Brazil is seen as a country of diverse and profound faith.
But though religion is an important reference point in the lives of the population, the extent of religious diversity in this sprawling country is not nearly so pervasive as belief itself.
Though globally, the image of Brazil is connected to African traditions and religions, looking at the 2000 census data, the Brazilian sociologist Flávio Pierucci found that Brazil is, in reality, a Christian country, indeed, perhaps the largest Christian country in the world. 73.8% of the population calls themselves Catholic, 15.4%, evangelical; a total of 89.2 % of Christian people. A mere 0.3% of the population identified as adherents of the African religions Candomblé and Umbanda. Looking at these numbers Pierucci asks: Where is our proclaimed religious diversity? It is true that this strict identifications don’t take into consideration what we call “multiple belonging”, that is, the common Brazilian practice of those who call themselves Catholic, but go regularly to Candomblé cults or of any other religion: I go to the Mass on Sundays and visit my Mother of Saint in the yard on Fridays.
And yet the hegemony of Christianity has political ramifications, despite the codification of the separation of Church and state under the 1891 Brazilian Constitution. During the 2010 presidential campaign, religion was used to bolster conservative views, especially on sexuality and reproductive questions. Cultural flashpoints – including the right of gay men and lesbians to a legal union, and the legalisation of abortion – became the focus of inflamed public discussions. This investment in dogmatic arguments during a political campaign was highly unusual for Brazil, even though the culture is permeated with religious values and the rate of religious observance is very high. In previous campaigns, religious symbols and doctrinal principles were not so directly raised.