Religion in Brazil is more diverse compared to other Latin American countries. The dominant religion of Brazil is Christianity. Brazil possesses a richly spiritual society formed from the meeting of the Roman Catholic Church with the religious traditions of African slaves and indigenous people. This confluence of faiths during the Portuguese colonization of Brazil led to the development of a diverse array of syncretistic practices within the overarching umbrella of Brazilian Roman Catholicism, characterized by traditional Portuguese festivities. Until recently Catholicism was overwhelmingly dominant. Rapid change in the 21st century has led to a growth in secularism (no religious affiliation), and Evangelical Protestantism to over 22% of the population. The 2010 census indicates that under 65% of Brazilians consider themselves Catholic, down from 90% in 1970, leading Cardinal Cláudio Hummes to comment, "We wonder with anxiety: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country?"
In 1891, when the first Brazilian Republican Constitution was set forth, Brazil ceased to have an official religion and has remained secular ever since, though the Catholic Church remained politically influential into the 1970s. The Constitution of Brazil guarantees freedom of religion and strongly prohibits the establishment of any religion by banning government support or hindrance of religion at all levels. In the 2010 census 64.6% of the population declared themselves as Roman Catholic, 22.2% as Protestant, 8% as non religious, and 5.2% as followers of other religions (mostly Spiritists or Kardecists who follow the doctrines of Allan Kardec, Umbandists, Candomblers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and minorities of Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and other groups).
Brazilian religions are very diversified and inclined to syncretism. In recent decades, there has been a great increase of Neo-Pentecostal churches and a thriving of Afro-Brazilian religions, which have decreased the number of members of the Roman Catholic Church. The number of Umbandists and Candomblers could be significantly higher than the official census figure, since many of them continue to this day to disguise their religion under "Roman Catholic" syncretism. About ninety percent of Brazilians declared some sort of religious affiliation in the most recent census.
Brazil has the largest number of Catholics in the world.Roman Catholicism has been Brazil's main religion since the beginning of the 16th century. It was introduced among the Native Brazilians by Jesuits missionaries and also observed by all the Portuguese first settlers.
During colonial times, there was no freedom of religion. All Portuguese settlers and Brazilians were compulsorily bound to the Roman Catholic faith and forced to pay taxes to the church. After the Brazilian independence, the first constitution introduced freedom of religion in 1824, but Roman Catholicism was kept as the official religion. The Imperial Government paid a salary to Catholic priests and influenced the appointment of bishops. The political-administrative division of the municipalities accompanied the hierarchical division of the bishoprics in "freguesias" (parishes). There was also some hindrances to the construction of temples and cemeteries that belonged to the Catholic Church. The first Republican Constitution in 1891 separated religion from state and made all religions equal in the Codes of Law, but the Catholic Church remained very influential until the 1970s. For example, due to the strong opposition of the Catholic Church, divorce was not allowed in Brazil until 1977 even if a separated couple observed a different religion.
The Catholicism practiced in Brazil is full of popular festivities rooted in centuries-old Portuguese traditions, but also heavily influenced by African and Native Brazilian usage. Popular traditions include pilgrimages to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida (Nossa Senhora Aparecida), the patron saint of Brazil, and religious festivals like the "Círio de Nazaré" in Belém and the "Festa do Divino" in many cities of Central Brazil. Areas that received many European immigrants in the last century, specially Italian and German, have Catholic traditions closer to that practiced in Europe.
The largest proportion of Catholics is concentrated in the Northeast (79.9%) and South (77.4%) regions. The smallest proportion of Catholics is found in the Center-West region (69.1%). The State of Piauí has the largest proportion of Catholics (87,93%) and the State of Rio de Janeiro has the smallest one (45.19%). Among the state capitals, Teresina has the largest proportion of Catholics in the country (86.010%), followed by Aracaju, Fortaleza, Florianópolis and João Pessoa.
Protestantism in Brazil largely originated with American missionaries in the second half of the 19th century, following up on efforts that began in the 1830s. Evangelical Protestantism and Pentecostalism has grown very rapidly in Brazil since the late 20th century. The 2010 Census reported that 22.2% of the Brazilian population is Protestant, about 44 million people. Brazil has many versions of Protestantism. These include neo-Pentecostals, old Pentecostals and Traditional Protestants (most of them Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists) predominantly from Minas Gerais to the South. In the same region, mainly Minas Gerais and São Paulo, large sections of the middle class, about 1-2% of the total population, is Kardecist, sometimes pure, sometimes in syncretism with Roman Catholicism. The Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, part of the Anglican Communion, has some 120,000 members. Centers of neo-Pentecostalism are Londrina in Paraná state, as well the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte (capital of Minas Gerais), especially the suburban and nearby areas of these cities. Lutherans are concentrated mostly in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and in countryside regions of the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo.
As of the year 2000, the largest proportion of Protestants is found in North (19.8%), Central-West (18.9%) and Southeast (17.5%) regions. Among the state capitals, Rio de Janeiro has the largest proportion of non-Pentecostal Protestants in the country (10.07%), followed by Vitória, Porto Velho, Cuiabá and Manaus. But Goiânia is the state capital with the largest proportion of Pentecostal Protestants in the country (20.41%), followed by Boa Vista, Porto Velho, Belém and Belo Horizonte.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is also present in Brazil. The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, localized in São Paulo, is the See of the Archdiocese of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in São Paulo. It is an example of Byzantine architecture that can be appreciated in South America. Its construction, which begun in the 1940s, was inspired in the Basilica of Hagia Sophia of Istanbul and was inaugurated in January 1954. According to IBGE, there were 131,571 Orthodox Christians in Brazil.
In 2014 according to the denomination, Brazil had 767,449 Jehovah's Witnesses with 11,562 congregations and a ratio of 1 Witness to 256 residents. However the 2010 census reported nearly 1.4 million people listed themselves as members.
The 2010 national census reported 226,509 people identifying as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; This is very different from the church's reported membership, in 2012, of 1,173,533 causing some to question the membership numbers reported by the LDS church.
The church also reports 1,940 congregations and 315 family history centers. The LDS Church now also has 6 temples spread out across the nation, in Campinas, Curitiba, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Recife, and São Paulo, with additional temples under construction or announced in Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, Belém, and Brasília.
The word Spiritism refers to the Spiritist Doctrine, which can be found in Allan Kardec's 5 main books. Spiritism does follow Jesus's principal and his moral teachings. With almost 4 million adherents in 2010, is the second largest Religion of Brazil. Many confuse Spiritism with Afro-Brazilian Religions like Umbanda, Candomblé and others that have a following of almost 600,000 adherents. One of the most unusual features of the rich Brazilian spiritual landscape are the sects which use ayahuasca (an Amazonian entheogenic tea), including Santo Daime, União do Vegetal, and Centro de Cultura Cósmica.
This syncretism, coupled with ideas prevalent during the military dicatorship, has resulted in a church for the secular, based on philosopher Auguste Comte's principles of positivism, based at the Positivist Church of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
There are small populations of people professing Buddhism (215,000), Judaism (107,000), Islam (35,000), Shinto, Rastafarian and a few other religions. They comprise 20th century immigrants from East Asia, the Middle East, or of recent immigrant descent.
Afro-Brazilian religions are syncretic religions, such as Candomblé, that have many followers, mainly Afro-Brazilians. They are concentrated mainly in large urban centers in the Northeast, such as Salvador, Recife, or Rio de Janeiro in the Southeast. The cities of São Paulo, Porto Alegre and Florianópolis have a great number of followers, but in the South of Brazil the most common African influenced Ritual is Almas e Angola, which is an Umbanda like ritual. Nowadays, there are over 70 "terreiros" (temples) in Florianópolis, which are the places where the rituals run. In addition to Candomblé which is the survival of West African religion, there is also Umbanda which blends Spiritism, indigenous and African beliefs. There is prejudice about "African cults" in Brazil's south, but there are Catholics, Protestants and other kinds of Christians who also believe in the Orishas, and go both to churches and terreiros.
Candomblé, Umbanda, Batuque, Xango, and Tambor de Mina, were originally brought by black slaves shipped from Africa to Brazil. These black slaves would summon their gods, called Orixas, Voduns or Inkices with chants and dances they had brought from Africa. These cults were persecuted throughout most of Brazilian history, largely because they were believed to be pagan or even satanic. However, the Brazilian republican government legalized all of them on the grounds of the necessary separation between the State and the Church in 1889.
In current practice, Umbanda followers leave offerings of food, candles and flowers in public places for the spirits. Candomblé terreiros are more hidden from general view, except in famous festivals such as Iyemanja Festival and the Waters of Oxala in the Northeast.
From Bahia northwards there are different practices such as Catimbo, Jurema with heavy indigenous elements. All over the country, but mainly in the Amazon rainforest, there are many Indians still practicing their original traditions. Many of their beliefs and use of naturally occurring plant derivatives are incorporated into African, Spirtitualists and folk religion.
Despite these religions have experienced much greater freedom since the decline of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, they have come under an increasing hostility from Protestant churches, with attacks on temples and defacement of statues of the gods. In recent years measures have been taken to counter religious conflict.
Buddhism is probably the largest of all minority religions, with about 215,000 followers. This is mostly because of the large Japanese Brazilian community. About a fifth of the Japanese Brazilian community are followers of Buddhism. Japanese Buddhist sects like Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren Buddhism (most notably the Soka Gakkai), and Zen are the most popular. Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) is also present, since Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche founded the Khadro Ling center in Três Coroas, Rio Grande do Sul (where he lived until his death in 2002), and many other institutions across the country. However, in recent years both Chinese Mahayana and South East Asian Theraveda sects are gaining popularity. Buddhism was introduced to Brazil in the early twentieth century, by Japanese immigrants, although now, 60% of Japanese Brazilians are now Christian due to missionary activities and intermarriage. Nevertheless, Japanese Brazilian culture has a substantial Buddhist influence.
The first Jews arrived in Brazil as cristãos-novos (New Christians) or conversos, names applied to Jews or Muslims who converted to Catholicism, most of them forcibly. According to the Inquisition reports, many New Christians living in Brazil during colonial times were condemned for secretly observing Jewish customs.
In 1630, the Dutch conquered portions of northeast Brazil and permitted 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 the Portuguese Jews who had been expelled from Portugal in 1497. In 1636, the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue, the first synagogue in the Americas was built in Recife, the capital of Dutch Brazil. The original building remains to this day, but the Jews were forced to leave Brazil when the Portuguese-Brazilians retook the land in 1654.
The first Jews that stayed in Brazil and openly practiced their religion came when the first Brazilian constitution granted freedom of religion in 1824, just after the independence. They were mainly Moroccan Jews, descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who had been expelled from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497.
The first wave of Sephardic Jews was exceeded by the larger wave of immigration by Ashkenazi Jews that came at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, mainly from Russia, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. A final significant group came, fleeing Nazism or the destruction that followed World War II.
Brazil has the 9th largest Jewish community in the world, about 107,329 by 2010, according to the IBGE Census. The Jewish Confederation of Brazil (CONIB) estimates that there are more than 120,000 Jews in Brazil, with the lower figure representing active practitioners.
According to the 2010 Census, there were 35,167 Muslims in Brazil. The Federation of Muslim Associations of Brazil estimates there are about 1.5 million Muslims and others say about .4 to .5 million.Islam in Brazil may be presumed to have first been practiced by African slaves brought from West Africa. Scholars note that Brazil received more enslaved Muslims than anywhere else in the Americas. During Ramadan, in January 1835, a small group of black slaves and freedmen from Salvador da Bahia, inspired by Muslim teachers, rose up against the government in the Malê Revolt, the largest slave rebellion in Brazil. (Muslims were called malê in Bahia at this time, from Yoruba imale that designated a Yoruba Muslim.) Fearing the example might be followed, the Brazilian authorities began to watch the malês very carefully and in subsequent years intensive efforts were made to force conversions to Catholicism and erase the popular memory of and affection towards Islam. However, the African Muslim community was not erased overnight, and as late as 1910 it is estimated there were still some 100,000 African Muslims living in Brazil.
A small number of Sindhis had arrived here from Suriname and Central America in 1960 to set up shop as traders in the city of Manaus.
Consisted of university professors who arrived in the 1960s and also in the 1970s.
Other PIOs migrated to this country from various African countries, mainly from former Portuguese colonies (especially Mozambique), soon after their independence in the 1970s. The number of PIOs in Brazil has been augmented in recent years by the arrival of nuclear scientists and computer professionals.
There are as many as 1,500 PIOs among the Indian community in Brazil, and only 400 NRIs since foreign nationals can acquire local citizenship without any discrimination after 15 years of domicile in this country. Brazil has also no bar against dual citizenship. But in recent years, it has been granting immigration visas only in high technology fields. The only exceptions are the Sindhis in Manaus (who have formed an Indian Association with about a hundred members) and the Goans in São Paulo.
Beside the PIOs, there are Hindu organizations such as ISKCON, Brahma Kumaris are very active in Brasil. The number of adherents of these organizations is not officially recorded but is estimated to be a few thousand.
The Bahá'í Faith in Brazil started in 1919 with Bahá'ís first visiting the country that year, and the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly in Brazil was established in 1928. There followed a period of growth with the arrival of coordinated pioneers from the United States finding national Brazilian converts and in 1961 an independent national Bahá'í community was formed. During the 1992 Earth Summit, which was held in Brazil, the international and local Bahá'í community were given the responsibility for organizing a series of different programs, and since then the involvements of the Bahá'í community in the country have continued to multiply. The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 42211 Bahá'ís in 2005.
A 2007 poll, made by Datafolha and published in newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, asked diverse questions about the beliefs of the Brazilian people. In this poll, 64% reported to be Catholics, 17% Pentecostal Protestants, 5% non-Pentecostal Protestants, 3% Kardecists or Spiritists, 3% followers of other religions, 7% non-religious or atheists. Less than 1% reported to follow Afro-Brazilian religions.
|Religion or faith||Total||"by region"||"by gender"|
|·||Roman Catholic Church||124.980.132||73,57||98.475.959||71,40||26.504.174||82,96||61.901.888||74,04||63.078.244||73,12|
|·||Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church||500.582||0,295||430.245||0,312||70.337||0,220||250.201||0,299||250.380||0,290|
|·||Greek Orthodox Church||38.060||0,022||33.668||0,024||4.392||0,014||19.495||0,023||18.565||0,022|
|Protestant Churches (total)||26.184.941||15,41||22.736.910||16,48||3.448.031||10,79||11.444.063||13,69||14.740.878||17,09|
|·||Missionaries - traditional Protestantism (total)||6.939.765||4,085||6.008.100||4,356||931.665||2,916||3.062.194||3,663||3.877.571||4,495|
|·||·||Seventh-day Adventist Church||1.209.842||0,712||1.029.949||0,747||179.893||0,563||538.981||0,645||670.860||0,778|
|·||·||Assembly of God||8.418.140||4,956||6.857.429||4,972||1.560.711||4,885||3.804.658||4,551||4.613.482||5,348|
|·||·||Christian Congregation of Brazil||2.489.113||1,465||2.148.941||1,558||340.172||1,065||1.130.329||1,352||1.358.785||1,575|
|·||·||Universal Church of the Kingdom of God||2.101.887||1,237||1.993.488||1,445||108.399||0,339||800.227||0,957||1.301.660||1,509|
|·||·||International Church of the Foursquare Gospel||1.318.805||0,776||1.253.276||0,909||65.529||0,205.5214||545.016||0,6526445||773.789||0,897|
|·||·||God is Love Pentecostal Church||774.830||0,456||649.252||0,471||125.577||0,393||331.707||0,397||443.123||0,514|
|·||·||Igreja Cristã Maranata||277.342||0,163||266.539||0,193||10.803||0,034||117.789||0,141||159.553||0,185|
|·||·||Brazil for Christ Pentecostal Church||175.618||0,103||159.713||0,116||15.904||0,050||76.132||0,091||99.485||0,115|
|·||·||Igreja Tabernáculo Evangélico de Jesus||128.676||0,076||120.891||0,088||7.785||0,024||51.557||0,062||77.119||0,089|
|·||·||Igreja Cristã de Nova Vida||92.315||0,054||91.008||0,066||1.307||0,004||35.352||0,042||56.964||0,066|
|·||no institutional links (total)||1.046.487||0,616||945.874||0,686||100.612||0,315||454.087||0,543||592.400||0,687|
|Other Christian (total)||1.540.064||0,907||1.441.888||1,045||98.175||0,307||646.264||0,773||893.800||1,036|
|·||Latter-day Saints (Mormons)||199.645||0,118||195.198||0,142||4.446||0,014||92.197||0,110||107.448||0,125|
|New Eastern Religions (total)||151.080||0,089||145.914||0,106||5.166||0,016||58.784||0,070||92.295||0,107|
|·||Church of World Messianity||109.310||0,064||106.467||0,077||2.843||0,009||41.478||0,050||67.831||0,079|
|Native Brazilian Traditions||17.088||0,010||6.463||0,005||10.625||0,033||9.175||0,011||7.913||0,009|
|Other Eastern Religions||7.832||0,005||7.244||0,005||588||0,002||3.764||0,005||4.068||0,005|