Believe It or Not: Non-Catholic Girls Talk about Religious Intolerance

No matter in what you believe, but you believe in something. No matter what are principles that guide your life, they are always there. However, when we give a name for this belief, people get scared. Denominating it gives the idea of something restrict, mandatory and intolerant. Really? Are you one of the people who has these ideas? If you are, you should read this text and rethink: do they have a closed mind? Or do I? For answer this question, or, at least, provides a reflection, 15 girls were interviewed: 6 Umbanda followers, 3 Jewish, 2 Evangelic, 2 Buddhist, 1 Spiritist and 1 Atheist and here is what we found out. 

Umbanda is a Brazilian religion resulted of different cultures, like African and indigenous which is also the consequence of the merger between Catholicism, Spiritism and Candomblé. Fernanda Grillo expounded that, from Catholicism, it inherited the belief on saints and Jesus. From the other both, the belief in reincarnation, karmas, cycles, past lives and the custom of the personal consult with entities that are incorporated by a medium. This religion also divides itself in two: right and left side. The right one is destined to the spiritualized part, while the left one handle with questions closer to the human, more physical things “like love and addictions” exampled Larissa Menezes. Umbanda believes in only one God (Olorum) and the superior entities (Orixás), who represent nature elements with human personality. According to Giovanna Almeida, they command the 7 lines of this religion. The main precept in Umbanda is charity above all. It doesn’t matter with who and without expecting anything from it “Not even a thank you” mentioned Mariana Dantas. “Basically, you have to concentrate and work on your own energy” summarized Fernanda Grillo.

Judaism is a monotheist religion “We believe in God and only him” exposed Renata Grubman. This religion is constituted by values and traditions to remember their ancestors that are told generation to generation, mainly about community union and respect with others. Deborah Kovesie remembered that there are a lot of Jewish slopes, but all of them preach the empathy and tolerance. The idea of Judaism is that we are all in an intermedium stage, which we are being evaluated to something much bigger and better for the future. Some indicated costumes were have Saturday as the rest day and to eat kosher food. Evangelism, in its turn, follows the Martin Lutero’s thought, believing in Trinity (God, Jesus and Holy Spirit), the salvation from the sins through the cross and Jesus resuscitation. Some evangelic habits are to read the Bible, to do worship, to fast, to sing songs about God adoration and pray directly to him. Andressa Rosa revealed “To be like Jesus is the way I believe we have to be”, which means to see that her heart is sincere and Aria Park continued “I like to love people the same way Jesus loved”, in intend to please her “father”.  

Buddhism is a religion that believes that everyone can be happy, once we all born having the Buddha state of mind inside us, regardless skin color, belief or financial status. To achieve this feeling of maximum benevolence, when you are not affected by the problems that surround us, it is not necessary to be Buddhist. Vitória Cesario differenced “Some people just didn’t arouse that state yet”. This belief considers the Law of Cause and Effect, in other words, what you do for others, come back for you, karma and the existence of many lives, not only this one. Vitória revealed that they are taught to have empathy and stated “My problems keep present, but my perspective and way to deal with them completely changed”. There is also Spiritism, a Christian religion and its essentials beliefs are in reincarnation, free will and rational faith, which accepts all the religions and believes that all of them have a purpose. In contrast to all religions referred above, Atheism is the absence of belief in any gods or spiritual beings, life after death and neither the existence of something beyond the material universe. Catalina de Vera informed “In my case, the agnosticism means that I believe it is impossible to prove or not prove this existence”. They don’t have customs.

So, to be or not be? That is the question. But it doesn’t end here, being religious can have many different meanings and interpretations. For some, it is to have a solid base which they can count on at any moment, equilibrium within all the aspects of her life, to have a support that comfort them, to get out of the box and go to another world, to be in line with the teachings applying in their daily routine and practicing as much as she can, to believe in the existence of force majeures that she will not always see or understand, but always there, to believe that life has no end, or in something bigger than reality. Larissa Menezes concluded “I am trying to live Umbanda, not to be a follower, but to be Umbanda”. Helena Garson clarified “If you believe in something, you are a religious. If you follow everything just as it says, you are an orthodox”. However, some interviewed disagreed with her. Giovanna Almeida sees herself as someone who has faith, because with it she thinks we look to the other with more empathy and look to ourselves with more love, Aria Park prefers to consider a life style, Karen de Melo used the term philosophy, idea that bothers Isabela Lourenço, once “it is something that needs faith, because it depends on things we can’t explain”. Andressa Rosa went further “I don’t consider myself as a religious, I think it is a prejudice term that refers to radical or closed minded people”. Alternatively, Catalina de Vera justified “To be an atheist, for me, is to strongly believe in the human capacity to do good. If it isn’t a divine spirit, humanity is fully responsible for all the practically impossible things which were done”.

“Brazil is known as a blend country. Therefore, the religious diversity is a consequence of this union of different cultures and ethnicities” celebrated Rebecca Vano. However, it is impossible to stop at this point and don’t analyze how this diversity, antagonistically, overlap some religions to the detriment of other. To resume, society is prejudiced. The possible causes to this discrimination appointed by the girls were racism, for all the historical origin of some religions that have African matrix, “fear of the unknown”, absurd stereotyped creations, ignorance, lack of knowledge, media, corruption and mistakes committed by some religious. Vitória Cesario was simpler when suggested “The main reason of the prejudice is because we don’t follow the same religion as theirs” and Helena Garson complemented “It is much more common to do grimace to the unknown”, than understand it. The intolerance nowadays is expressed in many ways: social networks, stares, family dinners, supposed jokes. No matter how it’s done, it hurts and just contribute to hatred. That’s the reason why Larissa Menezes screamed “Umbanda is a Brazilian religion and still suffer from a tough prejudice! Brazilians don’t appreciate their own culture!”.

Although most of the girls reported this prejudice, most of them also defended their religion, by ensuring that they preach the respect and acceptance. The Umbanda follower Larissa Menezes said “Umbanda believes that everybody come to the world with a mission. Umbanda doesn’t agree with any discrimination or prejudice”. The Jewish Renata Grubman emphasized “Provided that there is respect about each one’s belief, Judaism always get along well with other religions”. The Buddhist Vitória Cesario communicated “In Buddhism, we learn to respect all religions and we are encouraged to learn about them, because it is easier to respect others, if you understand their point of view”. Both evangelic, on the other hand, agreed that their religion is “on center of prejudice practices” and felt sorry about it. They are aware of their privileges compare to other religions, although they don’t discard that still suffer from prejudice. Isabela Lourenço, Buddhist agreed with them, but for a different reason, for her, Buddhism is not much known by the people, so prejudice decreases. Catalina de Vera started from the same point “I think humanitarian values are good, independently of its origin. If for some people that came from a religion, great”, but it ended different “Even though I can’t deny that a lot of conflicts would be avoided if there were no organized religions”.

When the subject is the State secularism, the answer is the same: Absolutely not. The examples are easily appointed “Look at the calendar with only catholic celebrations or the draft laws that injure other religions” or “the conservative Congress”, “we see faith always interfering in laws”, “we have a cross in the Central Plateau and other public spaces”, “there is an Evangelical Bench”. Meanwhile, it is important to highlight that both evangelic girls don’t feel represented in the evangelical speech of political “And much less agree with them” underlined Aria Park, who still added “It makes me sad to imagine that people have this political vision about evangelic”.  The Spiritist Karen de Melo was the only one who differed “I don’t think I am represented by the Law, however I think it doesn’t even help or disturb me as a citizen”. This position from the State only helps to strengthen social stereotypes as associate Umbanda followers to black magic and called them witches or Buddhist to people who seat on a cushion and revere Buddha.  

To solve the prejudice problem, the majority of the interviewed girls recommended the religious diversity education at Schools, to present all of them in classes and not only Catholicism. Education is the best way to diffusion information. Andressa Rosa reinforced “It is not the religious intolerance that manifests, but the intolerant! And he can be everywhere”, and he has to be reeducated. To listen is a rarity in our society and Andressa complemented “There are a lot of things that made us alike. There are spots in all the religions that converge. There are good and bad people everywhere”. Only after we allowed ourselves to listen to the other, in other words, give representativeness, we will achieve respect by knowing that everyone is free to believe in what represents them the most. Catalina de Vera kept this idea “People should accept the different thoughts and think more about things that unite than separate us”. Mariana Dantas, Umbanda adept, proposed “Why not to go for a reliable field? It worth the experience to break down stereotypes”, for her, it is important to search to always develop and get out of our comfort zone.

There were also pessimist girls who think that it is impossible to put an end on prejudice Helena Garson justified “People born with free will to judge what is good to them. Society transforms men and, if there are people like that by now, they will always have followers”. However, people also transforms society and the opposite can also be done. And to practice, we need to study before and to not idealize religion as Beatriz Mammana comprehended “The religion is only flawed, because man is flawed”. Most of all, these girls reassure that religion is something you need to identify yourself with. For Andressa Rosa “I choose Evangelism because, with it, I had the most authentic, empiric, inexplicable and transforming experience”, similar to Mariana Dantas who “found strength and comfort to keep moving on during a tough time”. To Helena Garson, curiosity was the key word that made her happier today, for this reason Isabela Lourenço advised “If you have interest in knowing a religion, go for it”. The main thing is to respect the other’s choices the same way you want others to respect yours.