Religious Demographics of Ghana

Posted: April 27, 2013 in All Posts, Ghana

by Jamin Shih

People of Ghana

The religious distribution in Ghana is fairly diverse, with a split of 30 percent Muslim, 38 percent Traditionalist, 24 percent Christian, and 8 percent other. This compares to the demographics in the United States where 76 percent identify as a denomination of Christian, 20 percent do not identify with any particular religion, and the other 4 percent identify as other.

Christian missionaries have been documented in Ghana since the 15th century through the Portuguese. However, in the Northern areas of Ghana, the predominant religion is Islam. This is most likely because the missionaries that set up in the Ghanaian area focused primarily on the coasts at first, out of ease of travel. There are a variety of denominations of Christianity present in Ghana, spanning a diverse set of beliefs and value systems. Similarly to religious beliefs across the globe, even individuals of the same denomination may not necessarily share all of the same values and ideals. Thus, I think it is really important to note that the homogenization of any subset of individuals, including those that share the same religion, is dangerous and may not adequately characterize a population.

Photo by Mikkel Grabowski

Some of the subsets of Christianity that are seen in Ghana are Evangelical Presbyterianism, Methodism, Roman Catholicism, Mennonitism, and others. The Ghana Christian Council, which was founded in 1929, unites all of these separate denominations. This organization represents Ghanaian Christians, serves as a liaison between Christian Ghana and the World Council of Churches, and is an important part of the structural side of institutionalized religion. However, there are some churches that are not connected through the Ghana Christian Council, and it is by no means mandatory.

Despite Christianity playing a sizable role of the religious demographics of this country, there are several other religious systems that greatly impact the culture and values of Ghana. Traditionalist beliefs stem from religions native to Africa and not from the spread of religious missionary trips from other parts of the world such as Europe.

Traditionalist religions in Ghana tend to revolve around the notion of a Supreme Being, which is usually referred to as Mawu or Nyame depending on the group. Despite this, the supreme being is not usually directly worshiped, which is quite different from some of the other religions that Americans may be used to. Lesser gods, similar in type to the pantheon of nymphs, demigods, and children of gods in Ancient Greek religion, are also believed to be present all throughout nature, taking up residence and sovereignty in trees, streams, and other aspects of nature. Unlike many denominations of Christianity, these traditional religions do not hold services weekly, but instead operate on a less frequent nature. Meetings may be biweekly instead and contain annual festivals and other important religious events.

With the diversity of religious beliefs, there are of course measures in place to ensure that practicing of different religions do not conflict. There is a freedom of religion law in place in Ghana, but there were provisions legislated in order to monitor them. The Religious Bodies Law of 1989 was created to regulate churches. Despite this, the regulation has been relatively lax.

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