Religious Conflict in Brazil


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Protestants, Catholics, and the Rise of Religious Pluralism in the Early Twentieth Century

Erika Helgen

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The story of how Brazilian Catholics and Protestants confronted one of the greatest shocks to the Latin American religious system in its 500-year history

This innovative study explores the transition in Brazil from a hegemonically Catholic society to a religiously pluralistic society. With sensitivity, Erika Helgen shows that the rise of religious pluralism was fraught with conflict and violence, as Catholic bishops, priests, and friars organized intense campaigns against Protestantism. These episodes of religious violence were not isolated outbursts of reactionary rage, but rather formed part of a longer process through which religious groups articulated their vision for Brazil’s national future.

Erika Helgen is assistant professor of Latin American Christianity at Yale University. She is the recipient of the Arthur and Mary Wright Yale Dissertation Prize, the Robert M. Leylan Fellowship for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and a Fulbright Fellowship.

“This engagingly written book explores the neglected history of Protestantism’s early expansion in the Brazilian Northeast, but it also offers the reader much more. Helgen deftly builds a fresh, alternative narrative of Brazilian state formation and identity in the first half of the 20th century.”—Virginia Garrard, The University of Texas at Austin

“This is religious history at its best: a tight interweaving of social, economic, political, cultural, and intellectual history, based on previously neglected archival evidence and delightfully free of reductionism. Erika Helgen’s masterful work is bound to redefine the way in which twentieth-century Brazilian religious history is approached and understood.”—Carlos Eire, author of Reformations

“Carefully crafted, exhaustively researched, and argued in clear, engaging prose, this book offers readers an original, accessible contribution to the history of emergent pluralism in early-twentieth-century Latin America. A laudable accomplishment.”—Edward Wright-Rios, Vanderbilt University

“Powerful but nuanced, this book moves easily from debates over how to restore and re-position Catholicism nationally to vividly-rendered parish-level clashes between Catholics and Protestants. It is sweeping in its implications but intimate in its hard-won details about religious violence and persecution.”— Margaret Chowning, University of California, Berkeley

“Helgen’s analysis, based on exhaustive research in a dizzying number of local religious archives . . . brings the reader along for the spiritual ride with engaging prose and a lively pace.”—Cassia Roth, Hispanic American Historical Review
ISBN: 9780300243352
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
328 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4