The Development of Religious Pluralism in Brazil

Griffiths, Mary (1976) The Development of Religious Pluralism in Brazil. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis considers the character and growth of religious pluralism in Brazil and the direction and status this plurality has taken and acquired in the C20th. Attention is focused on the development and formation of folk Catholicism, the Afro cults and Spiritualist oriented religions - Macumba, Umbanda and Kardecism. Primarily, it delineates and describes those specific historical and contemporary socio-structural and religious circumstances in which the differing religious groups have emerged, maintained themselves, and become modified. Secondly, it considers transformative implications that the various religious groups have had for Brazilian society, and discusses the role of these groups as initiators or mediators of change. On the one hand, it explains the religions varied attempts to make paradoxical or incomprehensible aspects of daily life intelligible and morally acceptable, and describee their efforts to relate both ordinary and unexpected occurrences in the natural and social universe to imminent or transcendent principles of order. On the other hand, this thesis is also concerned with the politico-economic conservative or radical qualities of these religious innovations. Although membership of the various religious groups in Brazil does improve the social status of the individual amongst his peers and often within wider society, I consider whether such improvements tend generally to act as bulwarks against change at a more extensive level, or can be explicitly directed to action in the political sphere. Initially, these above considerations are introduced through an analytical framework that uses the observations of Peter Berger, Mary Douglas and Victor Turner as a theoretical base. Thus in chapters I and II, I explain how the specific, internal dynamic, or the internal articulation, construction and maintenance of a religious organisation and its corresponding beliefs, is the focal point for illustrating how a particular religious group is both a "model of" and a "model for" the social conditions out of which it originally arose. In contrast, chapters IV, V, VI, VII and VIII describe the effect and impact that this peculiar development of Brazilian Catholicism has had on the emergence of alternative religious groups and their followings over the centuries. Finally, chapter IX assesses the main conclusions reached in this thesis. Although it is demonstrated that the responses of alternative religious groups in Brazil have been limited and restricted by background socio-structural conditions and are constantly being modified in light of differing socio-economic experiences, folk Catholicism, the Afro cults and the Spiritualist groups have all asserted alternative world views which reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. All have their own religious framework of beliefs about the supernatural and salvation, and all advocate correct patterns of religious and secular social relationships and roles through which these concepts are made tangible and meaningful. These beliefs provide the ethical and intellectual grounds for concrete existential and moral judgements on the appropriate action necessary to bridge the gap between experiences and aspirations. The problems associated with the former therefore become either tolerable or alterable, and moral imperatives make difficult situations endurable. This thesis affirms that a consonance of structure exists between the actual construction of a religious group (the articulation of its beliefs and organisation) and the character of its socio-structural origins. In general, the less structured a group of people (e. g. folk catholics and the Afro cult members) in relation to the whole of Brazilian society, the less formal and organised their religious response, and therefore the less influential their religion on wider social structures. For the most part, the consonance displayed between the internal dynamics of these groups and their socio-structural origins brings about social change only at the individual level within the established status quo and acts as a brake or conservative force on religious resolutions or proposals for change at the wider secular level. However, the Spiritualist religions of Umbanda and Kardecism have a wider social influence and are currently gaining popular and middle class support, over and a gainst official Roman Catholicism. Although their political and economic transformative potential is limited by State surveillance, these Spiritualist groups today are beginning to gain a greater national following that fosters a growing awareness of their adherents social and political positions within Brazil. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Religious history, Latin American history
Date of Award: 1976
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1976-78761
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 14:56
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 14:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/78761

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