What do Animists believe? What is Animism?
Animism is the belief that all things have a spirit or soul, including animals, plants, rivers, mountains, stars, the moon, and the sun. Each being is considered a spirit that can offer help or harm to humans. As such, spirits must either be worshiped or appeased. Animists offer sacrifices, prayers, dances, or other forms of devotions to these spirits in hopes of blessing upon areas of life (crops, health, fertility, etc.) or for protection from harm.
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Animism has been practiced since ancient times and is often mentioned in the Bible. The Israelites, for example, were commanded to not follow the practices of the nations around them who followed other gods. The Egyptians who enslaved Israel prior to their wilderness journey followed many deities as animists. In Daniel, the people worshiped "the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone" (Daniel 5:4).
The New Testament also includes accounts of people who worshiped idols and other inanimate objects. In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 the apostle Paul teaches, "Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that 'an idol has no real existence,' and that 'there is no God but one.' For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords'—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." Though many offered food to inanimate objects as animists, Christians were to understand that these objects did not really have a spirit or exist as a god.
Today, Animism continues in most tribal religious movements, in Shinto, in eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hindusim, and in Pagan/Neopagan movements. In addition to believing inanimate objects have spirits, many believe in revering the spirits of ancestors who have an influence on those who are living. This is a noted practice in Shinto and forms of Native American spirituality, among others.
It is important to note that not all religious scholars define Animism the same way. Some view Animism as a belief or practice while some classify Animism as its own religion. Since many religions practice Animism, it is generally better to consider it a belief. In addition, most Animist cultures have an overall "religion" rather than understanding itself an Animistic Religion.
In comparison with biblical Christianity, Animism is a false belief in gods who are not truly gods at all. Isaiah 45:5 teaches, "I am the Lord and there is no other, besides me there is no God." In the Bible, Animism is instead taught as a deception that leads people astray from the true and living God (1 Peter 5:8).
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