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Religions and Cultures: Religious Dynamics in Latin America

Reginaldo Prandi Social Compass 2008; 55; 264 DOI: 10.1177/0037768608093689

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Reginaldo PRANDI

social compass 55(3), 2008, 264–274
55(3), 2008, 264–274

Religions and Cultures: Religious Dynamics in Latin America

The author seeks to analyse the relationships between religion and culture in Latin America, especially in Brazil, highlighting the fact that the different religions enjoy diverse relationships with culture in a single location. He also addresses the fact that religions interpret culture in different ways and these interpretations help define their conversion strategies and how best to confront opposing religions. For the sake of discussion, the author considers, hypotheti- cally, a not-so-distant future in which Latin America becomes predominantly evangelical, and asks what will happen to Latin America’s supposed Catholic culture if the evangelical religions do indeed take over.

Key words: African Brazilian religions · Catholicism · conversion · evangelical religions · Latin America · religions and culture

L’auteur cherche à analyser les relations entre culture et religion en Amérique latine, particulièrement au Brésil, en soulignant le fait que les différentes reli- gions jouissent de relations diverses avec la culture, et ce en un lieu unique. Il revient aussi sur le fait que les religions interprètent la culture de différentes façons et que ces interprétations aident à définir leurs stratégies de conversion et la meilleure manière de pouvoir confronter des religions qui s’opposent. Pour les besoins de la discussion, l’auteur considère, hypothétiquement, un futur qui n’est pas si lointain et au cours duquel l’Amérique latine deviend- rait principalement évangélique, et pose la question de savoir ce qu’il advien- drait de la culture supposée catholique de l’Amérique latine si les religions évangéliques prenaient en effet le pas sur le catholicisme.

Mots-clés: Amérique latine · catholicisme · conversion · religions afro-brésiliennes · religions et culture · religions évangéliques

The relations between religions and cultures bring to mind a variety of issues and approaches. It is my intention in this article to point out recent trends in religion, and show that each religion has its own distinct relationship with culture, and that the nature of these varying relationships has a direct bearing on the dynamic of today’s religions in terms of their growth, stagnation or decline. 1 Although the immediate reference is Brazil, it would seem that much of what happens in that nation can also be observed in other Latin American countries,

DOI: 10.1177/0037768608093689 http://scp.sagepub.com

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Prandi: Religions and Cultures: Religious Dynamics in Latin America


so the article goes on to reflect, in general terms, on the religious dynamic in Latin America, and this provides a platform for formulating the main question that informs the current work: if the current trend towards religious conversion persists, could one not envisage that culturally Catholic Latin America, in a not-so-distant future, might become culturally evangelical?


Sociologists perceive that religion, especially the kind that can be classified as internalized (Camargo, 1971; Pierucci and Prandi, 1996), provides worldview, changes people’s habits, internalizes values, and generally provides guidelines for behaviour. Anthropologists teach us that “culture consists of a process by which humans organize and give meaning to their actions through symbolic manipulations which are the basic attributes of all human endeavour”, in the words of Eunice Durham (2004: 231). It is standard practice to assert that reli- gion not only constitutes culture but also provides culture with normative and axiological components. And culture, on the other hand, interferes with religion, reinforcing it or forcing it to change and adapt. Even though such definitions can be questioned in light of a contemporary conceptual crisis, religion and culture still refer to one another, especially when it comes to notions of nation, country and region. It is widely stated that Latin American culture is Catholic, although such a statement must take into consideration the internal variations caused by historic factors that are unique to each different country and region. An example of such variations can be seen in the African Catholic syncretism that takes place in some regions, including, primarily, in Brazil. In these countries, religions with African roots occupy a relevant space, even more than belief systems grounded in indigenous influences; in countries which have a smaller, or even non- existent African influence in their Catholic structures, one can normally see a larger indigenous influence than is seen in Brazil. Overall, we also know that culture changes, and the formation of a global culture shapes local trends. Nowadays, with the advance of the evangelical churches and the decline of Catholicism, the debate about religion and culture has raised important ques- tions, such as the one we have already motioned: might a Latin America that is mostly evangelical—if indeed such a change were to take place—become culturally evangelical? Would this lead to an obliteration of African Brazil- ian influences, an obliteration which is espoused by today’s evangelicals? These questions belong to a game of fortune-telling, and yet they call for reflection. After all, culture and religion are intertwined, to the point of merg- ing—as has happened in the past and continues to happen—in a variety of situ- ations and societies. And they can also, at least conceptually, lead to different definitions. The tendency to draw up multiple approaches to the interpretation of religion and culture is not unique to social scientists, who concern themselves with theories and with producing meanings behind social reality. There are also pro- found differences in the way that religions—and their thinkers—perceive culture and define themselves as institutions, producing specific placement strategies

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which allow them to conquer space in the modern-day religious marketplace, with advertising, persuasion techniques, consumer profiling and ever more efficient ways of reaching the consumer (Pierucci and Prandi, 1996). Traditional religions, with their vegetative growth, try to retain their fol- lowers and dissuade them from changing religion. Religions that grow through conversion, on the other hand, must attract new followers. One way in which religions can define themselves is to consider that followers are in the world, in a society, in a territory and in a culture that they must know in order to defend or conquer. There is no historical novelty in this. Taking care not to make a lopsided comparison, we can imagine that in another place and time, conquistadores used their knowledge of a specific culture—and went as far as creating a new science to aid them in this task: anthropology—to conquer and rule. In the later stages of colonialism, countries that developed a science of culture were better able to control their subjects and did not have to destroy the pre-established culture. Countries that were unable to develop such a skill tended forcefully to impose their culture over that of their new subjects. When it came to the destruction of native cultures by the invader, religion was used as the spearhead for domination, because at that moment in time it was the only thing that could espouse truth and provide grounding for the social and eco- nomical ties that would become the staple currency of the conquered territories. The new world was assigned a new god, the “one true God”—which was the god that indigenous America would have to learn about. Nowadays, fortunately, religion does not reach as far and is only capable of conquering individuals one by one. It doesn’t have the strength to bring nations to their knees. Today’s religions seek universal acceptance, and are indifferent to the need for identification with this or that nation, except in a few specific cases:

first, in those countries which continue, contrary to modern western trends, to hold on to specific ethnic religious identities which are termed “cultural religions”; second, when the state professes a certain religion, as often happens with Islamic governments; and third, when segregated immigrant communities cluster together in cities or countries in which other religions, languages and customs predominate. Indigenous groups fall into the latter group. The present work is concerned with universal religions, and addresses Catholic and evangelical groups. To start, it will take a closer look at general ideas about culture in our time.


The climate of unrest of the 1960s radically called into question the inherent notion that culture is unchangeable and homogenous. “The illusion (more than the reality) of fixed and cohesive cultures disintegrated, as did the idea of a fixed identity at birth” notes Adam Kuper (2002: 263–72). Added to this is the dissolution of previously established religious affiliation. One nation one culture, one culture one nation is a thing of the past, and precedes the fall of the colonial era. Nowadays, when someone talks about cul- ture the first image that comes to mind is of global culture, without barriers— cultural globalization. This all-encompassing culture is characterized by the

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coexistence of post-colonial diversity, with the participation of social relations from a wide range of sources and orders. Global culture allows us to envision various scenarios, if we consider the active presence of individuals who, according to this or that criterion, think and act in diverse ways, constructing and manipulating symbols from the same source in sporadic ways. It’s quite common to think of youth culture, business culture, black culture, immigrant culture, common culture, gay culture, female culture, senior citizen culture and so on. According to Ulf Hannerz, each of these cultures can be found everywhere, because there are young people every- where, women everywhere, and so on (Hannerz, 1996: 30). Religion is also transformed from within. Evangelical culture, which is a diversification of Protestantism, is made up of a myriad combination of Chur- ches, both large and small. Catholicism can also be said not to be uniform, though it is centered around one Church. Within Catholicism itself one finds movements that formulate different relationships with individuals, groups and culture. There was a time when Liberation Theology predominated, but it has been supplanted by a Charismatic Renewal movement which focuses on the individual—unlike its predecessor—as well as healing and the Holy Spirit, in true Pentecostal style (Prandi, 1997). Most Catholics look down on these variations with contempt, or indifference. The Vatican has its reservations too, but these movements don’t in the end affect Catholicism in general. They are fuelled by individuals who, each in his own way, criticizes old-fashioned Catholicism. Global culture is riddled with different religions. But whereas religious differences used to be on a national level, nowadays they are on an individual level. Global culture is defined by the existence of social relations between indi- viduals from different nations and parts of the world that break away from their local, isolated cultures. Religion, on these terms, limits, restricts and becomes a private matter. If we take as an example global youth culture, we see that four elements dominate: sex, drugs, rock-and-roll and the Internet. But there is also an evangelical youth culture. Young people from this culture can contact people from all over the world via the Internet, in chat rooms, or through personal homepages such as Orkut, or through YouTube, can send and receive messages, but the fact of being evangelical excludes them from the world of sex or drugs. Their musical tastes may also be restricted to evangelical music, which is not of the least interest to non-evangelical youngsters the world over. It is unlikely that such a young people will participate—because of the aesthetic and behavioural limitations imposed on them by their churches—in groups outside the domain of their church. In other words, they will not belong to the larger world youth culture, even if they may wear jeans and sneakers and eat a Big Mac. Their reli- gion, in this way, excludes them. But even if they belonged to another religion they would probably continue to be excluded, because all young people wish to exclude themselves. Christian youth culture normally depicts itself as the negation of youth itself, with all its rebellion, its daring and its lack of prudence. In such a culture, the exasperat- ing religious fervour of the young person seems absurd, and there is something subservient and naive about the youngster’s complete trust in adult leadership. Many of his or her attitudes reveal a sublimation of sex, if not castration itself. Youngsters will not necessarily relate to such a peer.

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Instead of serving as a social amalgam, religion is dissolving basic traditional social structures, withering pre-established lineages and bonds, as defined by Pierucci (2006). In terms of culture, this amounts to an important change not only in terms of identity construction (which now means having to make a reli- gious choice) but also in terms of loyalty. Traditional Brazilian culture faced a crisis when the process of industrialization, led by foreign companies, did not pledge allegiance to any nation, and sociologists asked themselves with whom future relationships of loyalty would be established in order to safeguard the ever- weakening family ties, as well as religious and work ties, in the new capi- talist society. When that future finally arrived it showed us that religion (though not traditional religion) would allow the individual to decide for him- or herself, and this would be a new form of loyalty, which would give rise to a new culture which would offer emotional support and social justifications, freeing the indi- vidual from the old religion and the old social ties. Religion then becomes a solvent in a culture that values the individual, values personal choices, and fixes its anchor throughout the world without establishing a fixed address. In this new scenario, can we continue to call Brazilian or Latin American culture Catholic? Yes, because of its origins and the symbols it maintains; no, because of the collapse of a model in which fidelity to Catholicism is a given.


If we are going to think about a culture we must first take into consideration the group of people who are taking part in it, using it to orient their actions, and manipulating and transforming its symbols. If, in the case of religion, its values and norms are of greatest interest to us, we must acknowledge that they only make sense in terms of the real behaviour of individuals, and they cannot be dis- sociated from the actions they orient, which in turn constitute cultural standards, which are both historical and concrete. One cannot lose sight of the fact that there is a permanent and accelerated process of cultural redefinition in today’s society and individuals. Institutions and the marketplace itself are all aware of this to varying degrees, and they not only want to make the most of this situa- tion, but they also want to interfere in this process. The opposite to this would be thinking of culture in terms of a container, a common concept in the field of comparative education, which employs a model that defines and differentiates culture in opposition to the other ( Lambeck and Boddy, 1997), like two characters having a conversation. This allows treating it with a concrete objectivity that it doesn’t in fact have, as if individuals lived inside culture, and culture contained individuals, isolating them and setting limits on human behaviour and human understanding (Hoffman, 1999). The container can be transformed from the outside, affecting the individuals con- tained in it. But culture isn’t an isolated, sealed compartment—indeed, is less so every day. There are of course various grades of culture, with varying degrees of commonalities. More than ever, individuals who belong to a specific culture are in permanent contact with others who have their own cultures, and they become integrated with one another in a globalizing culture, without frontiers, in which different sources and references cross over and substitute for each

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other, transforming specific cultures into communicating vessels with endless possibilities. But some people don’t see things like that. Catholic intellectuals and leaders continue to believe that Latin America is a continent of Catholic culture and Latin Americans, consequently, are naturally Catholic. Some say that Latin America is profoundly Catholic! The exponential growth of Pentecostalism shows that this means very little. These thinkers also believe that if their religion is losing followers, one needs to act on the culture in order to bring them back to that old religion. To do this, a dialogue must be established between the Church and culture, rather than with individuals. The constant decline of Catholicism shows that this way of thinking is unfruitful. This problem does not only affect the Catholic Church in Latin America. The Vatican feels the same way about European countries: Europe is a Catholic con- tinent, but the growth of other religions, brought in by immigrants, and the natural tendency of Europeans to shy away from religion, are interpreted by the Church as a crisis within European Catholic culture that can be remedied through the Church’s own efforts at cultural restoration. So, while the Catholic Church loses its flock, it prefers, in the words of Flávio Pierucci, to “refer to groups of people and their culture rather than to individuals and their humanity” and insists on “trying to ‘evangelize cultures’ which can be reduced to a single theological word that has ethnological roots:

‘inculturization’ ” (Pierucci, 2005). To inculturize is to insert into a culture something from the outside, or to change the meaning of something that is already contained within it. Based on “Catequesis e inculturación” (1978) written by father Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of Society of Jesus for two decades, Marcelo Azevedo writes that:

Inculturization designates the active process from within the culture itself that receives the Catholic revelation, through evangelization, and then processes and interprets it on its own terms, and through its own way of being and communicating. Inculturized evangelization sows an evangelical seed into the source of a culture. This seed of faith develops at the pace and in accordance with the peculiarities of the culture it has been sown into. (Azevedo,


And he concludes:

Therefore, inculturization always implies and connotes a relationship between faith and the culture(s), realities that encompass the totality of life and the human being, on an individual and community level. (ibid.)

Along the same lines, Catholic theologian Faustino Teixeira states that incul- turization “always implies a reinterpretation of creation, the shock of contact with creation” and that “successful inculturization is heavily dependent on a deep knowledge of the culture with which Christianity is establishing relations” (Teixeira, 2007). Evidently, this course of action in or with a specific culture focuses on identifying the “specific cultures”, the national, regional, local vari- ants, the group, class and social categories in order to invest the evangelizing act with a grain of scientific truth borrowed from an archaic form of anthropology that reifies the concept of culture and perceives it as the bearer of individuals. Meanwhile, Pentecostal and Neopentecostal Protestantisms soldier on, con- quering more and more followers in this Catholic Latin America, converting

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them one by one, without ever concerning themselves with the evangelization of the culture. Their strategy consists of bringing new followers into the Church, converting them one by one, building more and more temples, because they know that “the chicken fills its stomach one kernel at a time”. They take from the culture a few elements to be used in their favour—symbols, references, images, and blessings, as well as small sympathetic magical elements the conversion candidate is already comfortable with. The recent history of Pentecostalism in Brazil shows that its expansion strategy begins with the individual, the small, the crumb, and grows slowly and steadily, before finally revealing itself and claiming its place and demanding recognition within a culture. The emblematic Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus) started off in abandoned ware- houses, bankrupt cinemas and other derelict buildings. Eventually, the day arrived when its founder announced that the time had come to build cathedrals. And the cathedrals of this Church—symbols of the Church’s process of insti- tutionalization and its inclusion into Brazilian culture—have slowly crept into the urban scenery of the largest Catholic country on the planet. Similarly, large mosques have spread throughout Europe’s capital cities, including in Rome, revealing the unquestionable presence of an Islam planted by immigrants who for decades prayed in the shadows. Antônio Flávio Pierucci’s prescient words outline the noticeable difference between Catholicism and the evangelical religions with regards to culture.

See for yourself if any one of the churches that specializes in purely individual conversion, such as the evangelical churches, with a view to addressing the challenges of our time, is going to waste any time with the re-evangelization of a culture! And yet these are the churches that most grow in these “Catholic nations” that stretch out from north to south in “ Catholic America”, as they rapidly reach in “protestant America” the new Spanish or Brazilian immigrants, who are indeed culturally Catholic but are available for a potential evangelical conversion—this departure does not cease to multiply itself, undermining from within and from under the ‘culturally Catholic peoples’ that Pope John Paul II’s pastoral discourse tirelessly contemplated, with large doses of vanity, while he looked out from his murky Polish rearview mirror. (Pierucci, 2005)

Furthermore, if one looks back nostalgically, one can see that the Catholic Church has turned its back on the cultural changes that take place with regard to important parts of the population, if not the entire population. By doing this, it loses touch with reality, and shows itself up as old-fashioned, intransigent, and incapable of keeping abreast of modern times and serving as the compass and voice of the times (an image which was exactly what the Second Vatican Council tried to avoid). Culturally active and up-to-date segments of society see the Catholic Church as an enemy, as being against all the things that they consider the decisive factors of the socio-cultural change that they have already attained and are yet to attain, free of religious mediation. Catholic ways of thinking become in the end self-exclusive, as they fail to keep abreast of the cultural changes made by the Catholic flock itself. Contem- porary culture is in constant transformation, is increasingly secularized, and offers multiple meanings for a world that seeks new answers and new solutions, and creates previously unimagined needs, every day. Catholic ways of think- ing attribute Catholic losses (such as followers, prestige and influence) to the

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growing wear and tear of a new culture that undermines faith, corrodes Christian values and replaces traditional religious orientation by scientific, philosophical and political secular orientations available to everyone. The Catholic Church must intervene in the new culture and restore the original culture, the culture of the roots, of the formation of our society. Nowadays, on the one hand, the Catholic Church, under the retrograde command of Pope Benedict XVI, seeks to reestablish a doctrinaire and ritual unity made relevant and culturally differentiated by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in terms of wanting to bring the Church closer to the world’s transformations. The evangelical Churches, on the other hand, continue their obsessive quest to multiply, diversify and invent new approaches—to sacred things and to converts—and dedicate themselves to developing new conversion and persuasion techniques. They proclaim themselves to be the new path, they change people’s concepts of money and of material goods, they try to solve all sorts of personal problems, and create a supply of religious (and magical) services previously unimagined over the course of Protestantism in its road to disenchantment. In the end, they modify the relationship between God and man. And they fill their Churches with new followers. But they want more. They also want visibility, social recognition, and they want to be accepted as legitimate members of contemporary culture.


It would be impossible to list the large number of Catholic symbols and ele- ments that are represented in Latin American culture in its different manifes- tations. Proud Brazilians recently voted en masse to include the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue in Rio de Janeiro on the new list of the seven wonders of the world, and their voice was heard. Were they fervent Catholics, these Brazilians fighting for Christ the Redeemer to make it onto the list? They were most probably ordinary Brazilians, lacking a specific religious affilia- tion, who voted for a scenic monument, a tourist attraction that is as secular as Copacabana beach or the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio. The same statue appeared in the electoral campaigns created by the government and the private sector in exactly the same context. One can say the same thing about the country’s colonial baroque churches and the modernist cathedral in Brasilia, and about so many other buildings and elements of Brazil’s material heritage erected by Catholics; the country’s immaterial heritage is also replete with festivals and annual events, originally religious, that have been secularized by society. All these things are Catholic and yet at the same time they are not. They are cultur- ally Catholic, but not religiously so. In Brazil’s case, and in the case of some other Latin American countries, one cannot discuss culture without taking into consideration the presence of African elements. In Brazil, some aspects of African influence go further back, such as language, and can be traced back to slavery. Others are more recent and emanate from the African Brazilian religions, which date to the first half of the 19th century. African Brazilian religious influence is felt in popular music, in litera- ture, poetry and theatre, cinema and television, in the arts, cooking, carnival and

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dance; it is felt in the magical practices offered as services to consumers who aren’t necessarily religious, in the values and concepts that pour out of tem- ples into popular culture, and in its endless repertoire of gestures and aesthetic standards. It is also felt in the “different” approaches to life. The presence of this religion in our culture is so prominent that African Brazilian religions are perceived as culture and are treated as such by the Brazilian state. The very same state that guarantees collective rights rooted in culture, in ethnic origin, such as the right to land of the quilombolas (descendants of slaves who fled and settled in communities called quilombos) and of the Indians. The Ministry of Culture maintains the Palmares Cultural Foundation (Fundação Cultural Palmares), the sole aim of which is to “secure the pres- ervation of African Brazilian cultural, social and economic values that have helped shape Brazilian society”. A public organ of a secular state, the Palmares Cultural Foundation doesn’t hesitate to give special attention to the Candomblé temples and temples of other African Brazilian religions, securing resources for their maintenance and restoration, and offering institutional protection. Priests from this religion seek the Foundation’s help for a wide variety of problems. The Foundation helps them, as much as it can, but it would be very unlikely to provide such help to black evangelical priests. As far back as the early 1960s, these religions ceased to be ethnic and became universal religions, open to members of all walks of life and of all colours. Nowadays, these religions are about individual adherence, and have expanded far from the black communities where they originated. They are spreading throughout Brazil and into other countries such as Uruguay and Argentina, as well as into Europe. Candomblé maintains very dense cultural facets, even while it emphasizes its universality over its African roots. This contradiction might well make it hard for many to adhere to it, and may limit its growth. In spite of its cultural importance, Candomblé and its like constitute a minute religious segment which is barely growing. Umbanda, on the other hand, is shrinking rapidly due to the onslaught of the Pentecostal and Neopentecostal Churches, demonizing its spiritual entities and deities, stealing many of its followers and converting them (Prandi, 2005). Whether black, white, brown or yellow, Candomblé is now seen as a kind of ethnic reservation and is treated like an active traditional source of Brazilian culture in the educational context. Because of Federal Law 10 639, passed on 9 January 2003—which establishes that African Brazilian culture and history be taught at all elementary and high-schools, both public and private—the mythology of the African deities known as orixás (orishas) is taught in these schools much as the myths of Greco-Roman gods are taught. And where is the protestant influence? Brazilian culture, which is satu- rated with Catholicism and African Brazilian religiosity, lacks an evangelical contribution. Whereas Candomblé has become culture—like samba, carnival, feijoada, acarajé, offerings made on street corners, and fortune-telling with cowry shells—the sizeable evangelical denominations have been incapable of producing a single important cultural contribution, as outlined by Gedeon Alencar in his observations about the evangelical non-contribution to Brazilian culture (Alencar, 2005). Even gospel music, the evangelical contribution that

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most resembles an aesthetic good, is enjoyed only by converts, and is unable to find a place on the national art scene: an art scene which Brazilian protestants view with trepidation and caution. The fact is that evangelical religions are far removed from Catholicism and African Brazilian religions in that they seem utterly incapable of feeding into Brazil’s non-religious culture. Most of all they lack social legitimacy, which although diffuse, is omnipresent, conferred by intellectual segments of society, by artists and opinion-makers who arbitrate and define aesthetic guidelines and postulate what cultural goods and services are consumed.


Culture changes. Religion changes. A religion that doesn’t remain abreast of cultural changes in the modern western world gets left behind. It may still have enough content to affect culture and society, especially when it comes to establishing norms for an individual’s intimacy—because it is a religion—but its success depends on its capacity to show the potential convert what it can do for him or her. Most importantly, religion provides the convert with the sym- bolic means of making sense of life, and of making life easier to live, without having to abandon the good things the world has to offer. Let us assume, for argument’s sake, that the growth of the evangelical Churches will lead them to accumulate more followers than the Catholic Church. In this scenario, evangelical religions become the major religion, and Catholicism the minor one. If that were to happen, would Brazilian culture become evangelical? It seems unlikely. Evangelicalism would be nothing more than the religion of individuals who have been converted one by one, and not a religion capable of founding a nation and providing the building blocks of its culture. The historic processes of this religious replacement would be very different from the processes that forged Catholic culture in Latin America. In this hypothetical future, the possibility of which is not really under discussion, the circumstances that would allow for Protestantism to replace Catholicism would require, first of all, a secularization of the State—which has already taken place—followed by the secularization of culture, which is currently under way. It is through secularization that individuals become free to choose a religion other than the one they were born into. And so, when both the state and culture have become secularized, it won’t matter how full the churches, the temples, and the African Brazilian places of worship are, because culture will already have set itself free from religion. Such a culture wouldn’t have to sub- stitute one religion for another. At most, it would have to learn to live alongside several religions instead of only one.


1. This text reproduces, with minor changes, my inaugural address at the XIV Jornadas Sobre Alternativas Religiosas na América Latina, Buenos Aires, 25 to 28 September, 2007. My special thanks go to María Julia Carozzi and Alejandro Frigerio and other

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members of the organizing committee for the distinctive honour of opening Jornadas in 2007. I would also like to thank Antônio Flávio Pierucci for critiques and suggestions on this text.


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Reginaldo PRANDI, sociologist, is a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of São Paulo, USP, Brazil, and author of various books specializing in the sociology of religion and African Brazilian mythology, such as Mitologia dos orixás (2000), Encantaria brasileira (2001), Segredos guardados (2005). He has also written chil- dren’s books, including Os príncipes do destino (2001), lfá, o Adivinho (2002), Xangô, o Trovão (2003), Minha querida assombração (2003), Oxumarê, o Arco-íris (2004), Contos e lendas afro-brasileiros: a criação do mundo (2007). He wrote his first novel in 2006, Morte nos búzios. ADDRESS: Rua Cel. Gomes Pimentel, 77, 04111–040 Sao Paulo—SP, Brazil. [email: rprandi@usp.br]

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