A Hidden Religion-Critical Commentary

Posted on September 27, 2013 by


The religion in Brazil called Candomble is not commonly known throughout the country and is not understood by most Brazilians. This article is explores the Afro-Brazilian religious group and their push to become more accepted within the Brazilian society. The religion in the past has been very hidden and not many people self-identify to worshipping Candomble but now they are hoping to get people to understand and accept it as a religion. It also mentions the racial ties to the religion. Since it is an African religion, people have preconceptions of it and that is part of why Brazilians do not openly accept it.  

The impression that is portrayed initially in the story and optimistic and raw. Although there are racial issues and prejudice is prevalent, the story still recognizes them but treats it more as an obstacle that the people of the religion are working toward recovering from. The religion is hindered because of the preconceived ideas and misunderstandings brought upon it because of generalized ideas of African religions. Just by the author writing this story, their word is getting out and it is helpful for their cause.  The article also strategically starts out with a description of a beautiful ceremony being held in a house of worship to create a connection with the religion right away. This initial connection helps with the purpose of the article by making it clear that the support for this religion is a good thing. The author also describes some of the beliefs of the religion and the purification rituals the members partake in. All of the good rituals and ceremonies are highlighted such as the deities granting health to those who ask for it and their belief in individual destiny, not good or evil. The title and pictures used attracted my attention because I instantly wondered what the “hidden” religion could be and what it was like. By scrolling through the only seven pictures provided, you see just the surface of what the religion is like and what it encompasses. It shows some the traditions, ceremonies, people and how they dress but does not go into depth about their beliefs and attitudes. Readers most often pay close attention to the photos and titles used in a news story, so the strategic use of those specific photos and descriptions reflect what the author wants to portray about the religion such as being beautiful and unique. Most of the photos are of children, women and sacred festivals-possibly only highlighting desirable parts of the religion. The photographs the author provides also add to the story by illustrating the culture of the Candomble people and giving the reader an idea of what the religion is like because not many people are familiar with it.

The author of the article uses sources from Brazil, such as the priest from the house of worship from the pictures of the ceremony taking place, to talk about their experience and opinions on the topic. He also speaks with a credible source from Brazil names Ana Paula Alvez. She studies Afro-Brazilians at the University of Rio and he uses information from her about the emersion of the Candomble religion into society and their battle for recognition. These sources are closely knit within the Afro-Brazilian and Candomble society the author’s use of these sources help with his credibility as a writer. If he were to put more of his own opinions into the writing it would not be as credible because of his lack of experience and knowledge about the religion.  

Another very prominent point made in the article is that the political aspect of the fight for recognition. Candomble members historically would tell Government officials they were Catholic in order to protect themselves because it was that widely unaccepted in the society. After the dictatorship fell, the Candomble activists began to make movements out into the open and gain rights. Recently, a Candomble priest started a political party to help support their rights in Congress. Their reasoning behind doing so is, again, to protect themselves from Evangelical Christians that have stuck their roots in Brazil and are trying to merge all of Brazil to their religion. They also look down upon any African religious groups and are trying to limit their religious traditions as much as possible. This relates with the idea of colonialism and modernity effecting the Hindu religion and Christians trying to make their religion more prominent within the culture. The article’s paragraph that focuses on political power is titled “Entering the Political Arena”, this word choice sets it up to seem like a fight or a war between the religions, setting the tone to be hostile. This could be accurate because of the examples used of Evangelical Christians attacking Candomble shrines and calling Candomble “devil worship”. While the people were encountered by other religions, the Candomble people’s practices were kept hidden and were not seen to be a “real” religious group. From the authors view, neither did the Afro-Brazilians. The article seems to assume and imply that the traditions and practices of their religion were influenced by the other religions, making it seem somewhat not authentic.

                It is never mentioned or elaborated on as to why exactly the Candomble people want to be accepted as a “true religion” in the eyes of the Brazilian society, other than that they want to be considered a “legitimate” religion. That raises the question of whom and what constitutes something to be a religion. From what the article says, the Candomble people need “society, the government and the people to recognize we exist”. In other words, the only way they feel their religion is authentic and consider it a real religion is if it is widely accepted by the masses. I think the influence of Christians over the Brazilian people lead them to believe that they need the people to believe in them so they are a legitimate religion. They are also relating black rights and acceptance to the rights and acceptance of the religion. It is inferred by the author of the article that if the religion is accepted by society, the Afro-Brazilians will be more accepted and recognized as well.  


Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Brazilian Believers Of Hidden Religion Step Out Of Shadows, National Public Radio, 9/16/13


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