of indigenous people in other parts of the world. The term does not refer to any particular belief system, but to a class of belief systems.

For example, in Nigeria and Sudan the main ethnic/worldview divide is often described by journalists as being between Christians and Animists in the South, and Muslims in the North.

Some people feel that "Animism" is a derogatory term because it is often associated with an implied judgment that those who hold those beliefs are primative and hence inferior, although many people of good will use the term without intending such a connotation.

Voodun and Santiera are Caribbean versions of animism which trace some of their roots to the religions of the Africans brought to the Americas in the slave trade.

Wicca is a term which is usually used to refer to the beliefs of people in the Western tradition who have revived animist and/or polytheist ancient worldviews in relatively recent times. Closely related is the term Neopagan which is usually used to refer to the beliefs of polytheists who grew up in the Western tradition and whose religious traditions flow from a revival of polytheist ancient worldviews in recent times (often the 19th or 20th century). Animist in contrast, is a term usually used to refer to people who hold Animist worldviews inherited from generation to generation since times long forgotten.

Chinese Folk Religion could be fairly classified as animism, but is generally counted seperately.

Pagan is also a term that may refer to people with animist and/or polytheistic worldviews, but is a more complicated term because at some points in history, orthodox members of various monotheistic faiths have used the term more broadly to refer to anyone who does not share their faith. For example, in Islam, the term pagan is sometimes used to refer to people who are not Jews, Christians or Muslims, regardless of the precise nature of their belief system. Christians have, at times, used the word in a similar way. The pre-Christian polytheistic religions of the Celts, the Romans, the Egyptians (aside from a brief monotheist episode), the Greeks, the Mayans and the Sumarians are customarily called Pagan, although the Hindus who are also polytheistic (in many approaches to looking at that religion) are by tradition often set aside as a separate category.

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