Chinua Achebe wrote the novel, Things Fall Apart, which is a great piece of African literature that deals with the Ibo culture, society, and history. One place where the Ibo religion is practiced is in the village of Umuofia in Africa, where the story takes place. On the other hand, Christianity is a very common religion that is practiced all over the world. Although Christianity and Ibo are both types of religions, they have many differences. One way the religions are different is the Ibo practice polytheism and Christians practice monotheism. A second difference is the Ibo believe in animate Gods unlike Christians who believe in an inanimate God. Another contrast is the Ibo practice polygamy unlike the Christians who practice monogamy. A final contrast is the afterlives of the two religions.
First of all, the Ibo practice polytheism and Christians practice monotheism. Polytheism is the belief in more than one God, and monotheism is the belief in one God. Christians believe in one supreme creator of the heavens and the earth, who is called God. In contrast, the Ibo have various gods who they worship. The conversation between Mr. Brown, a Christian missionary in the village of Umuofia, and Akunna, a member of Umuofia, explains the Ibo religion very well. Akunna said that the Ibo believe in one supreme God also, but they call him Chukwu because “he made all the world and the other gods.” Mr. Brown made the comment that the Ibo worship carved wood and Akunna replied by saying,”The tree from which it came was made by Chukwu, as indeed all the minor gods were.” Akunna also said that the Ibo “make sacrifices to the little gods, but when they fail and there is no one else to turn to they go to Chukwu.” (179-180).
Another god, besides carved wood, that the Ibo worship is the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. The Ibo believe they must do whatever the Oracle of the Hills and Caves says or they will be punished. An example of this is when the Oracle of the Hills and Caves pronounces that Ikemefuna, the boy living with Okonkwo, be killed. Since the Oracle of the Hills and Caves had said it must be done, the men of Umuofia took the boy outside the village and killed him. (57). Another god the Ibo worship is the snake, which is called the sacred python. When the Christian missionaries came to the village, the son of the snake-priest was said to have “killed and eaten the sacred python.” (185). Enoch, the son of the snake-priest, ate the sacred python when he converted to Christianity. In addition, the Ibo believe each person has a chi, which is a personal god. When Okonkwo is exiled to his mother’s homeland, he thought that his chi was not made for great things. The belief was that “a man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi.” (131).
A second difference in Ibo and Christianity is the belief in animate gods and an inanimate God. Christians have an inanimate God, which means that He cannot be seen. Christians also believe that God is eternal. Unlike Christianity, the Ibo believe in animate gods, which are alive and can be seen. An example of the Ibo believing in animate gods is they worship carved wood, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves, and the sacred python.
Another contrast of the two religions is the practice of polygamy compared to monogamy. Monogamy is what Christians practice and it is being married to one wife at a time. Christians believe that when a man and a women become united in Christ they become one, and a man can only have one wife at a time. In contrast, the Ibo practice polygamy, which is having many wives at a time. In Umuofia, the more wives a man has, the better. Okonkwo, the main character in the book, has three wives. (13) It is a common practice in Umuofia for all the men to have more than one wife. Each wife and her children live in a different hut and the man lives by himself in his obi.
A final difference in Ibo and Christianity is the beliefs in the afterlife. Christians believe that if the Lord saves their soul from sin they will have eternal life in heaven with God, who is also eternal. Christians bury the bodies of the deceased in the ground, but believe their soul goes to heaven if they have accepted the Lord in their heart. In contrast the Ibo believe in ancestor worship. They believe that when a respected person of the clan dies they will be worshipped.
The consequences of treating the Ibo religion as culturally inferior led to the falling apart of Africa. Since Okonkwo was a symbol of Africa and he committed suicide at the end of the book, Africa also fell apart. The white people came to Africa to try to convert the Ibo to Christianity, and most of the white people did not respect the Ibo. The exception was the missionary Mr. Brown who listened to clan members about the Ibo religion. The white people thought that Christianity was the only religion to have and that if someone did not have their religion they could treat them as inferior. In their eyes, Christianity was way of justifying the bad treatment of people and seeing them as inferiors.
In conclusion, Things Fall Apart is a very good novel and portrays social, cultural, and religious aspects of Africa. Christianity and Ibo are both types of religions, but they are practiced in very different ways. One difference is the Ibo practice polytheism, or they believe in more than one god, and Christians practice monotheism, which is the belief in one God. A second difference is the Ibo worship animate gods, unlike Christians who worship one inanimate God. In addition, the Ibo practice polygamy, which is having more than one wife at the same time, and Christians practice monogamy, or being married to only one wife. A final contrast between the two religions is they have different beliefs in the afterlife.