The traditional religion of the Black people dates back to 200 A.D. The main characteristics of this religion are the belief in a Supreme Being and belief in a realm of spirits, primarily those of people's ancestors. Ancestors are of great importance because they are the deceased elders of the group also known as the living dead. They are regarded as part of the community. It is believed that these living dead bring either good or ill fortune. Good relations, therefore, are maintained through various regular ritual offerings.

Christianity came to South Africa with the European settlers. South Africa has many Christian denominations including Anglican, Catholic, Dutch Reform and Lutheran. Many of these churches accept Black people in to their parishes. Today Black Christians far outnumber White Christians. The South African Christian community rejects apartheid. It is trying to find ways of representing its Black members in its rituals and organization. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the South African Anglican Church played a prominent role in the struggle against apartheid. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984.

Did you know?

The most famous Indian with South African connections was Mahatma Gandhi who arrived in 1893 and spent 20 years in the country. It was in South Africa that he created his successful and internationally famous philosophy of passive resistance or Satyagraha to help South African Indians organize politically and attain acceptance and better living standards.

The Islamic faith arrived in South Africa at the same time as the first Dutch settlement of 1658. No mosque was erected until 1804 because this religion was suppressed by the first settlers. The Muslim community consists primarily of those of Asian descent. Islam, however, has spread to members of the Black South African population.

The Hindu religion was introduced in South Africa by indentured labourers who came from India in 1860. They built shrines and temples soon after their arrival.

Fifteen percent of the population claim no affiliation to any formal religious organization.