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Religion in Things Fall Apart Video

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  • 0:03 Comparing Igbo and…
  • 1:48 Igbo Gods
  • 3:48 Igbo Beliefs
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson, we'll learn about the religion of Igbo, their beliefs, and some of their gods in Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart.' We'll also learn how Igbo contrasts with Christianity.

Comparing Igbo and Christianity

The religion of the community in Things Fall Apart is Igbo, yet in this story, Christian missionaries come to try and convert the natives to Christianity. These two religions are quite different. As such, the natives have a hard time understanding the purpose of the Christian religion and the missionaries have a hard time understanding the Igbo culture.

The Igbo religion has many gods. There is a god for rain and another for earth. Most of these gods are focused on nature. Since they are mostly an agricultural society, it makes sense that nature would be important to them. Since they worship the earth, they take care of the earth and are careful to not dishonor the earth in any way.

Ancestors are also very important to the Igbo religion. This leads to family being very important. Ancestors are frequently worshiped as gods. When they need help with something they could pray to their ancestors for guidance.

On the other hand, in Christianity, there is one all-powerful god. This god is there to save them from their sins and to save them from this life. For the Igbo culture this is so foreign because this life and land is their entire life. A single god doesn't seem very applicable to them, especially when this god doesn't seem to be as concerned about agriculture and their way of life.

So when Christian missionaries come, it makes sense that the Clan doesn't want anything to do with them. Particularly, Okonkwo has a hard time accepting them. He has made many sacrifices in his life in order to follow the Igbo gods and does not want to turn his back on that. So when his son, Nwoye, converts, Okonkwo has a hard time accepting it and disowns his son.

Igbo Gods

There are many gods in the Igbo religion, especially since ancestors can be worshipped as gods. We will discuss a few of these gods, particularly as they relate to this story Things Fall Apart.

Chukwu is the supreme god. When the clan hears of the one true Christian god, they try to compare him to Chukwu saying, 'You say there is one supreme God who made heaven and earth… we also believe in Him and call Him Chukwu. He made all the world and the other gods.' The missionaries try to dispute the idea of other gods, but the Clan doesn't understand how it's possible to not have other gods. They believe that Chukwu created these other gods in order to help him care for the earth and to be his messengers for the people to pray to. They only turn to Chukwu when the lesser gods are unable to help them.

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