Animism is one of the most widely practiced religions in the world today. Some experts estimate that nearly half of the world’s population is involved in some type of animism. It is so widespread that a person practicing some form of animism could also be a member of almost any religion; animism is practiced even by some who profess to be Christians! However, animism has no formal theology, no training schools, no founders, and no geographical point of origin.
What Is Animism?
Animism is most easily defined as the belief that our physical world is filled with spiritual forces, and that every event or object has some type of spiritual cause or impact. All forms of animism include three basic beliefs:
1) belief in some type of supreme being (who is represented as far off and unconcerned with man’s daily needs and challenges);
2) belief in a spirit world that is filled with the spirits of the dead, with devils and with other spiritual beings (which are subject to the “supreme being”);
3) belief in mystical powers (witchcraft, sorcery, voodoo, divination, etc.)
As with all false religions, animism contains partial truth. For instance, we know from Scripture that there actually is a Supreme Being, Who is God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe and our sovereign Lord.
The Bible reveals that our world does have a “spiritual realm”, and that there are spiritual beings both obedient to God (angels) and rebellious against God (demons) who exist in this realm. We also know from the Bible that there are demon forces at work to deceive, steal from, and destroy human beings (John 10: 10; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 6: 12; 1 John 4: 1-6).
However, animism takes such truths as these – which are clearly revealed in the Bible – and blends them with all kinds of superstition and other demonic practices, creating “false religion”. Participants in animism are led away from godly, biblical spirituality and into demonic activities.
Animism has a strong appeal to many people. Even those who are well educated or who live in a technologically advanced society may practice animistic beliefs. For example, many athletes in Western nations have certain “rituals” they follow before they participate in sporting events. They might put on items of clothing in a certain order, or wear a piece of equipment or jewelry they consider to be “lucky”; they believe these rituals will give them good fortune or a better performance in the athletic competition. Many people engage in this form of animism.
Animism is expressed more blatantly through divination, witchcraft, sorcery, idol worship in many forms, and ancestor worship. It can include the belief that certain objects, plants, animals or places are inherently evil or good and have magical powers.
A Desire To Take God’s Place
At the core of animism – and all forms of false religion and cultic practices – is an attempt to replace the lordship of the One true God with man’s own rulership. Fallen mankind , in an attempt to get his own way on his own terms, will deify creatures and make idols to worship (Rom l :22,23), rather than surrender his rebellious and sinful nature to a loving God.