Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Religion in Brazil
Brazil's main religion since the fifteenth century has been Christianity predominantly Roman Catholicism. This religion was introduced by the missionaries who accompanied the Portuguese explorers and settlers of the lands of Brazil. Brazil is the largest Roman Catholic country on earth with about 80 percent of its population claiming the religion although as few as 20 percent of the population of Brazil actually attend mass.
Popular traditions of Roman Catholicism in Brazil include making pilgrimages to the Appeared Lady, Senhora Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil. Other prominent festivals include Círio in Belém and the Festa do Divino in central Brazil.
Brazil also has many other offshoots of Christianity, including neo-Pentecostals, old Pentecostals and Evangelicals, predominantly from Minas Gerais to the South. In the same region, mainly Minas Gerais and São Paulo, large tracts of the medium class, something about 1-2% the total population, is Kardecist, sometimes pure, sometime in syncretism with Roman Catholicism. Protestantism is generally the only religion in Brazil relatively free of syncretism. Centers of neo-Pentecostalism are Londrina and the capital cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte.
African religions such as Candomblé have million of followers, mainly Afro-descendants. It is concentrated mainly in large urban centers in the Northeast, such as Salvador, Recife, or in the Southeast, in Rio. The capitals of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul have less practitioners, mainly immigrants from the Northeast. Differently from Candomblé which is the survival of West African religion, there is also the Umbanda which blends in Kardecian beliefs with African beliefs. Candomblé, 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 the knowledge of chants and dances they brought from Africa. These religions have been persecuted, and is believed to have the power of both good and evil, but are now considered as legal religions in the country. In present day practices, Umbanda followers leave offerings of food, candles and flowers in public places for the spirits. The 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 is also 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.
Brazil is well known for the rhythmic liveliness of its music as in its Samba dance music. This is largely because Brazilian slave owners allowed their slaves to continue their heritage of playing drums (unlike U.S. slave owners who feared use of the drum for communications).
Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism and a few others which make for a small percentage of the total population of Brazil -- roughly five percent, mainly recent immigrants from the Far East and Europe. 15 percent of the population consider themselves agnostics or atheists, the remaining calling themselves Christians.
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