How did missionaries use religion during the Imperialism of Africa?

1 Answer
Mar 25, 2017

Imperialism was a big part of European and African history, One of the many causes was to spread religion; specifically Christianity.



European missionaries wanted to spread Christianity and teach it to less educated and wealthy people in Africa as one cause for imperialism - They mainly saw it as their duty to be carried out and it is commonly referred to as "The White Man's Burden", taken from Rudyard Kipling's poem.

Missionaries thought they were helping the people they invaded and controlled; they thought they were savages and had no structured or prosperous way of life. They saw them as weak and felt pity when they saw 'useless' and 'wrong' rituals and customs.

Social Darwinism is derived from the theories of evolution proposed by Darwin. When the age of Imperialism came about, many Imperialists use the concept of Darwinism and applied it as a social, moral justification.

Social Darwinism, put simply, describes that inferior races (Africans, Asians) are unable to rule themselves, uncivilized, and would eventually suffer elimination in the race of evolution and civilization. Think of this as Survival of the Fittest.

As the name suggests, the fit, capable, civilized humans will survive, and all others will not. Imperialists believed it was their duty and burden to save these souls from their fate. They believed the right thing to do was to civilize them, and by doing so, send these inferior races to Heaven, rather than Hell.
If European Imperialists did not 'help' these people, they believed they would go to Hell, and thus, gave more reason for them to colonize.


The main goal of spreading religion was to have natives convert and learn the White Man's way of life because they thought it was simply better. They established churches in their land, violated sacred/meaningful beliefs and traditions, and sometimes resorted to violence in order to enforce their beliefs.

An amazing work of literature that illustrates the realities and harshness of imperialism, especially British imperialism, takes the name of Things Fall Apart. White missionaries brought horses, Maxim machine guns, and other superior forms of technology that natives had no chance against.

Although missionaries believed they were doing the world a good favor, they brought destruction, caused violence and death, and just showed their ignorance. They ignored beliefs and current religions and saw them as stupid or foolish, not allowing them to even explain their religions, and used their military advantages to enforce their own religions.

The effects of imperialism were quite harsh.