People and Society, Religion
conservative force, Umbanda, Macumba, Candomble, liberation theology
Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, with 90 percent of the population claiming at least nominal affiliation. About 6 percent are defined as members of Protestant churches. In recent years Pentecostal groups, which believe in the experience of holiness, or Christian perfection, have grown rapidly. The Spiritist movement, which believes in multiple incarnations and communication with spirits of the dead, has a small following, mainly among the urban middle classes. Traditional African beliefs, brought by slaves, have blended with Catholicism to create Afro-Brazilian religions such as Macumba, Candomble, and Umbanda. These incorporate possession by spirits, the use of African music and dance, and the identification of West African deities with Catholic saints. Such religions are strongest in former slave areas, such as Bahia in the Northeast. Native Americans practice a wide variety of indigenous religions that vary from group to group.
The formal link between the state and the Catholic Church was severed in the late 19th century. However, the Catholic Church has continued to exert an influence on national affairs. It has traditionally been a conservative force, but in recent years a movement known as liberation theology has emerged among members of the Roman Catholic clergy. This movement teaches that Christians must work for social and economic justice for all people; it has encouraged greater church involvement in social issues, particularly those that affect the urban poor and the landless rural population.
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