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Brazil Table of Contents

Syncretism, the combination of different forms of belief or practice, has been widespread in Brazil, where Roman Catholicism has blended with numerous Afro-Brazilian cults. Syncretism occurred partly because of religious persecution and partly because of the compatibility of the different belief systems. The most well-known and socially acceptable combinations are called umbanda or candomblÚ . At one extreme, umbanda blends in with Kardecian spiritualism (see Glossary). At the other extreme, there is a kind of black magic called macumba , which can be used for either good or evil purposes. Its practitioners leave offerings of chicken, rum (cachaša ), flowers, and candles at crossroads, beaches, and other public places. Kardecian spiritists, as well as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, and Buddhists, together account for about 3 to 5 percent of the population, while those declaring that they have no religion total 15 percent.

In recent decades, Protestantism has grown rapidly. The proportion of the population considered evangelical grew from 3.7 percent in 1960 to 6.6 percent in 1980. The 1991 census showed a proportion of 19.2 percent, or 28.2 million followers. Nearly half of Brazil's evangelicals, or 13 million, belong to the Assembly of God. This and other evangelical or Pentecostal varieties of Protestantism--Christian Congregation, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Quadrangular Evangelicals, Brazil for Christ, and God and Love--emphasize brotherhood and religious ceremonies that actively engage participants in song and chants. The groups that have grown the most are fundamentalists with strict standards of personal behavior regarding dress, drinking, smoking, and gambling. They have special appeal among recent migrants to urban areas or to the frontier, who have had to adapt to new and difficult circumstances. In contrast to the formality and central control of the Roman Catholic Church, the fundamentalist Protestant groups grow rapidly and split and multiply frequently.

Roman Catholicism

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress