The importance of religion
(Fernandes, 2005c) in the daily lives of Brazilians cannot
be overstated. From the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500
until the end of the 19th Century, Brazil was officially a
Catholic country, and its laws proscribed the practice of
any other faith (Fernandes, 2005c). Today, many faiths are
represented among the Brazilian people and even though Catholicism
continues to be the dominant religion, the teachings of the
Roman Catholic Church are not adhered to in a strict or uniform
In practice, the devotions of Brazilian
Catholics are guided by the liturgical calendar. With or without
a priest, every day is a saint's day, presenting itself as
an opportunity for festivities and every kind of private devotion.
Shrines in the home, chapels by the roadside, processions,
pilgrimages, vows, recitations of the rosary, sisterhoods,
all these customs could be practiced under lay leadership
and led by local revelers.
Interestingly, only 17% of Catholics attend church on a regular
basis. This is indicative of the importance of saints in the
everyday lives of Brazilians, as opposed to the organized
rituals of the Church hierarchy.
Another important concept in religiosity in Brazil is that
the blending of seemingly dissimilar beliefs and practices
to create a new religion (Syncretism, n.d.). It is this process
that has resulted in the evolution and spreading of Afro-Brazilian
Candomblé among others (Fernandes, 2005a). Candomblé
is a blend of Catholicism and African spiritual traditions
brought to Brazil by Africans with roots in the ancient societies
of West, Central, and Southwest Africa.
Accordingly, there “is a strong belief in the magical
and a corresponding respect for the magician” (Watson,
2000, p. 243). Since the 19th century,
Kardecist Spiritualism, a blend of Christianity, communion
with the souls of the dead and a belief in reincarnation has
also gained a wide following (Fernandes, 2004b). Religious
belief does not follow the lines of economic or racial strata
in society: rituals are performed and shared by black and
white, and the beliefs that originated among the slaves are
now held by the middle-class.
Comparison of religion between Brazilian and U.S. majority
Catholicism is the majority religion in Brazil.
However, many other religions are represented in the country,
Candomblé and Kardecism.
is the majority religion, many religions are represented
in the United States. There is separation between church
are displayed in public school buildings, such as classrooms.
symbols are not displayed in public buildings, including
public schools is not only taught as a subject, but its
symbols are displayed and many teachers emphasize religious
public schools is studied as a subject in the upper grades,
but its symbols are not displayed.