As with any other country in the world, Brazil is a melting pot of different religions. In fact, due to the diversity of its cultures and its heritage, this country boasts an array of religious ideals and affiliations.
Interestingly, recent censuses have revealed that around 90% of the Brazilian population subscribe to some religious ideal, making it more religiously inclined than any other South American country. Only around 1% of its population do not believe in a God, or a supreme being in some form or another.
Christ The Redeemer statue on the Corcovado hill in Rio de Janeiro.
RIts religious inclination is also extremely diverse, despite the fact that around three-quarters of the population claim to be Roman Catholics. In fact, there are more Catholics in Brazil than in any other country in the world.
In terms of Christian religions, the main churches in Brazil are:
Catholicism was introduced to Brazil when the European settlers arrived with the aim of ‘civilising’ the local native people. They built churches and brought religious leaders into the country to teach young and old alike the doctrines of Catholicism. During the 19th century, Catholicism was made the official religion of Brazil.
This meant that Catholic priests were paid a salary by the government, including them in the political affairs of the country. As such, Catholicism became an integral part of the management and administration of Brazil and its people. Many of the Brazilian festivals are based on the Catholic religion.
Other religions (that is, of non-Christian origins) include:
• Muslim (or Islam)
• Jehovah’s Witness
Spiritism is also one of the significant, although minor, religions in Brazil. Spiritistic practices are based largely on ancient Amerindian cultures as well as the influence of the African cultures and customs that were introduced centuries ago, when slaves were brought over to Brazil from the ‘Dark Continent’ of Africa. Such tribes and cultures were particularly inclined towards the worship of spirits since they had not been influenced by more structured notions of creation, which hailed from a reliance on the teachings of Bible.
Candomble and Umbanda were also introduced by the African cultures, although they evolved into what they are today, displaying only elements of ancient customs. Originally, these religions involved inciting gods with chanting and dances. Christians viewed these as being satanic. Today, though, they are merely classified as spiritistic.
Religion forms a very important part of the identity of any nation and its culture. The complexity of religion in Brazil only testifies once again to its depth as a country.