The Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project recently published a report mapping the religious landscape of Brazil. The study showed how Catholicism in the country is on the decline, while Protestantism is gaining traction. But the study also found that, like many countries, the unaffiliated’s slice of the pie is getting larger.
Finally, the number of Brazilians with no religious affiliation, including agnostics and atheists, also has been growing. In 1970, fewer than 1 million Brazilians had no religious affiliation. By 2000, that figure had jumped to 12 million (7%). In the most recent decade, the unaffiliated continued to expand, topping 15 million (8%) in Brazil’s 2010 census.
Of course, being an open atheist in Brazil still isn’t easy. According to a June 2013 article in NewsDaily, many Brazilian atheists don’t feel welcome in their home country, which hosts the largest population of Catholics in the world (125 million – even if they are on the decline).
“You have to be brave to say you are atheist. So there are still a lot of atheists in the closet,” said Daniel Sottomaior, president of the Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, which is fighting prejudice and discrimination against people who do not believe in God.
Sottomaior, a 41-year-old civil engineer who lives in Sao Paulo and has received anonymous death threats, says that in Brazil — which will host a major Catholic festival called World Youth Day on July 22-28 in Rio and the pope’s first overseas visit — “atheists are likened to criminals.”
As the nonreligious population of Brazil and other countries continues to grow, it’s important that atheists everywhere show solidarity. Follow Sottomaior on Twitter (@ateus_atentos) and let him know that you support the work he is doing with the Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics.