Religious Beliefs In Brazil

Almost two-thirds of contemporary Brazilians are Roman Catholic Christians, although Protestant Christianity is rapidly expanding its following there.

Roman Catholic Christianity

In 1494, Spain and Portugal agreed on the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided their newly discovered lands in the New World between the two kingdoms. This gave Portugal control of that land that would be Brazil and, in 1500, Pedro Álavres Cabral landed there and claimed it for the Kingdom of Portugal in the name of King Manuel I. It was these mostly Portuguese colonists who introduced the religion to Brazil and mostly forced it on the native people. From 1500 until 1815 Brazil was a colony of Portugal and during this time churches were built and missionaries and religions leaders came over to spread Catholicism. Catholicism was enforced during colonial rule and independence as the unofficial state religion, but it 1824 it became the official religion of the state. With the Constitution of 1891 the government became secular but the Catholic Church has still had influence in Brazil even to this day. Today, Roman Catholic Christianity is still the dominant religion in the country, with 64.6% of people practicing the religion. Most of the states in Brazil are Catholic, with more then half of the population in twenty five of the twenty seven states being Catholic. Brazil also has the stature of being the largest Roman Catholic country in the world today.

Pentecostal and Mainline Protestant Christianity

Protestant Christianity first came to Brazil when Huguenots from France tried to colonize the country in 1557, sent on a mission from John Calvin. They set up shop in a established colony on the islands in Guanabara Bay, where the colony of the France Antarctique had been established. In March of 1557 they held the first known Protestant service in Brazil. The colony was short live however, as the Portuguese drove out the French in 1567. It was then not until the 1820s that Protestantism in Brazil came back with the first Anglican chapel in 1822. Starting in the 1880s with the increasing numbers of European Immigrants and British and American missionaries that came to the country, along with the Catholic Church no longer being the official state religion was when the various Protestant churches started to grow. In the more than a century since then there have been various churches, schools, seminaries, colleges and organizations set up to organize and promoted Protestantism. The amount of Brazilians who say that they are Protestant has risen rapidly in the last few decades of the 20th Century, growing from around 5% in the 1960s to close to 17% today.

Other Forms of Christianity in Brazil

There are around half a million people in Brazil who practice Orthodox Christianity. Orthodox Christianity in Brazil is made up of a wide variety of churches due to the influx of various waves of immigrants from Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Lebanon, and Syria over the course of the last century or so. Jehovah's Witnesses make up just a tad more then three fourths of a million people in Brazil, with around 11,000 congregations spread throughout the country. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly refereed to as Mormonism, has a reported membership of almost 1.2 million people across 1,940 congregation and 315 family history centers. The Mormon Church also has six temples that are scattered throughout Brazil, with a future temple being built in the city of Fortaleza. Some have question though have question the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported membership numbers though, as Brazil's 2010 census showed them having only a tad above two hundred thousands people who self-identified with the religion.

Atheism and Agnosticism

In 1970, there were fewer than one million people in Brazil who said that they were Atheist or Agnostic. Over the last several decades, however, the numbers of people that identify as being Atheist or Agnostic has steady climbed all the way up to around 15 million people in Brazil, or around 8% of the total population. This number has risen in recent decades to that fact that it is more acceptable then ever to question or not belief that there is a god, along with that fact that worldwide more younger people have been shedding religion.


Spiritism comes from the Spiritist Doctrine, which is found in the five books written by Frenchman Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivai (who was also known as Allan Kardec), the founder of the religion. These books are collectively known as the Spiritist Codification. Spiritism, which is also called Kardecism, puts forward the belief that humans are immortal spirits that temporarily live in physical bodies for several incarnation in order to be able to attain intellectual and moral improvement. The religion also believes that spirits, whether actively or passively, have a positive or negative influence on the physical world. Close to 2% of people in Brazil follow the practices and teachings of Spiritism, and Brazil has sects of the religion such as the Santo Daime and others which use an Amazonian tea called ayahuasca to induce psychological or physical changes in a religious context.


In 1630, the Dutch took over parts of northeast Brazil and many Jews came to Brazil from the Netherlands, enabled by the fact that the Dutch permitted the open practice of all religions. Six years later in 1636 in the city of Recife, the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue opened, which was the first synagogue to be built anywhere in the New World. Most of these Jews were forced to leave Brazil in 1965 when Portugal retook the land from the Dutch. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries Brazil received a large influx of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, mostly from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Poland as a result of the destruction from World War One and Two and from Jews fleeing from Nazism and persecution. Brazil currently has the ninth largest community of Jews in the world.


No one is exactly sure how or when Islam first came to Brazil, but scholars presume that it was practiced by some African slaves that were brought to Brazil. In 1835, the Malê Revolt was led by a small group of black slaves and freedman who has been inspired by their Muslim teachers and it was the largest slave rebellion in Brazil's history. In the decades after this intense efforts were made to force Muslims to convert to try and erase the popular memory of the rebellion. Despite this there is still a small community of African Muslims in Brazil as well as a small number of new immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia.


Buddhism was first introduced into the country with the wave of Japanese immigrants that arrived in the early 20th Century. Brazil has the largest Japanese community in the world outside of Japan and around 20% of Japanese Brazilians practice Buddhism. There are a wide variety of Buddhist sects in Brazil and there are a number of Buddhist organizations, as well as around 150 temples scattered across Brazil.


Most people who practice Hinduism in Brazil are ethnic East Indians, but there are some converts that are native Brazilians as well. The first small waves of Hindus where Sindhis who came from Central America in the early 1960s to the city of Manaus. In the late 1960s and 1970 more Hindu immigrants, mostly to work as university professors or scientists, arrived in Brazil from India or former Portuguese colonies. The few Hindu organizations in the country are very active, despite the small number of Hindus in Brazil.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith first came to Brazil in 1919, and by 1928 the first Bahá'í Faith Local Spiritual Assembly had been established in the county. The religion grew over the next few decades thanks to volunteers from converts in Brazil and, by 1961, an independent national community of Bahá'í was formed in Brazil. Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, which the Bahá'í community had a big part in organizing programs for, their involvement in the country and community has greatly grown.


The Candomble religion is largely centered in southern Brazil and is the survival of West African religions brought over by slaves from Africa starting in the 16th Century. Most people who practice Candomble worldwide are located in Brazil, where followed of the religion practice surrendering themselves to spirits, known as Oriashas, until them are fully possessed. Besides spirits and possession the religion involves celebration, animal sacrifices to the spirits, singing and dancing. The religion is polytheistic, believing in multiple Gods, although there is one chief God named Olodumare.


The Umbanda religion is generally followed in northeast Brazil and combines various influences from indigenous religions, Spiritism, African religions, and Catholicism. Followers of Umbanda believe in a supreme deity called Zambi, who has a array of forms. They also interact with the spirits of the dead and believe that certain Catholic saints can emit godly forces and energies which they call orixas.

Religious Beliefs In Brazil

RankBelief SystemShare of Brazilian Population
1Roman Catholic Christianity64.6%
2Pentecostal Protestant Christianity13.3%
3Christianity not otherwise listed6.8%
4Mainline Protestant Christianity4.0%
5Atheism or Agnosticism8.0%
7Other Beliefs1.3%

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