Brazil is considered the biggest catholic country of the world. Before the Portuguese in the XVI century, Brazil had many communities of native indigenous, which had their own religion and beliefs. Religion was very a important part of their culture and very nature-oriented. With colonization, came the prohibition of indigenous religion practices, violently replaced by Christian ones. That nearly erased tribes and, with that, their cultural expressions, reason why the few indigenous communities in Brazil are mostly hiding from the public’s eyes nowadays.
As the country began building its own cultural identity, highly influenced by European for obvious reasons, new religion patterns arise. Add to that immigration and African people traffic, different religious beliefs were incorporated and developed to the Brazilian culture. The country is opened to different and unrelated religions and fairly tolerant towards multiple beliefs.
The 2010 census, promoted by the government’s institute of geography and statistics, gathered the following information about religious:
- Roman Catholics – 64,6%
- Protestants – 22,2%
- No religion – 8%
- Other religions – 3,2%
- Spiritualists – 2%
This means that 86,8% of the population considers themselves christians. The census also provided a parallel between religions and family incomes:
- Oriental religions – monthly family income of BRL 5.447,00
- Spiritualists – monthly family income of BRL 4.422,00
- Catholics – monthly family income of BRL 2.023,00
- Protestants – monthly family income of BRL 1.496,00
Catholicism, however, has lost 12,2% of the followers compared to the previous census, which means 1,7 million people. Many of them are migrating to protestant churches, the one religion with the highest growth. If the trend is kept, catholics and protestants will be equal in number in less than 30 years.
The catholic church has three major divisions in Brazil:
- The Roman Catholic Apostolic Church;
- The Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church;
- The Orthodox Catholic Church;
The Roman Catholic Apostolic Church holds the greatest amount of followers, 123.280.172. The Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church is the second major Catholic Church in Brazil, with 560.781, followed by the Orthodox Catholic Church, with 131.571.
Most of the dissidents are concentrated in the Southeast of Brazil, where there is a major number of Protestant – especially in the biggest cities and their metropolitan areas. 45% of the Rio de Janeiro population claims to be catholic, against 29% of protestants.
Northeast holds the major number of Catholics, having Piauí as the state with the greatest concentration of Catholics in Brazil (85% of the population) and 9% of protestants.
The most growing religion in Brazil, protestants are known as “evangélicos”. They have a more strict and conservative interpretation of the bible and most of them impose several prohibitions to its followers, especially women. They are divided into several institutions, each with their own compilation of rules:
Assembleias de Deus(29.12%)
Igrejas Batistas (8.8%)
Congregação Cristã no Brasil(5.41%)
Igreja do Evangelho Quadrangular (4.27%)
Igreja Adventista do Sétimo Dia (3.69%)
Igrejas Luteranas (2.36%)
Igrejas Presbiterianas (2.17%)
Outras Igrejas Protestantes (17.73%)
Protestante sem denominação determinada (22.02%
They are also a cristian church, but their beliefs differ from the most mainstream ones. They are known for their early-morning’s “door-to-door” preaching, explicit racism, refusing military services (mandatory for all male Brazilian citizen) and blood transfusion. They are also famous for not celebrating holidays (not even the cristians ones) or birthdays, as those supposedly have pagan origins.
Spiritualism in Brazil follows the principle of Alan Kardec published in books “O Livro dos Espiritos” (The Book of Spirits) and “O Livro dos Mediums” (The Book of Psychics). For this reason, spiritism is often called kardecismo in the country.
The 2010 census estimated there were 3.848.786 spiritualists in Brazil.
This religion was born in Brazil, based on based on Catholicism and Spiritualism with some features of Indigenous and African religions. As Umbanda has incorporated practices from Spiritualism, they believe in mediumship as a way to concept the physical and the spiritual world.
All the African religions and their followers suffer great prejudice in Brazil as many people believe they are connected to dark witchcraft and can harm people. The religion is also highly criticized for the practice of animal sacrifice as “offerings” or gifts to the deities. However, its followers claim that they do not practice animal sacrifice as this would go against the religion respect to life and nature.
According to the 2010 census, Brazil had 407.331 Umbanda followers, mostly concentrated in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador.
Unlike Umbanda, Canomble is an African-derived religion, practiced in some Latin American and European countries besides Africa. Originally, each African country worship one deity (called “orixa”) but, as a result of the slavery process that took African from different nationalities to Brazil, several orixas are worshiped in the country. Its 167,363 followers are mostly concentrated in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Bahia, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Maranhao.
*The word “macumba” is widely used in a pejorative way to refer to African religious, especially the animal sacrifice practice. However, macumba is a musical instrument used during the rituals.
Brazil has 107.329 jews according to the 2010 census, which grants the country the title of the second largest concentration of Jewish people in Latin America. The community is mostly formed by Brazilians with Jewish heritage or beliefs and is directly related to the upper-class. Jewish are mostly concentrated in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and South of Brazil.
According to IBGE, there are 5.675 Hindus living in Brazil. The religion is still not popular, being restricted to some small cities such as Nazário, (GO), Palmeiras (BA) and Itapina (ES).
Even though Brazil is the largest Japanese community outside Japan, Buddhism is not so popular as most of the Japanese community has converted to christians. Still, according to the 2010 census there were 243.966 Buddhists in Brazil.
With Syrian and Lebanese immigration during the World War I, Islamism has also been incorporated and has been gradually growing in the last decade. The last census has counted 35.167 Muslims in Brazil, and they are mostly concentrated in São Paulo, Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul, especially in Foz do Iguaçu, PR.
According with the last census, 15.335.510 Brazilians have no religion: 615.096 self-proclaimed atheists, while 124.436 considered themselves agnostics. The greatest concentration of unreligious people is in the state of Rio de Janeiro, with 18%, while the city with the highest number of atheists is Nova Ibia, a small city in Bahia with around 7,000 people.
Brazil has no official religion and is, in theory, a secular nation that doesn’t allow religious intervention in political affairs. However, religious people can run for any political position and sometimes, they advocate for their own cause or believe, inputting religiousness in their political decisions. This phenomenon is rapidly increasing, especially with the protestant church and the increase in the number of followers.