Religion in Brazil

Dominance of Catholicism

Although Brazil enjoys a diverse mix of religious groups, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in the region. In fact, over 76% of the country follows the Catholic Church, making this medical tourism destination the largest concentration of Catholics in the world. The numbers attending Church, or indeed identifying themselves as Roman Catholics, have diminished in recent decades however. Many other Christian denominations have come to the forefront like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and various mainstream Protestant groups. And with the country’s steady influx of immigrants from the East (especially from Japan, China, and Korea), Brazil also benefits from Shinto and Buddhist strains as well.

Native Religions

Brazil’s religious make-up can be traced to the diverse groups of people who came in various forms – natives, invaders, immigrants, and slaves. The Portuguese brought with them, not just the language (this medical tourism hub is the only country in South America not dominated by Spanish), but also Roman Catholicism. When the Portuguese landed in Brazil, the country was populated by native Indians who had their own traditional religious practices. In the regions just north of Bahia, indigenous tribes still practice the Catimbo religion; a sect that is heavily influenced by spirits, shamanism, and omens.

Afro Brazilian Religions

When African slaves began to be imported into Brazil, they brought with them their religious practices, many of which involved invoking the gods through chants or dances. Over time, these Afro Brazilian religious practices began mingling with Catholic and Protestant influences to create synthetic religions. Some of the more popular exponents include Candomble, which has a huge following in urban centers like Rio de Janeiro, and Umbanda which is a mix of Kardecist Spiritism (a doctrine founded by Allen Kardic which has a million plus followers). For a long time, these Afro Brazilian cults were regarded as Satanic, but the government, in an effort to separate state from religion, has legalized them all.

Not only do all these religions live in relative harmony, but they also frequently intermingle to create new hybrids. The Protestant groups of Brazil are especially known for their capacity to split and form new groups, with names like the Evangelical Church of the Four Square Gospel. Less than 2 percent of this medical tourism center consists of Jews, Moslems, and Buddhists, although their influence can be seen in the architecture, food, and religious festivals as well. Brazil is an incredibly diverse country whose rich fabric is made possible only by centuries of multi-cultural exchange.

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