What is the most popular religion in Brazil?
There’s a lot of things that people use to know about Brazil: our great soccer players, paradisiac places, amazing food and coffee and a lot more. Even so, there’s one detail about our culture that still unclear to some: what is the religion over here?
Christianity is the most popular religion in Brazil, with Catholicism being the main strand, followed right after by Protestantism. There are other religions in the country, but those 2 strands of Christianity represent the faith of more than 86% of the population, it’s more than 200 million people.
But why Christianism is so popular in Brazil? Let’s dive deep into this subject and find out.
Religions in Brazil
Why Catholicism is so popular in Brazil?
The main reason for this is the fact that the religion has deep ties to the country’s colonization since the Portuguese (people who colonized Brazil) were Catholic.
The Catholic religion is the most popular in Brazil because it is part of the foundations of the country. At the time of colonization, in the 16th century, Jesuit missionaries used to accompany the Portuguese on expeditions and preach to the people in the newly discovered lands.
To have a better picture of how important this religion is for the country, you should know that Brazil is considered the largest country in the world by the number of nominal Catholics, with more than 64% of the Brazilian population declaring themselves Catholic, according to the data provided by IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).
This religion impacts not only the lives of devotees but the entire population. Brazil is a secular state, however, with such strong roots linked to the Christian faith, several aspects of our culture are directly affected by religion.
A good example of this is the most famous monument in Brazil: Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor). The most famous tourist spot in Rio de Janeiro, the statue represents the main pillar and center of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ.
Also, most of the country’s holidays are religious, mainly at the municipal and state levels. It is not uncommon here to find cities with names of saints and Catholic icons.
“The Patron Saint of Brazil”
Another example of how deeply rooted in culture is this religion, a Catholic saint is considered the “patron saint of Brazil”.
The saint in question is known as Our Lady Aparecida, Our Lady Revealed, or even as Our Lady of America, which is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the traditional form associated with a clay statue bearing the same title.
One of The Largest Catholic Sanctuaries in the World
Last but not least, one of the biggest catholic sanctuaries in the world is located in Brazil, in a city called Aparecida, in the state of São Paulo. The “Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida” (Catedral Basílica de Nossa Senhora Aparecida) is the second-biggest catholic temple on earth, losing only to the Vatican.
Also, is the biggest cathedral in the world, considering that the Vatican Basilica is not a cathedral. This is one of the most visited places in Brazil, receiving more than 12 million tourists every year.
Protestantism in Brazil
A segment of the Christian faith,Protestantism is the second largest religion in Brazil, with about 59.8 million believers. The most important categories of protestants in Brazil are the traditional and the Pentecostals.
Among the traditional segment, the largest denominations are the Baptists, the Presbyterians, Adventists, Lutherans, and Methodists. Among the Pentecostal group are the followers of the Assembly of God, the Christian Congregation in Brazil, and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
Protestantism is the religious segment that grew the most in the past 20 years in Brazil, increasing its number of followers by 61%.
Protestantism arrived in Brazil for the first time by French Protestants that were running from religious persecution in France, whose majority of the population is catholic. Even John Calvin, a famous theologist, sent a mission of French evangelists to Rio de Janeiro back them.
Through the years, a lot of immigrants that came to Brazil brought together their religions, as North Americans that brought Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. Germans installed the first Lutheran churches on Brazilian soil.
8% of Brazilian Population Has No Religion
The third-biggest religion in Brazil is no religion at all. According to IBGE data, 8% of the population has no religion (about 15 million people).
In this accounting are religious preferences like agnosticism, atheism, and people that have faith in a superior power but don’t follow it as a religion. The state with more people without religion in Brazil is Rio de Janeiro.
In Brazil, the state of Bahia is the third with the largest number of people without religion; the first in Rio de Janeiro, and the capital of Bahia, Salvador, has the highest national percentage of people without religion among the capitals.
Considering the numbers of IBGE, only Catholics and Protestants outnumber the non-religious in Brazil.
3% of the Brazilian Population are Spiritists
The last religion with statistical relevance for the size of Brazil’s population is Spiritism. It’s important to know that for that research, IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) considers Kardecism and Spiritism as equivalent in their census classification.
With about 6 million spiritists, Brazil is the country with the largest number of adepts of spiritism in the world. This doctrine became popular in Brazil through names like Bezerra de Menezes and Chico Xavier, which used to spread their teachings all over the country, including on large TV channels.
According to IBGE data, spiritists are also the segment of people with the highest income and educational levels in Brazil. It’s important to know that Brazilian spiritism is different than European, for example, because it has a much more religious bias than that existing in Europe.
Other Religions in Brazil
There are other small religious segments in Brazil in terms of adoption/followers. Some of them are very popular in other countries and part of them are Brazilian religions.
Buddhism is the largest of all minority religions in Brazil. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), there are about 240 thousand Buddhists in Brazil.
The religion was introduced to Brazil in the early twentieth century by Japanese immigrants that found home in Brazilian lands, although now, 60% of Japanese Brazilians are Christians due to missionary activities and marriage.
According to the IBGE census, there were 35,167 Muslims in Brazil in 2010.
As a general rule, Islam has arrived in Brazil through Muslim African slaves brought from West Africa. As Brazil received more enslaved Muslims than anywhere else in the Americas, this theory makes a lot of sense.
During Ramadan, in January 1835, a small group of black slaves freed from Salvador, Bahia, inspired by Muslim teachers, rose against the government in what became known as the Malê Revolt, the biggest slave rebellion in Brazil.
Most of the Brazilian Muslims live in the states of São Paulo and Paraná, but there are also significant communities in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Mato Grosso do Sul.
A significant part of these Muslims is Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, who took up residence in the country during the First World War.
In recent years, Brazil is also receiving a lot of immigrants and refugees from conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, from the Lebanon War, Syria, and recent conflicts in Iraq.
There are about 110 thousand Jews in Brazil according to the IBGE census, with the largest proportion of Jews being found in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Jews first arrived in Brazil as new Christians or converts, names applied to Jews or Muslims who converted to Catholicism, most of them by force.
According to the Inquisition reports, many New Christians who lived in Brazil during the colonial period were condemned for secretly maintaining Jewish customs. These reports may not be reliable since the Inquisition confiscated the earthly assets of its victims, and had a direct interest in denouncing and convincing them.
In 1630, the Dutch conquered parts of northeastern Brazil and allowed the open practice of any religion. Many Jews came from the Netherlands to live in Brazil in the area dominated by the Dutch. Most of them were descendants of Portuguese Jews who had been expelled from Portugal in 1497.
The first time that Jews stayed in Brazil and were able to openly practice their religion happened when the first Brazilian constitution granted freedom of religion in 1824, shortly after independence.
They were mainly Moroccan Jews, descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who had been expelled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497.
Currently, neo-pagan religions of European origin are starting to spread in Brazil, such as Wicca, Ásatrú, and Neo-druidism. Since the 1990s, Wicca, or modern Witchcraft in general, has grown a lot in the country, especially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
However, within this context, the Wiccan religion is not the only religion within the neo-paganism specter. But being the most representative and present in the country, the Wiccan religion is the largest number among other neo-pagan religions.
Based on the IBGE research, we can make an estimate an approximate calculation that there are around 400 thousand followers of the Wicca religion in Brazil.
The group of religions called Afro-Brazilian Religions makes up what is known as Candomblé, which is divided into several congregations like Batuque, Xangô do Nordeste, Encantaria, Tambor de Mina, Quimbanda, and Xambá, were originally brought by slaves.
These slaves worshiped their gods and the African ancestors who were turned into deities, called Orixás, by the devotees. Their religion is not only about doctrines, there is a lot of components, such as songs and dances the slaves also brought with them from Africa.
The organization of African-based religions in Brazil has only taken place recently, in the final period of slavery, when Africans brought to Brazil were settled in cities and started to live like a community, bringing back to live their culture and religions, in a process of interaction and freedom that they did not face before.
The urban settlement of slaves provided favorable conditions for the survival of some African religious traditions, with the emergence of organized cult groups.
Umbanda is considered by many as a Brazilian-born religion. It appeared on November 15, 1908, in São Gonçalo da Guanabara, in Rio de Janeiro, although there are reports of other dates and places of manifestation of this religion before and during this period.
Umbanda devotees leave offerings of food, candles, and flowers in public places for spirits. Candomblé “terreiros”, their equivalent to a temple, are discreet from the general view, except for famous parties. Even not being a popular religion in terms of adoption, these practices are all over the country.
The Secularism of the Brazilian State
The Brazilian Constitution of 1988 marked Brazil as a secular state. A clear division between religions and the State was instituted, consolidating the concept of a secular State.
The government cannot favor or prohibit the activities of religions in the country. More than that: it can’t impose a specific religion on the citizens or discriminate against anyone because they do not follow the majority religion.
You can see It clear in the following articles from the Brazilian constitution of 1988:
IV – the expression of thought is free, anonymity being forbidden;
VIII – no one will be deprived of rights due to religious belief or philosophical or political conviction unless he invokes them to exempt himself from legal obligations imposed on everyone and refuse to fulfill an alternative provision, established by law.
The Union, the States, the Federal District, and the Municipalities are prohibited from:
I – establish religious cults or churches, subsidize them, hinder their functioning or maintain relations of dependency or alliance with them or their representatives, except, as provided by law, public interest collaboration.
Well, I hope that after all this content you solved all your doubts regarding “What Is the Most Popular Religion in Brazil?”.
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