These interactive charts draw on data I have used before – the 2010 Pew survey of religious beliefs in sub-Saharan Africa (see full report and data here – pdf). I post the data again here with more detail for you to explore – you can select what specific belief you wish to examine using the drop down menu.
It’s particularly interesting in the context of heightened attention on superstitious beliefs in Tanzania, following the recent spate of brutal attacks on people living with albinism. As I have posted before, attacks on people with albinism have been more common in Tanzania than elsewhere in Africa.
So what do the charts tell us?
I want to make one main point, which is this: in several areas of superstition / supernatural belief, Tanzania is way ahead of the rest of Africa.
According to this survey, 93% of Tanzanians believe in witchcraft, 80% that some people can cast spells, and 96% in evil spirits . In all three cases, Tanzania “leads” in these beliefs. In fact, compared to most of the surveyed countries, Tanzania “leads” by a long distance.
Second, several commentators have argued that if Tanzania was more god-fearing, attacks on people with albinism would not happen. But this data shows that Tanzanians’ beliefs in more respectable aspects of religious belief – such things as angels, heaven and hell – are very similar to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. It seems unlikely that the problem is that Tanzanians are not sufficiently religious. Beliefs in Islam and Christianity exist alongside very widely held beliefs in witchcraft, evil spirits and curses.
Finally, exactly the same points can be made about violent attacks on people accused of practising witchcraft – usually elderly women. Nipashe newspaper reported yesterday on four recent mob murders of people in their 80s in Dodoma and Mara regions. They were accused of using witchcraft to bring drought to their villages.