Religion in Things Fall Apart

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Conflict in Things Fall Apart

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Comparing Igbo and…
  • 1:48 Igbo Gods
  • 3:48 Igbo Beliefs
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Laura Foist

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

Expert Contributor
Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

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.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

An Examination of Okonkwo, the Igbo, and Belief

Discussion Questions:

1. Think about Okonkwo as a tragic hero, a character who begins a story in a high position and then comes to a bad ending because of a fatal flaw in character. What position is Okonkwo in at the start of the novel? What happens to him at the end? How do his own personality and character help bring about his downfall? And, most importantly for this lesson, how are these three answers connected to the theme of religion?

2. As you read in the lesson, the religion of the Igbo people is strongly connected to the ancestors and the closeness of family. How is Okonkwo affected by his dead father's actions and reputation? What was his father like? How does Okonkwo view his son who converts to Christianity? How is Okonkwo in some way trapped between the generations?

3. The conflict between the traditional Igbo religion and Christianity as presented by the missionaries plays a large part in the plot of this novel. What other factors that raise conflict are connected to religion? In your answer, think about racial differences, economic pressures, education level, and political authority.

4. Many traditional African religious traditions are polytheistic, while Christianity is monotheistic. As you read in this lesson, this difference was a basis for problems between the Igbo people and the European missionaries and authorities. Look up information about these two broad categories of polytheism and monotheism. What other major world religions fall into each category? How might the story in this novel be different if the missionaries represented another polytheistic belief system?

5. Think about the two characters of Nwoye and Ikemefuna. What does each boy think about religion? Is this made clear in the novel or do you need to "read between the lines" and make inferences? What does Okonkwo think about each boy? How is his view colored by his religious beliefs?

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account