579,8 thousand religious establishments

Image: Steve Johnson


The numbers suggest that where there is less religious presence, there is more State, more education and more health

Brazilians like football and preaching. He sees people kicking the ball, he kicks it. You see people preaching on the street, stop and listen. Brazilians don't like school, but they enjoy meals, snacks and cookies. Brazilians hope the class ends soon and goes to work, trying to earn a little more. Brazilians pay for all their sins when they get sick.

What country is this? According to data collected and released by IBGE, there are 579,8 thousand religious establishments in Brazil, 264,4 thousand establishments dedicated to education and 247,5 thousand dedicated to health. Taking into account the reservations made by José Eustáquio Diniz Alves, reflection on the topic is necessary.

For him, “[…] IBGE data is broader. Previous research considered registered religious temples, with CNPJ, while the IBGE survey covers all religious establishments, with CNPJ or not, and not necessarily temples. The Universal Church, for example, may have a house in a poor neighborhood to distribute food, and it is considered a religious establishment. The opposite is also true, the Foursquare Gospel Church has a daycare center, and it is considered an educational establishment.”

Observing the Southeastern States and, without unraveling the mystery of Piauí, it's fact: “São Paulo, Piauí and the three southern states are the only units of the federation whose total number of educational and health establishments exceeds that of religious establishments.”

Observing the same data in Rondônia and Amazonas, it's fact: “In Amazonas and Rondônia, the proportion of religious establishments (19.134 and 7.670, respectively) is double the combined number of teaching and health establishments (9.790 and 3.820, respectively).”

From the data we can raise some simple hypotheses:

In Brazilian states where there is no food on the plate, there is no job and a cold kills, in states where meat problems can only be solved through public policies, the presence of the State, the solution is to look at the sky and pray.

In these States, the population's reasoning is of the circumstantial-religious type. I explain. For the poor prospector who needs to earn money to buy the day's food, there is no tomorrow, it doesn't matter if there is a standing forest guaranteeing a better future. For whom? The future suggests dust, dust of earth. Everything will turn to dust, the jaguar, the forest, him, his children and descendants. It doesn't seem strange to me to imagine miners praying not to be discovered by law enforcement.

Without food and work, what's left to do? Dreams like the dog Baleia (Graciliano Ramos). Lots of faith.

An important element in understanding the mysteries of faith is food, our daily bread. There are others, the lack of employment, of honest work (not slavery) and a human kind of boss, without torture.

With these scarce goods, religion is showing an upward trend in the market.

Churches, especially Pentecostal ones, consider the vile metal, money, a symptom of grace. They are skilled in transubstantiating the material into the spiritual.

"Research by political scientist Victor Araújo, associated with the Center for Metropolis Studies (CEM), mapped this transition. In 2019 alone, 6.356 evangelical churches were opened in the country, an average of 17 per day. The study tracked 109,5 evangelical churches of many denominations, compared to around 20 in 2015. The predominance is Pentecostals. Among the reasons for the boom is the weakening of Catholicism, which lost its reach with the formation of urban peripheries after the rural exodus.”

Some evangelical churches, without prejudice to the demands of the flesh, offer spiritual support by encouraging, which is commendable, a person to help another person outside the holy family. It involves planned mutual aid, efficient job search networks, programs aimed at small businesses and exchanges of all types. Earthly solutions, stimuli for spiritual life. These variables (among others) justify part of the success of evangelical churches.


When it comes to health, many people prefer, especially after Covid, to leave their lives in God's hands. It's understandable.

The latest experiences regarding diseases and epidemics have demonstrated disagreements between men of science, people in suits and even people in lab coats. Disagreement responsible for deaths. A lot of talking and no understanding about medicine and treatment. Big confusion, difficult to separate who is “truly enlightened by God”.

Popular solution: It is better for everyone to talk directly to God. No intermediaries. And wait, resignedly, for the final day of the redemption of the bodies.


Regarding school institutions, there is a lack of appreciation. It is not difficult to understand Brazilian reasons. In some regions of our immense territory, getting to school is difficult. Resources in the classroom are small, and teachers are not always satisfied with what they do and receive. It is a painful life for students and teachers. It generates expense and, after completing studies, the knowledge obtained does not represent a better job opportunity.

Education in Brazil (of low quality) does not create horizons for the future, it does not allow us to dream.

Temporary and dated conclusion: It is better to play football as long as age allows, be realistic about jobs and low salaries and maintain some spirituality for emergency, desperate situations. There is no doubt: in areas without electricity to charge your cell phone, there is only one solution to hopelessness: prayer.

Typical Brazilian

I tell a delicate story. My mother was very sick. Someone suggested a faith healer with extraordinary powers. She asked what I thought. I responded straight away: Good idea. Where is? I took my mother.

I confess, I had a drop of hope.

Typical Uspian

In order not to lose focus in the face of my human ambiguities and to be faithful to modern reason, like USP, I summarize the considerations in a simple and clean “mathematical formula”. Maybe polytechnics will like it. Hope is the last thing to die.

More religion = Less education – Less health
Less State = More religion
More State = More education + More health
Less religion = More State

*Janice Theodora da Silva She is a history professor at USP. Author, among other books, of Alexandre de Gusmão: A Diplomat at Court (Official Press). [https://amzn.to/3SWJUJm]

Originally published on Journal of USP.

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