15 agosto 2019

Abolição e política identitária na Ciência Hoje para Crianças

Nos últimos anos, a “discussão” sobre a abolição da escravidão no Brasil tem tomado alguns rumos inesperados mas, ao mesmo tempo, nefastos.

Antes de mais nada, é evidente (ou deveria ser evidente) que a valorização dos movimentos negros (escravos, livres ou libertos) na campanha pela abolição da escravidão é algo corretíssimo e tem que ser valorizado; todavia, isso não pode, de maneira nenhuma, corresponder a negar-se o papel desempenhado nessa campanha por outros brasileiros, que, na falta de melhor expressão, chamaríamos de “brancos” (quer fossem populares, quer fossem da elite, quer fossem de classe média).

O que importa notar, nesse sentido, é que a campanha pela abolição foi um movimento verdadeiramente nacional, no duplo sentido de que (1) ocorreu de Norte a Sul (e de Leste a Oeste) do país e, principalmente, (2) mobilizou todas as classes sociais, todos os grupos sociais. Nesse sentido, vale lembrar que a lei da abolição, antes de ser sancionada pela Princesa Isabel, fora aprovada pelo parlamento brasileiro: essa aprovação indica o quanto a sociedade como um todo mobilizara-se previamente, forçando o parlamento a aceitar o projeto.

É fundamental insistirmos em que consiste em um mito a idéia de que Princesa Isabel teria sido a “redentora”, isto é, de que a abolição teria ocorrido graças à pura vontade unilateral da regente do Império brasileiro. Aliás, esse mito foi criado já em 1888, para tentar valorizar a monarquia decadente e também para tentar legitimar um eventual terceiro reinado dos Órleans e Braganças, a ser assumido pelo casal composto pela Princesa Isabel e seu marido, o francês Conde d’Eu.

Mas se é correto desmistificar a atuação “redentora” da Princesa Isabel, assim como é importante valorizar a atuação dos movimentos negros na campanha abolicionista, por outro lado é importante não negar a atuação de toda a sociedade brasileira da época. Nesse sentido, por exemplo, vale notar que partes do próprio “movimento negro” afirmaram desde 1888 elementos do mito da “redentora”: afinal, após o 13 de maio constituiu-se sob o comando de José do Patrocínio (um dos antigos campeões negros da causa abolicionista) a “Guarda Negra”, que servia para defender a monarquia escravocrata contra a república e os republicanos, sem temer o emprego de espancamentos, linchamentos etc. Esse triste fato não costuma ser lembrado – mesmo nos dias de hoje! – nem pelos reacionários que defendem a monarquia nem pelo movimento negro.

Há outro motivo, mais profundo, para preocupação com os rumos atuais sobre os “debates” a respeito da campanha abolicionista: trata-se de que muito da historiografia revisionista das últimas duas décadas tem um fortíssimo caráter de política identitária. Ora, a política identitária baseia-se nas “identidades de grupo”, isto é, naqueles elementos que cada grupo social considera como exclusivos seus e que, portanto, separam esses grupos do conjunto da sociedade e dos demais grupos.

Referi-me a “muito da historiografia”, ou seja, muitos historiadores, mas também muitos cientistas sociais atuais adotam esses parâmetros identitários para fazerem suas análises, que se caracterizam cada vez mais pela brutal dicotomia que separa de maneira seca e dura “brancos” de “negros”, sem categorias intermediárias (os mulatos) mas com um fortíssimo elemento moral (em que, evidentemente, os “brancos” por definição não prestam). (Esse procedimento tem sido adotado por cientistas sociais independentemente da sua “raça”.)

Isso tem ocorrido graças à importação, completamente acrítica e despudorada, feita pelo movimento negro brasileiro dos esquemas mentais e sociais próprios ao racismo dos Estados Unidos e das estratégias sociopolíticas adotadas pelo movimento negro estadunidense – com todos os vícios que isso acarreta, em particular a reprodução ocorrida aqui do racismo e do divisionismo existentes lá. Sinal simples e escandaloso disso é a afirmação de que “miscigenação é genocídio” em faixas e cartazes que integrantes do movimento negro brasileiro exibem com orgulho em manifestações públicas, ainda que com isso apenas (e infelizmente) reproduzam aqui e a favor dos negros a nefanda regra da “gota única de sangue” (“one drop rule”), vigente nos EUA e que fundamenta sociologicamente o racismo lá.

Não posso deixar de observar que, muito diferente disso tudo, resultando em ações e práticas muito diversas, com efeitos sociais e políticos amplos (também diversos), foi a atuação dos positivistas. Os positivistas brasileiros celebravam no dia 13 de Maio a união da raças no Brasil, com a colaboração de cada uma delas para o progresso nacional; aliás, os positivistas brasileiros foram alguns dos mais ardorosos defensores da abolição da escravidão imediata e sem compensação financeira para os donos de escravos: aliás, nos grêmios positivistas, ser dono de escravo causava a expulsão sumária. Não é por acaso que, até há pouco tempo, o 13 de Maio era feriado nacional: proposto pelos positivistas logo no início da República, esse feriado celebrava a união nacional nos termos indicados acima – mas muito diferentes da apologia reacionária que cultuava a “redentora” e também muito diferente da política identitária, segregacionista e não raro racista do dia da “consciência negra”.

Faço essas extensas considerações porque a revista Ciência Hoje para Crianças (CHC), em sua edição n. 299, de maio de 2019, dedicou o número a tratar da abolição da escravidão, dando ênfase aos negros envolvidos no movimento. Como observei antes, essa ênfase é histórica e politicamente necessária, mas ela não pode conduzir a negar o papel desempenhado pelo conjunto da sociedade brasileira – que, aliás, atuou como um conjunto – nessa campanha. Em particular, nesse número da CHC, a matéria “13 de Maio ainda seria data para celebrar?” (disponível aqui: http://chc.org.br/artigo/13-de-maio/) deixa entrever os problemas que comentei acima. É bastante claro o quão problemático, quando não desastroso, que, em nome de uma proposta bem intencionada, mas errada no final das contas, uma revista de divulgação científica leve adiante a “correção política” (que é a tradução correta do “politicamente correto”) e a política identitária sob a forma de conteúdo “educativo” para crianças.

Artigo "Positivism in Brazil"

Em nossa postagem "Verbetes na 'Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions': Positivismo e laicidade", de 5.8.2019, divulgamos que tivemos dois artigos (ou melhor, verbetes) na Enclyclopedia of Latin American Religions, publicada pela editora Springer.

Pois bem: seguindo os parâmetros editoriais da Springer, podemos tornar público o artigo em sua versão preliminar, isto é, sem a formatação da editora e sem a paginação.


Assim, o texto inicial está disponível abaixo.


As referências bibliográficas para consulta efetiva são estas:


Biscaia de Lacerda G. (2019) Positivism in Brazil. In: Gooren H. (eds) Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Religions of the World. Springer, Cham, pp 1301-1308
*   *   *

Positivism in Brazil


Gustavo Biscaia de Lacerda
Setor de Ciências Exatas, Universidade Federal do Paraná
Curitiba
Brazil

Keywords

Religion of Humanity, religion, humanism, political action, civic and pious cults

Definition

Positivism is the philosophical system created by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), which comprises not only a social-historical philosophy or a philosophy of sciences, but also and mainly a secular religion, the Religion of Humanity. Constituted in three main parts (cult, dogma and regime), Positivism as a religion in practical terms can be broadly understood as a set of pious oeuvres (“religious” ones) and political interventions. From mid-XIX century on, many forms of Positivism spread all along Latin America, specially in Brazil, where the Brazilian Positivist Church has been founded in the city of Rio de Janeiro, in 1881, by Miguel Lemos (1854-1917) and seconded by Raimundo Teixeira Mendes (1855-1927). Despite the fact that there were many varieties of positivists in Brazil (many of them not affiliated to Brazilian Positivist Church), it remains the fact that, from 1881 to 1927, both Lemos and Teixeira Mendes developed an intense set of actions, with “religious” and political characters. Pursuing a pacific, altruistic and positive society, Lemos and Teixeira Mendes championed the causes of freedom of consciousness and expression, the separation of church and State, the end of black slavery, the dignity of proletarians and Brazilian indigenous peoples, the international fraternity and so on. The most visible aspect of their work is the Brazilian national flag, with the Positivist motto, “Order and Progress”, authored by the Positivists Teixeira Mendes and Décio Villares.

Introduction

In a state-of-the-art-article written some years ago, Alonso (1996) has pointed out the existence of three broad phases in the dealing with Positivism in Brazil. The first generation was that when the Brazilian Positivist movements were strong and really active, between 1870 and 1930, comprehending the last phase of the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889) and the whole Brazilian I Republic (1889-1930). During this phase, the debates pro and against Positivism were ferocious; there were many branches of the Positivist movement (orthodox, unorthodox, political, religious, journalistic, military) and even the critics of the positivists may agree with one or another of their ideas. The second generation occurred from the “Vargas Era” (1930-1945) to the end of the military regime (1964-1985), passing through the Brazilian II Republic (or “Populist Republic”) (1946-1964): during this phase, Positivism was in general very much criticized, either because it was identified with authoritarian ideas (for example, by supposedly inspiring Getúlio Vargas’ coup d’état in 1937), in the Catholic and/or Liberal accounts, or because Positivism was seen as a conservative-bourgeois ideology, in the Marxist account. The third phase is the current one, and it has began in the late 1980s, with fairest visions of Positivism and of the Brazilian Positivist movements. For sure, the simple criticism doesn’t prevent good interpretations, as we can see in some of the works published during the second phase identified by Alonso, as the books written by João Cruz Costa (1967) and, specially, by Ivan Lins (2009), although some of worst interpretations are of that period, just like the unduly successful work of Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda (1985). So, Alonso’s third phase give us the possibility of studying Positivism in more comprehensive and varied ways, as shown by researches like Carvalho’s (2000), Alonso’s (2002), Ribeiro’s (2012), Maestri’s (2013), and Lacerda’s (2016). This article will present some characteristics of the Brazilian Positivist movements based in such researches; but, before, it is necessary to expose some traits of the Comtean political doctrine, in order to illuminate the practical actions of Brazilians Positivists.

Elements of Comte’s Doctrine

Although Auguste Comte (1798-1857) is best known for his scientific-philosophical work (mainly his Course in Positive Philosophy, 1830-1842), since his early writings his ambitions was on political and social subjects; as a matter of fact, the objective of the comprehensive revision of the sciences of his times he developed in the three first volumes of the Course was to consider the conditions of scientificity of each of the fundamental sciences he distinguished (Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Biology), so he could set the foundations of a brand new science, Sociology. This new science has been founded not only for intellectual purposes, but also for practical needs: as Comte has lived during the post-French Revolution, post-Napoleon and Restauration Era, social order was passing by a permanent turmoil, with the recent end of the Ancient Regime (the catholic-feudal order) and the beginnings of the modern, “capitalistic” society (or, in the Comte’s words, the beginnings of the “industrial society”, which was supposed to be pacific, positive and altruistic); so, the theoretical understanding of the social realities was urgent, as well as the proposal of ways to direct the new forces.
Johan Heilbron (1990) has noted that the revision of sciences that Comte undertook was not in order to reduce the new social science to the natural sciences, but, instead, based on a relational conception, to understand the specificity of each science and to propose the elements of Sociology. So, to Comte Sociology must base itself in history, considering the changes societies passes through time; his inspiration for it was Condorcet’s and Turgot’s conceptions: his three “laws of three stages” reflects that idea and constitute the spinal cord of his “Social Dynamics”. On the other hand, Comte considered that every society has some institutions that structured it and constitute the basis of the developments through time: property, family, government, language and religion are the elements of the “Social Statics”. Both Statics and Dynamics, taken together, allow Comte to propose a policy of “order and progress”.
From 1848 onwards, with the publication of his A General View of Positivism – or, better, since 1845, when Comte met Clotilde de Vaux (1815-1846), sister of one of his students, and developed a strong, Platonic passion for her –, Comte has begun what has been called (even by himself) his “second career”. Presented in his System of Positive Policy (1851-1854) and many accessory books (A General View of Positivism, 1848; Positivist Catechism, 1854; Appeal to Conservatives, 1855; Subjective Synthesis, 1856, and hundreds of letters), such “second career” was devoted to propose practical measures for the social troubles French and, more broadly, European societies were facing. More specifically, Comte create a human religion, the “Religion of Humanity”; leaving aside many details of its project that are easily, but unfairly, seen just like eccentricities or anecdotic traits (e. g., the “historical calendar”), the Religion of Humanity was considered by Comte the proper means to create a new “spiritual power”, i. e., the means to regulate, through counseling, the values, the ideas and the actions of the industrial society. That spiritual power must create, regulate and develop a new public opinion, based on the conceptions of pacifism, relativism, historicism, freedoms of conscience, exposure and association, and respect for all individuals, social classes and cultures.
It is important to consider that, to Comte, “religion” is different from “theology”: while theology is an interpretation of reality based on the assumption of the existence of supernatural beings that regulate reality – generally speaking, the “gods” –, religion is the social institution that regulate the three aspects of human nature (feelings, intelligence and practical actions), at the same time constituting a personal, individual unity and a social, shared unity (and, thus, realizing the “religare” Latin ethimology of the word religion). According to Comtean law of three intellectual stages, as religion can be based on theological grounds, it can also be a metaphysical institution and, more importantly, it can be a positive, human one: so, the “Religion of Humanity”.
As we have seen above, another element of Social Statics was government. For Comte there is not only the material, temporal government, which is generally called “State”; it also exists the moral, spiritual government. While temporal government is based in force – in the sense proposed by Thomas Hobbes and, later, restated by Max Weber –, the spiritual power is based in counseling. Both powers can be either united or separated; while in earlier times of Humanity and, in general, in periods in which theology prevails temporal and spiritual powers are together, in positive society for Comte both powers must be carefully apart one from another. The principle underneath such a separation is to preserve the autonomy and the dignity of both powers, specially spiritual power, which must not use the force to prevail; remaining separated, spiritual power gains influence only through counseling and, besides that, is autonomous to criticize freely temporal power, without prejudicial commitments. On the other hand, remaining separated, temporal power does not become despotic and it is prevented the creation of official hypocrisies, by avoiding the institution of State-imposed doctrines.

Many Brazilian Positivist Movements

In Brazil – just like in Latin America, in general terms (cf. Zea 1980) – there weren’t only one Positivist movement, but many of them. For sure it can be said that there were a large “wave” of Positivism, but we can analytically establish many specific kinds of positivists, depending on their fields.
The best known of all are those assembled in the Brazilian Positivist Church and Apostolate (IPB), which was leaded by Miguel Lemos (1854-1917), its first Director (1881-1904), and specially by Raimundo Teixeira Mendes (1855-1927), its second and more important Director (1904-1927) – although Teixeira Mendes always insisted that he was only the “vice-Director” of IPB. Both Lemos and Teixeira Mendes developed an intense activity of publicizing Positivism, as well as applying to Brazilian issues what they considered that were the positivistic solutions to them. During nearly half a century (1881-1927), they both maintained a constant worship of Humanity in the huge Temple of Humanity, in the city of Rio de Janeiro (then capital of Brazil), and intervened in a number of political, social, philosophical and religious issues. Organized in a church, those positivists were considered by themselves and by other positivists as “orthodoxes” – because they followed the integrity of Comte’s oeuvres, specially the last ones (such as the System of Positive Policy[1]).
Despite being the most important Positivist group in Brazil, those assembled around IPB were neither the only nor chronologically the first ones. Knowing Positivism a few years before Lemos and Teixeira Mendes, and applying it to public issues, the physician of São Paulo Luís Pereira Barreto (1840-1923) was another prominent Positivist. However, the majority of his career was based in the philosophical account of Comte’s works, rejecting its religious version; so, Pereira Barreto was an unorthodox positivist, as he preferred to apply Positivism to Brazilian society as a method, as a way of thinking, as well as a set of general principles and ideas, instead of a broader system of organizing social and individual lives. Anyway, Pereira Barreto not only has written books and journalistic articles on philosophy, but also texts of political intervention, proposing changes in political life, in agricultural policies etc. (cf. Lins 2009).
We can also identify journalistic-practical and military Positivistic groups in Brazil. Both branches considered more the practical aspects of Comte’s doctrine, in the sense of regime change – mainly from the unitary monarchy to a proposal of a republican regime, to be installed in federative basis –; furthermore, they saw in Positivism the way to conduct Brazil to a modern society, that is, an urban, industrial, rich, socially integrated one – in a word, to conduct Brazil into progress. Just like IPB (and even Luís Pereira Barreto), these groups acted mainly during the last phase of Brazilian monarchy (1870-1889) and the Brazilian I Republic (1889-1930).
There were those Positivistic journalists all over Brazil; their action in the press occurred mainly during the Brazilian Empire[2], precisely against monarchy and unitarism and for republic and federalism. Some of the most active of them were those in the Southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul (the “gaúchos”), led by the journalist and lawyer Júlio de Castilhos. As we just have said, they were more concerned with the social-political aspects of Positivism, although they haven’t stood against the religious ones; they even worked together later with the group of IPB, as for the laws of separation between church and State, of public holidays and Brazilian national flag, in the months after the proclamation of Republic prove. After the fall of monarchy in the end of 1889, through elections the Positivist gaúchos took power in Rio Grande do Sul and, despite many political turmoils in the initial years, they conserved it until 1930 (cf. Soares 1998).
There were also military Positivists. This group has develop around the figure of the teacher of Mathematics, the Major Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães (1836-1891)[3]. Adept of religious Positivism since young adult (cf. Teixeira Mendes 1936), Benjamin Constant, took part of Paraguayan War (1864-1870)[4] and, after that, developed a career as a Mathematic teacher in the Military School. Adopting Comte’s ideas for society in general and for Mathematics itself, he became a symbol and a focus of convergence for the students, who were looking for progress of Brazil. Since he was considered a leader of old and young militaries and the military as a corporation felt itself devaluated after the Paraguayan War, in the late 1880s Benjamin Constant vocalized their discontentments (including there the opposition of militaries to be hunters of fugitive slaves), although he rejected revolution-like solutions to their problems. However, in 1889, as the prestige of Brazilian monarchy fell and the campaign for the Republic rose, Benjamin Constant was put ahead of a movement that in the first hours of November 15 proclaimed the new regime, which, subsequently, promoted the separation between church and State, the federalization of Brazilian political organization and many other important measures.
Those young military assembled around Benjamin Constant espoused different branches of Positivism; some, like Gomes de Castro, were looking for a means for radical political action (even if it was against a more rigorous interpretation of Positivism – cf. Teixeira Mendes 1906); others, like Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon (1865-1958), became religious positivists and developed a public action following Positivist parameters. Of course, others young militaries were just involved in the milieu of political exaltation, activism and patriotism (and, for sure, also republicanism), not following Positivism later: that was the case of Euclides da Cunha (1866-1909), who developed an important career as a journalist and a writer, becoming one of the most important Brazilian authors (specially due to his masterpiece Os sertões (Rebellion in the Backlands), 1902).
A few more words on the military positivists are necessary. For a long time, the role Benjamin Constant developed both as a teacher of young, radical(ized) students and as the éminence grise in the Proclamation of Republic was considered an important, if not the most important, factor that led to the politization of Brazilian military, which resulted, in the following decades, to many, systematic political interventions and coups d’État – namely, that of 1930, which ended Brazilian I Republic and between 1937 and 1945 assumed the form of a civilian dictatorship runned by Getúlio Vargas; and that of 1964, which endured until 1985 as a military-civilian dictatorship. The thesis of Positivist influence in the formation of an authoritarian mind, specially among the military, although still repeated today, was very famous during the 1964’s authoritarian regime; such a thesis was sustained by authors like Sérgio Buarque de Holanda (1985)[5].
The teaching of Benjamin Constant, despite held to the military youth, in the Military School, had a civilian orientation; at the same time, despite being a teacher of Mathematics, he was a true intellectual leader, based in Comtean ideas (specially in Comte 1856 work Subjective Synthesis). As we have seen earlier, for Comte the positive society must be pacific and “industrial”, a pair of words which must be understood in positivistic philosophy of history, in opposition to military-conquering societies. If the positive society must be a pacific one, the Armed Forces and the military will lose importance and, so, they will change their social roles into pacific, productive ones. That was the orientation of Benjamin Constant’s teaching at Military School; a generation later, military instructors and theoreticians, dissatisfied with such orientation, called it in very negative terms such as a “bookish” teaching.

Brazilian Positivism as a religious movement

Despite the fact that, as we have said above, there were many Positivists movements in Brazil, there is no doubt that the actions of Brazilian Positivist Church were the most important ones[6]. Following closely the ideas and proposals of Auguste Comte, both Miguel Lemos and, later, Teixeira Mendes have had an intense activity during 1881 (foundation of IPB by Lemos) and 1927 (death of Teixeira Mendes – Lemos died in 1917). According to Comtean doctrine, an orthodox Positivist develops activities that are at the same time religious and political; in rigorous terms, to that doctrine every action is, or may be, religious, despite the fact that it can have a more obvious political visage.
Those considerations are important because, being a church, IPB had its own ceremonies, following the seven sacraments of Religion of Humanity (presentation, initiation, admission, destination, marriage, retirement, transformation, incorporation)[7] and, more generally, the cult of Humanity, including the explication of the Positivist Catechism and the celebration of both abstract and concrete calendars, as well as the civic and the religious holidays. Lacerda (2016), analyzing the themes of 355 of the more than 500 publications of IPB between 1881 and 1927, reached the value of 27,32% of books and publications that can be categorized under the label of “religious texts”, i. e., texts regarding ecclesiastical themes, historical commemorations, pious texts and so on. Many of them present history of Positivist movement in Brazil; others are beautiful and touching tributes to Auguste Comte and Clotilde de Vaux (see, for example, Teixeira Mendes 1899, 1916); on the other hand, there are books or pamphlets concerning the history of religions (mainly of Catholicism) and/or their relations with Positivism (e. g., Teixeira Mendes 1903, 1907).
The ceremonies of public cults as well as books concerning historical figures present some of the most interesting aspects of Positivism, linking “religious” and “political” actions of IPB. One conspicuous example is the biography of Benjamin Constant (Teixeira Mendes 1936), where Teixeira Mendes at the same time inserts the history of Brazil in the world’s history (more precisely, in Europe’s history), explains the dynamics of Brazilian history and exposes how Benjamin Constant – supported by Positivism – acted first as a military (during the Paraguayan War), then as a Mathematics teacher, as a political leader and as a spouse and father.
The sense of actions of IPB were at the same time to develop the milieu for the gradual triumph of Positivism and to follow Comtean doctrine. To fulfill both aims, Lemos and Teixeira Mendes were very careful to distinguish Temporal and Spiritual powers; so, in the early 1880s they resign to their public functions (despite the fact that both had been approved in public contests) in order to become, and to remain, morally and intellectually independent. Considering that, at the time, the divulgation of ideas and doctrines occurred mainly through public speeches, lectures and texts, they have written about a huge list of subjects: putting aside those already mentioned “religious themes” (ecclesiastical and pious ones; Positivist cult; religious doctrines), they wrote about the end of black slavery; religious alliance; civil marriage; immigration; historical commemorations; sanitarian despotism; obligatory education; protection to indigenous peoples; freedoms of commerce, of testaments, spiritual, of professions; militarism; organization and proclamation of Republic; conditions of live of proletarians; separation between church and State; international relations; orthographic reform; Historical Sociology of Brazil; political theory; medical and psychological theories.
As we just have noted, the search for a pacific, altruistic and rational milieu was at the same time the means, the objective and the fulfillment of Positivism; in this sense, IPB many times fought against what they considered despotism of the State, as in the violent obligation to vaccine (at a time when vaccine was not fully proven), or, in more conspicuous cases, in the defense of many priests, let them be sorcerers oppressed by the State in behalf of the Catholic Church, or be Catholic priests oppressed by the State (cf. Teixeira Mendes 1912a). The defense of a pacific society was another constant subject of the public interventions of IPB, against the systematic use of insurrections to solve socio-political crisis, against militarism in Brazil or against World War I, or for the right of proletarians to make strikes (cf. Teixeira Mendes 1906, 1910, 1912b, 1914).
The republican regime was seen as a more developed regime than monarchy; so, all positivists were republicans. As the de facto leader of the Proclamation of Republic in November 15, 1889 was, despite himself, the Positivist Benjamin Constant, both Miguel Lemos and Teixeira Mendes proposed many suggestions to the provisory government – and, one year later, to the Constitutional Assembly –, in order to structure the young republic following Positivist lines. Since the beginning, some of their most successful suggestions were the law of separation between church and State (Decree n. 117-A, of January 7, 1890), the law of national holidays (Decree n. 155-B, of January 14, 1890), and – maybe the most visible sign of the Positivist influence – the Republican Brazilian national flag (of November 19, 1889).
The law of separation of church and State was intended to end the existence of an official religion and to preserve the freedom of consciousness and expression (not only of the Catholic Church, but also of every religion, cult and doctrine). The national holidays celebrated many dates important to Brazil in particular and to Brazil as a part of the West and Humanity: universal fraternity (January 1), fraternity of all Brazilian (May 13 – day of the end of black slavery), Republic, Liberty and the independence of American peoples (July 14) – and so on.
The flag was idealized by Teixeira Mendes and painted by the Positivist painter Décio Villares; based on the Brazilian Empire flag (the green rectangle and the yellow lozenge), the Republican one substituted the central imperial arms by a blue circle with an idealized version of the sky of November 15, 1889, as well as by a white stripe with the motto “Ordem e Progresso” (“Order and Progress”) in green letters[8].

Final thoughts

Brazilian Positivism shows us a very interesting spectacle, as it is not a single movement, but a manifold one. In this sense, the most important branch was the religious one, represented in particular by the Brazilian Positivist Church, led between 1881 and 1927 by its two most important leaders, Miguel Lemos and Raimundo Teixeira Mendes.
Two final thoughts to end this article. First, a historical one. Ralph Della Cava (1975) has pointed out that, from 1916 onwards, but specially after 1931 – i. e., after the Revolution of 1930 –, both the new political regime (led by Getúlio Vargas) and the Catholic Church (led by cardinal Sebastião Leme) supported each other. So, Brazilian Catholicism (re)gained political and educational privileges, at the same time that the new regime obtained legitimacy, in a period when both politics in Europe and Catholic Church tended to right-wing authoritarianism. Such a renewed alliance between Catholicism and State in Brazil worked directly and consciously against Positivism (although not only against it), and in many ways, but mainly against the set of values and practices tending to a pacific and humane society, with liberties of consciousness and expression: the long period between 1930 and 1945 saw militarism, authoritarianism, (para-)official religions, thought police being affirmed in Brazil.
Second, a sociological remark. Religious Positivism is a non-theological religion; despite the facts of being, in rigorous philosophical terms, an agnosticism (Comte always rejected both atheism and the label of Positivism as an atheism) and, concerning theology, Positivism is a very powerful source of secularization, it remains clear that the Religion of Humanity is, after all, a religion. In this sense, in one hand, it gives to every individual a personal unity and, at the same time, bides them to each other: it is the primary sense of “religion” for Comte. On the other hand, it provides a set of practices, ideas, values in order to structure society, inspire (good) feelings, provide common images and purposes and so on, in a continuum that goes from the more intellectual accounts to the most pious, almost mystic feelings – in humane, non-theological terms.


Cross References

Secularism; Roman Catholicism in Latin America; Vargas, Getúlio; Brazil; Agnosticism; Atheism; Secular Humanism; Modernity.


References

ALONSO A (1996) De Positivismo e de positivistas. BIB 42: 109-134.
ALONSO A (2002) Idéias em movimento. São Paulo, Paz e Terra.
CARVALHO JM (2000) A formação das almas. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras.
CARVALHO JM (2005a) Forças Armadas na Primeira República. In: _____. Forças Armadas e política no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, J. Zahar.
CARVALHO JM (2005b) Forças Armadas e política. In: _____. Forças Armadas e política no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, J. Zahar.
COMTE A (1929) Système de politique positive, ou traité de Sociologie instituant la Religion de l’Humanité. Paris, Société Positiviste.
CRUZ COSTA J (1967) Contribuição à História das Idéias no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, Civilização Brasileira.
DELLA CAVA R (1975) Igreja e Estado no Brasil do século XX. Novos Estudos 12: 5-52.
HEILBRON J (1990) Auguste Comte and Modern Epistemology. Sociological Theory 2: 153-162.
HOLANDA SB (1985) Da maçonaria ao Positivismo. In: _____. História geral da civilização brasileira. V. 7. Rio de Janeiro, Difel.
LACERDA GB (2013) Ordem e Progresso – e o Amor? Gazeta do Povo January 15.
LACERDA GB (2016) Laicidade na I República brasileira. Curitiba, Appris.
LAFFITTE P (1881) Sacrement de la destination. Revue Occidantale 3: 331-372.
LEMOS M (1934) Sacramento da Apresentação. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
LINS IMB (2009) História do Positivismo no Brasil. Brasília, Senado Federal.
MAESTRI M (2013) A guerra no papel. Porto Alegre, Clube dos Autores.
Ribeiro MTR (2012) Controvérsias da questão social. Porto Alegre, Zouk.
Soares MP (1998) O Positivismo no Brasil. Porto Alegre, UFRGS.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1889) A bandeira nacional. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1899) Uma visitas aos lugares santos do positivismo. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1903) O culto católico. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1906) O Positivismo e o recurso às insurreições. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1907) Christianisme, théisme et positivisme. Rio de Janeiro, Église Positiviste du Brésil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1910) A atitude dos positivistas ante a retrogradação militarista. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1912a) Ainda pela separação entre o poder Temporal e o poder Espiritual. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1912b) A verdadeira política republicana e a incorporação do proletariado na sociedade moderna. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1913) Évolution originale d’Auguste Comte. Rio de Janeiro, Apostolat Positiviste du Brésil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1914) Pour l’Humanité! Rio de Janeiro, Église Positiviste du Brésil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1916) Clotilde et Comte, très saints fondateurs de la religion de l’Humanité. Rio de Janeiro, Église Positiviste du Brésil.
TEIXEIRA MENDES R (1936) Benjamin Constant. Rio de Janeiro, Igreja Positivista do Brasil.
ZEA L (ed.). (1980) Pensamiento positivista latinoamericano. Caracas, Biblioteca Ayacucho.


[1] It is important to observe that the subtitle of the System of Positive Policy was “Treaty of Sociology instituting the Religion of Humanity”). So, it is clear that those who accepted that work was considered a “religious” positivist.

[2] From 1500 (year of discovery of Brazil by Portugal) until 1815, Brazil was a Portuguese colony; from 1815 until 1822, Brazil has been elevated to United Kingdom with Portugal; in 1822 Brazil declared its independence, as a monarchy and, more specifically, as an “empire”. Finally, in 1889 the republic was proclaimed, being the political regime in Brazil since then.

[3] Sometimes there is some confusion around the name of the Brazilian political leader called just “Benjamin Constant”. His name was an homage made by his father to the Franco-Swiss writer Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque (1767-1830), also known just like “Benjamin Constant”. For sure, they were two different people; in this text, obviously, we are concerned only with the Brazilian leader.

[4] That conflict, also known as “War of Triple Alliance”, involved Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina together against Paraguay. Leaving aside the consequences for the other countries (despite it has devastated Paraguay), its end marked the beginning of the final phase of Brazilian monarchy and, so, of a number of social-political campaigns, which culminated all by the same period: the end of black slavery, the proclamation of Republic and the diffusion of “new, modern ideas” (Evolutionism, Socialism, Social Darwinism – and, for sure, Positivism). About the Paraguayan War, cf. Maestri (2013); on the “new ideas”, cf. Cruz Costa (1967).

[5] Since his masterpiece of 1936, Raízes do Brazil (Roots of Brazil), Sérgio Buarque showed bad will against Positivists – despite the fact that his bad will was generally targeted against all thinkers of Brazilian I Republic (1889-1930). But in the long article titled “From Freemasonry to Positivism” (Holanda 1985), in order to sustain his argument that the Positivists created the authoritarian mind in Brazil, Sérgio Buarque proposed daring interpretations of Positivism, such as that the members of IPB didn’t know the letters and the spirit of Comtean works. For a complete discussion of Sérgio Buarque’s arguments, cf. Lacerda (2016).

[6] Only the gaúchos can, at some degree, be paralleled in importance to the Positivists of IPB. It is important to notice that such an importance is due to their practical action in Rio Grande do Sul between 1891 and 1930 and, later, in much more indirect lines, to some aspects of the labor regulation during the Vargas’ governments (mainly between 1930 and 1932). Anyway, in 1912 it has been founded the Positivist Church of Porto Alegre, which maintain its activities until today.

[7] Based on periods of seven or seven-multiple years, those sacraments intend to mark the most important phases of individual life, attaching it to the social institutions and acknowledgment. Their description can be found in Comte (1929, v. IV). Miguel Lemos himself received the sacrament of destination by the hands of Pierre Laffitte, the not so much orthodox successor of Auguste Comte (cf. Laffitte 1881); after that, IPB delivered those sacraments in public ceremonies, as we can see in Lemos (1934).

[8] From some years to now, many public figures have insisted to change the motto by adding the word “Amor” (“Love”) before “Order”; it is said that Teixeira Mendes have forgotten or despised love, as the original, complete phrase by Comte is: “Love as principle and Order as basis; Progress as end”). But, for Comte, there were two different mottos: a properly religious one (the complete motto) and a more political one (just “Order and Progress”). About that, cf. Teixeira Mendes (1889) and Lacerda (2013).

Artigo "Laicism in Brazil"

Em nossa postagem "Verbetes na 'Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions': Positivismo e laicidade", de 5.8.2019, divulgamos que tivemos dois artigos (ou melhor, verbetes) na Enclyclopedia of Latin American Religions, publicada pela editora Springer.

Pois bem: seguindo os parâmetros editoriais da Springer, podemos tornar público o artigo em sua versão preliminar, isto é, sem a formatação da editora e sem a paginação.

Assim, o texto inicial está disponível abaixo.

As referências bibliográficas para consulta efetiva são estas:


Biscaia de Lacerda G. (2019) Laicity in Brazil. In: Gooren H. (eds) Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Religions of the World. pp 821-825, Springer, Cham, pp 821-825
*   *   *


Laicism in Brazil


Gustavo Biscaia de Lacerda
Setor de Ciências Exatas, Universidade Federal do Paraná
Curitiba
Brazil

Keywords

Laicism, Catholic Church, Brazilian State, juridical-political organization.

Definition

Laicism can be understood as the theory that advocates the separation between church and State (“laicity”), as well as the militant practice that follows from the theory. It is not the defense of an atheist State, as it does not deny God nor forbids religions; on the other hand, it is not pluriconfessionalism, because laicity respect but not “recognize” religions nor bring them inside the State or finance them: so, laicity is more a position of indifference or neutrality between church and State. During Brazilian history, the State had official religion (Catholicism in particular) and a formally perfect laicity of State; in other moments, Catholicism has been a para-official religion; Brazil has never had atheism of State or pluriconfessionalism. Currently, a strong social and political activism fights pro and against laicity.

Introduction

Since January 7, 1890, Brazil is characterized by laicity, just after the proclamation of Republic (November 15, 1889)[1]. In terms of history of religions in Brazil, or, more precisely, the history of religious liberties, these two dates establishes a “before” and a “later” and, then, are central to deal with laicity in Brazil in general. Such a subject must be treated in sociological terms; as society doesn’t exist in the vacuum, we must consider the relations maintained by at least four collective-institutional actors: the State; the Catholic Church; non-catholic religions; and civil society in general. At the same time, a historical approach is necessary, in order to understand the many transformations those relations have suffered during time and that conforms the Brazilian religious milieu today. On the other hand, some legal remarks will be done, as the formal relations between the State and the churches/religions are defined by law, specially in the many national constitutions. Considering all these aspects (historical-sociological and legal), much of the discussion on laicism in Brazil deals in particular with the relations between Catholic Church (or ICAR – Igreja Católica Apostólica Romana) and the Brazilian State, be it historically or politically.
Anyway, as we said above, we can establish two main phases on laicity in Brazil, before and after the proclamation of Brazilian Republic (November 15, 1889) and the subsequent Decree n. 119-A (January 7, 1890): before, Catholicism was the official religion, sustained by the State and with a number of privileges and duties (even its situation was many times a difficult one, with disputes with the government); after 1889-1890, it was proclaimed the freedom of consciousness, expression and association in a general canvas of laicity, but for a long time many cults – mainly those that are nowadays called “of African matrix” (such as Candomblé and Umbanda), but also Allan Kardec’s Spiritism – have been persecuted and in some periods Catholicism appeared as a para-official religion (like in 1930-1946 and 1964-1966).

Basic definitions: secularism, laicity, laicism

We need some basic, operational definitions. So, we can define laicism as the mutual absence of support by the State and the many churches, in the sense that the State does not privilege any church and, in the contrary, it also does not create obstacles to the existence of any church; it can also be understood in the sense that the State does not have an official doctrine that must be accepted by all citizens in order to have a full citizenship. By the part of the churches, laicity imply they do not ask for the State to use its power to impose to society their particular beliefs (even if some church assemble the majority of the population of some country).
Separation between churches and the State can happen in a number of different situations (although not in any social context); for example, during the Middle Ages, the Papacy and the Holy Empire were two distinct institutions which divided and disputed the mastery over Catholic Europe. However, as the Catholic Church intended not only to be a spiritual power, but a temporal one too, both Papacy and the Holy Empire clashed, as the “Road to Canossa” episode, in the XI Century, exemplifies; the result of those clashes were the mutual neutralization and the overture of the path for the ascension of the kings as rulers of Europe.
The “Road to Canossa” also exemplifies a separation of church and State in a situation of a non-secularized society: however, we must recognize that in such societies separation between church and State are the exception, not the rule. On the other hand, seculariz(ed) societies are the most common and easy milieus for the institutionalization of laicity, as there happens the progressive privatization of believes, the separation of realms (political, religious etc.) and the rationalization of life (Casanova 1994), specially the first two features.
So, for our purposes, laicity presupposes the broad process of secularization. It is important to note that, as “laicity” is the phenomenon, “laicism” can be understood both as the process and the militancy for the laicity. For us, laicism in the sense of militancy is just a descriptive noun, which we use without value judgments; however, in Brazil, many social-political actors use that word with a negative sense, implying it as an aggressive militancy which supposedly seeks for the laicization not only of the State, but also of the society itself: in particular, that is the interpretation of Brazilian branch of Catholic Church.

From colony to I Republic (1500-1930)

As we have said before, the history of laicism in Brazil is divided into two main phases, before and after the proclamation of Republic, in 1889; the period before 1889, by its part, is divided into two other phases, the colonial Brazil (1500-1822) and the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889). Leaving aside the particular characteristics of the colonial phase, for what concerns to the relations between church and State, as Brazil was a Portuguese colony, its institutions followed Portuguese ones; so, the official religion – and, as a matter of fact, the only accepted religion – was that established by ICAR.
Two specific institutions were particularly religiously important to the Portuguese State, concerning the whole building of the Catholic Church: the regalism (“regalismo”) and the patronage (“padroado”). They both were conceded in early Modern times by the Holy See to the Iberian monarchies (Portugal and Spain). By the patronage, the monarch was the responsible both for the defense and propagation of the Catholic doctrine and for the maintenance of the Catholic church; by the regalism, the Temporal power not only pay for the whole structure of the church, but was also responsible for organizing its bureaucratic structure, including the appointment of the bishops, priests etc.: so, actually, the clerics were public officials and depended of and were limited by the State. Anyway, it is important to notice that the Church was an important instrument of the colonization of the territory (Weffort 2012), as it can be seen by the examples of Jesuitical priests Manoel da Nóbrega and Antônio Vieira.
After 1822, when Brazil became an independent State, the monarchic regime was maintained (in order to keep together all the provinces) and so did the ecclesiastic structure; in particular, both patronage and regalism remained. But the Brazilian Empire differed from the Brazilian colony, among other aspects, by having a constitution and, according to it, despite the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion was the official doctrine of the State (art. 5th of the Constitution of 1824), other confessions were accepted, since they were not publicly professed and their temples have not an exterior aspect of churches: non-catholic religions (or, more specifically, non-catholic christianisms) were literally private matters[2].
During the Brazilian Empire, the situation of Catholic Church was paradoxical: on the one hand, it had a lot of privileges, like the exclusivity of civil acts (registration of births, deaths, matrimonies), the management of public cemeteries and maintenance of basic public schools and basic public teaching; on the other hand, without rejecting the political importance of ICAR for public control, the State and many Statesmen acted in order to restrict the action of the Church, by imposing rigorous limits to the number of new priests graduated in Brazil, of the importation of new priests from abroad, the maintenance of churches and parishes in the interior of the country etc. Such a policy was followed even by men like Priest Feijó, during his regency (1835-1837), or the Emperor d. Pedro II himself (1840-1889) (Scampini 1978) (albeit the Emperor acted cautiously in this case, just like in everything else). The climate of confrontation between Church and State grew over the years and in 1872-1875 the “Religious Question” (“Questão Religiosa”) opposed neatly both institutions, with some ultramontanists bishops on one side and free-masons, Enlightenment-like civil servants on the other side.
The Republican movement – which has rebirth in 1870 – was not unitary, but many propagandists of Republic also favored the separation between church and State: liberals, positivists, even freemasons. The Republic being proclaimed in November 15, 1889, only two months later (January 7, 1890) the separation between Church and State has been accomplished, through the Decree n. 119-A, which separated citizenship and the religious professions: the State ceased both to finance and control Church(es) and, on the other hand, Catholic Church ceased to regulate civil acts (like birth, death and matrimony registrations); however, the mortmain (“mão morta”)[3] has been maintained at first, due to the influence of Rui Barbosa. Anyway, in February 24, 1891, a new, Republican Constitution has been approved by the National Congress, reaffirming the laicization of Brazilian State and securing the liberties of consciousness, expression and association; official holidays lost their religious character and assumed civic human traits[4]. As the Positivist leader Raimundo Teixeira Mendes noticed, laicization of the State was so desired by the people and the civil and military elites that there were virtually no complaints and no riots at all against it (Lacerda 2016).
Despite these legal provisions, the laicization process was not fully accomplished: administration of public cemeteries were not ran by the State (Lacerda 2016) and much of the educational system remained under the control of Catholic Church (Cunha 2007). Just after the Decree n. 119-A, the Church itself complained vehemently against what it saw as a “violence”, demanding in particular the maintenance of its character of official doctrine and some sort of patronage (but without regalism).
However, soon the clergy perceived that the laicization of the State was not bad at all and, on the contrary, it freed the Church and created the conditions for its reorganization, reversing the harsh institutional conditions suffered during the Empire. The quest for patronage-without-regalism remained constant through the Republican years; in 1916, the future Bishop of Rio de Janeiro and Brazilian Cardinal d. Sebastião Leme launched the campaign named “Neo-Christendom” (“Neocristandade”), aiming to “recatholicize” both Brazilian State and society. In 1925-1926, in a process of constitutional revision, Sebastião Leme tried to inscribe in the Brazilian Constitution some article instituting again Catholicism as official creed, affirming it the “religion of the Brazilian people”; however, President Arthur Bernardes refused such a proposition: the Revolution of 1930, which ended the Brazilian I Republic, changed the situation and allowed the Neocristandade project to be finally victorious.

From the Vargas Era to the military regime (1930-1964)

In the end of 1930 Getúlio Vargas leaded a successful civilian-military coup, putting an end to the social-political arrangement of the I Republic and beginning a 15-year period called by the historians the “Vargas Era” – which was divided into many different phases: provisional (1930-1934) and constitutional (1934-1937) governments and civilian-military dictatorship (1937-1945). While the period 1889-1930 was characterized by the prevalence of rural societies and the rule of regional elites in a strong federalism, after 1930 Vargas conducted Brazil into a united (even authoritarian) government and to efforts of State-oriented industrialization.
After the revolutionary movement of 1930, Vargas needed political support to make stable his new regime; such a need was soon perceived by Sebastião Leme, who in 1931 – by the way, during the inauguration of the now world-famous monument “Christ the Redeemer” (“Cristo Redentor”) – proposed a not fair trade to Vargas: ICAR would support the new regime in exchange of many concessions and privileges granted by the State and based on the myth of Brazil as a “Christian nation” (Della Cava 1975); so, Catholicism assumed a condition of para-official religion of Brazil, with the obligatory presence of the clergy in official ceremonies, the Church ruling the public education, the introduction of a facultative discipline of “Religious Education” in the regular periods of classes and the possibility of “collaboration” between church and State based on the “public interest”. Besides that, a major social-political Catholic activism was developed, with the creation of the Electoral Catholic League (“Liga Eleitoral Católica”), the Catholic workers circles and the aggressive criticisms made by intellectual lays (like Jackson de Figueiredo) against liberalism, freedom of consciousness and, more generally, against modernity; alongside with the efforts of recatholicization of the State and the elites, the Neo-Christendom tented to support more conservatives and authoritarian conceptions of the society and the State. In 1937, when Vargas accomplished a new civilian-military coup, now to establish an authoritarian, fascist-like regime (called “New State” (“Estado Novo”)), ICAR made no opposition to that[5]. Besides that, the Afro-Brazilian cults were criminalized and the many Protestantisms suffered intolerance. Finally, the homage to “God” was inscribed in the constitution of 1934 – albeit, curiously, it was absent in the authoritarian constitution of 1937.
During the authoritarian “New State”, laicity had a difficult situation. Firstly, ICAR acted actively before to be a para-official church; secondly, Vargas created polices for political activities and ideological diffusion, besides an office for official propaganda: albeit the New State was not a totalitarian regime, it had something like an official ideology, imposed over society and characterized by a cult of the dictator, strong nationalism and an emphasis on hierarchy and military-like order. From 1930 until 1937, despite the more or less liberal environment, many illiberal ideologies championed in Brazil, including Communism and “Integralism” (“Integralismo”), the Brazilian version of Fascism, besides the more conservative, authoritarian version of Catholicism, that is, the Neo-Christendom. After 1937 and until 1945, only remained Neo-Christendom and the official propaganda: cults and religions other than Catholicism were accepted (when they were accepted) only as they were practiced as more or less private matters and, above all, as non-political ones. Yet, it is noteworthy that in the 1930’s and the 1940’s a political-pedagogical movement called “New School” (“Escola Nova”), leaded by Anísio Teixeira, championed the causes of democracy, modern pedagogical methods and laicity in Education (Cunha 2007).
During World War II, Brazil had been aligned with USA; the defeat of the nazi-fascist regimes in Europe led to a growing pression to democratization, what occurred through a military coup in the end of 1945; in 1946 a new, democratic constitution was promulgated, changing some of the terms of the relation between ICAR and the State, but not reversing to the status quo of full laicity previous to 1930. The laicity of the State and the religious freedom were affirmed, but the collaboration between church and State in the name of public interest remained, as well as classes of Religious Education in the regular times; on the other hand, chaplaincies were allowed to exist in the Armed Forces.
Anyway, after 1946 two major social traits were the social-intellectual pluralization and politization; it was the period of the decolonization nationalism, but also of the Cold War and Brazil was not exempt from its troubles. Political-intellectual Marxism spread through society and constituted by itself a major force on behalf of secularization and laicity (even sometimes also on behalf of atheism); it influenced ICAR, which divided into two great tendencies, one more “progressist” and Marxism-friendly and another more conservative: in broad terms, a left-wing and a right-wing ICAR. Both were militant, but the leftist Catholics had more prominence, providing support for social movements of students, urban and rural workers, women etc. Political Catholicism has suffered ambiguous influences in that period, anyway: Marxism, nationalism and pluralization all worked in the direction of secularization; II Vatican Council (1962-1965), affirming the need and the correction of openness of ICAR to the modernity, refrained the (declining) importance of ultramontanist impulses of Catholic Church in Brazil and, in certain way, legitimized the secularization process; but, at the same time, in 1952 it was founded the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil – CNBB), assembling all the Brazilian bishops in an unique institution[6], but mainly giving voice to the leftist priests and, so, legitimizing their political action and their support to social movements.
On the other hand, Protestantisms also spread, specially in the lower classes; not as militant as Catholics (or not militant at all), they were more conservatives or openly politically rightist, claiming against (atheist) Communism (even based on the Catholic myth of Brazil as a “Christian nation”).
From 1946 on, but specially after 1961, radicalization accompanied politization. The years between 1961 and 1964 have seen many disturbances related to the Presidential succession from the rightist President Jânio Quadros (who renounced in 1961, just after seven months in office) to the leftist vice-President João Goulart (whose alias was “Jango”). In order to be installed in office, Jango first accepted to lose Presidential powers, after a maneuver to establish parliamentarism in Brazil, in 1962; after a harsh campaign for the re-establishment of presidentialism, Jango regained full power, but his fame as a radical leftist (albeit he wasn’t initially radical), the aggressive campaigns of the rightist opposition and the climate of Cold War weakened the social-political support to Jango; the result was the growing radicalization of the President of Brazil, which resulted in April 1, 1964, in a civilian-military coup, which soon installed a mostly military authoritarian regime, lasting until 1985.
Just like Vargas’ “New State”, during the military regime most religions were tolerated if they were practiced as non-political matters. But unlike the authoritarian regime of 1937-1945, the military regime had no official ideology other than the militant anti-Communism and, in certain periods, some political and/or economical nationalism. In 1964 ICAR supported the civilian-military coup in the name of anti-Communism, but, due the political persecutions and, after, the practice of tortures, ICAR soon distanced itself from the regime, becoming then a focus of opposition to the regime. On the other hand, looking for some religious legitimation, the regime changed a century-long policy and invited some Protestants – mostly Evangelicals – to participate of official ceremonies. Protestants and, in particular, Evangelicals were both vigorous anti-Communists and non-political actors, so they were very adequate to substitute ICAR as para-official priests. Those changes – even if they were merely temporary concerning ICAR –, in addition to the support of Catholic Church to the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in the early 1980’s set apart the institution from the State, at least during some time (Della Cava, 1975; Mariano, 2002).

From the New Republic on (1985-…)

In 1985 a new, civilian President has been elected in Brazil (Tancredo Neves, who died before assuming office and being succeeded by the vice-President, José Sarney). That event was a mark in the Brazilian political transition, which began in late 1970’s with a controlled overture, passed through provincial elections for gubernators (in 1982, with a massive victory of opposition) and an indirect election for President (in 1985) and culminated in 1988 with the promulgation of a new Constitution – the “citizen constitution”. All that process occurred with the strong participation of the civil society: old and new neighbor associations, professional unions, cultural and thematic organizations (landless workers, houseless people, environmentalism, feminists, gays etc.) and, for sure, churches developed an intense activism during that period and, in particular, contributed during the debates of the new constitution.
Such an activism was (and is) based on basic civil freedoms: consciousness, expression and association; as those social movements affirmed themselves at the expense of the State, they also affirmed values and practices close to laicity, even if they didn’t intended to. However, we must observe that, as ICAR distanced itself from the State during the military regime, its action developed in civil society and much of the activism of the late 1970’s and 1980’s was influenced or even organized and sustained by the Catholic Church: so, laicity as an absence of mutual influences between church and State suffered or, at least, was in an ambiguous situation, as the “confessionalization” of politics was again affirmed, this time by the side of civil society. On the other hand, after the invitation of the military presidents for the political engagement of Evangelicals, these churches began to launch candidates, appealing directly to ecclesiastical values: “believer votes in believer” was their motto during the 1980’s and most of the 1990’s[7]. A sign of the renewed confessionalization of the politics is the inscription of the motto “God be blessed” (“Deus seja louvado”) in all currency notes since 1986 by the pious President Sarney.
The Constitution of 1988 followed the ambivalent pattern of previous constitutions concerning laicity: on one hand, it affirmed the separation of churches and State in terms according to the concept of laicity (art. 19); but, on the other hand, it accepted the “collaboration” between churches and the State in the case of “public interest”, affirmed the teaching of Religious Education[8] and, in its “Preamble”, affirmed that the Constitution was promulgated under the “protection of God”[9] (Brasil s/d-b). These provisions had their effects: in 1996 a new Law of Basis of Education was promulgated, where Religious Education is reaffirmed as constitutive of the scholar curriculum, although as an optional discipline to be offered in regular school period (Brasil s/d-c); in 1997 an amendment to that law affirmed that the teachers of Religious Education must be paid by the State, but leaving open the specific subject matter of such discipline[10].
Besides that, in 2008 President Lula signed an agreement with the Holy See, by the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI – a Concordat, reaffirming old privileges of ICAR and establishing new ones, such as the legal provision of Catholic chaplaincies in the military and in public hospitals and the express reference to Catholicism in the Religious Education curricula (Cunha 2009). To be approved by the Brazilian National Congress, the government proposed the creation of a “General Law of Religions” (“Lei Geral das Religiões”), extending the privileges of ICAR present in the Concordat to “all” religions, but targeting in particular Evangelicals. Such “General Law of Religions” have not been approved until 2018, but the international treaty that is the Concordat continues producing internal effects.
The Concordat was a major theme that opposed ICAR to Evangelicals, but in practice these organizations are frequently allied in moral issues, both in society and in Brazilian parliaments: fight against pro-abortion and pro-same sex marriage laws are two conspicuous examples of such close political alliances.
The growing pluralization of Brazilian civil society, specially from the 1980’s on, has its effects on the religiosity of people: on one hand, in the last three decades the number of atheists, agnostics and persons without religion (and/or even without church affiliation) has grown[11], with the creation of militant associations of atheists, agnostics and secular humanists; on the other hand, despite the maintenance of the privileges of ICAR, its numbers has fallen (95% in 1940 to 64,6% in 2010), in part due to the growing number of Evangelicals (2,7% in 1940 to 22,2% in 2010) (Alves 2017). Finally, the Afro-Brazilian cults are more evident and demanding of respect and tolerance, as well as Spiritism.
Considering those demographic changes, the more important feature of Brazilian politics concerning religion is the organization of Evangelicals in political parties and their eagerness to master public offices and to influence policies; albeit not indifferent to political-economic themes, their agenda is primarily moral, aggressively demanding legislation tending to more conservative behavior patterns. On the other hand, with more or less success they repeatedly try to impose the lecture of the Bible and/or to celebrate cults in public spaces, like schools and even parliaments.
One of the major alterations in the Brazilian polity made by the Constitution of 1988 is the more independence and power granted to Attorney General Office (“Ministério Público”), seen since then as the “guardian of citizenship”. So, specially since mid-2000’s, Federal Attorney General Office and its subnational branches develop an active defense of laicity, both through judicial processes and educational campaigns[12]. Anyway, a great social-political-juridical activism pro-laicity is being done by Ministério Público and civil society, motivated by the separation between churches and State, but also for sensitive issues, like education, abortion, same-sex marriage etc.
As a last remark, we must notice that, despite the clear concept of laicity as the mutual indifference between churches and the State, remains in Brazil two major confusions, either they are innocent or interested, between laicity and atheism of State, on one hand, and between laicity and pluriconfessionalism. They represent conceptual differences, but also different political arrangements concerning State and religions. Atheism deny God and an atheist State in practice is anti-clericalist; so, by imposing an official doctrine the atheist State distances itself from the laicity – but, in order to fight laicity, it is an easy rethoric resource to force the confusion between it and atheism of State. On the other hand, pluriconfessionality seems to many either an alternative to laicity or even its best realization: by recognizing and bringing religions inside the State, many consider the pluriconfessionalism a more “democratic” way to deal with politics and religion. Brazil has not an atheist State; despite many prefer pluriconfessionality in good faith, many defends it as a means to deny and cease laicity.

Cross References

Catholicism in Brazil; Vargas, Getúlio; Positivism in Brazil; Roman Catholic Apostolic Church; Protestantism in Brazil; Secularism

References

ALVES JED (2017) A transição religiosa na América Latina e no Brasil. Available at https://www.ecodebate.com.br/2017/05/31/transicao-religiosa-na-america-latina-e-no-brasil-artigo-de-jose-eustaquio-diniz-alves/. Access in Jan 19, 2018.
BRASIL (s/d-a) Constituições anteriores. Available at http://www4.planalto.gov.br/legislacao/legislacao-historica/constituicoes-anteriores-1. Access in Jan 19, 2018.
BRASIL (s/d-b) Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil de 1988. Available at http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Constituicao/Constituicao.htm. Access in Jan 19, 2018.
BRASIL (s/d-c) Lei n. 9394. Available at http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/L9394.htm. Access in Jan 19, 2018.
CASANOVA J (1994) Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago: University of Chicago.
CNMP (2014) Ministério Público em defesa do Estado laico. Brasília, Conselho Nacional do Ministério Público.
CUNHA LA (2007) Sintonia oscilante. Cadernos de Pesquisa, 131: 285-302.
CUNHA LA (2009) A educação na Concordata Brasil-Vaticano. Educação e Sociedade, 106: 263-280.
DELLA CAVA R (1975) Igreja e Estado no Brasil do século XX. Estudos Cebrap, 12: 5-52.
KERTZER, DI (2017) O Papa e Mussolini. Rio de Janeiro, Intrínseca.
LACERDA GB (2016) Laicidade na I República brasileira. Curitiba, Appris.
LINHARES MYL (ed.) (2016) História geral do Brasil. 10 ed. Rio de Janeiro, Elsevier.
MARIANO R (2002) Secularização do Estado, liberdades e pluralismo religioso. Available at http://www.naya.org.ar/congreso2002/ponencias/ricardo_mariano.htm. Access in Jan 19, 2018.
SCAMPINI J (1978) A liberdade religiosa nas constituições brasileiras. Petrópolis, Vozes.
WEFFORT FC (2012) Espada, cobiça e fé. Rio de Janeiro, Civilização Brasileira.




[1] A general picture of Brazilian history can be read in Linhares (2016).

[2] Mariano (2002) has noticed that that openness for other religions beyond Catholicism was due to the policy of immigration of the Brazilian Empire, which preferred German and Swiss workers, most of them being Protestants; they created colonies in the Southern and South-Eastern provinces of Brazil.

[3] The mortmain was as institution of medieval origin according to which ecclesiastical properties – specially real estate ones – needed the approval of the Temporal power to be alienated; so, in the Brazilian context, it was part of regalism.

[4] A strong symbol of that laicization was the absence of any reference to “God” in the Constitution of 1891, just like that of 1937 – but differently from all the other Republican ones (1934, 1946, 1967, 1988) (cf. Brasil s/d-a, s/d-b).

[5] Such support was not only close to the ultramontanist inspiration of the Neo-Christendom but was also close the conservative, authoritarian, fascist-friend politics then adopted by the Pope Pius XI – who, not surprisingly, was at good terms with Mussolini so they celebrated the Treaty of Lateran, in 1929 (Kertzer 2017).

[6] For sure, that concentration had at least two main purposes: to provide the ecclesiastical hierarchy with more discipline (both organizational and doctrinaire) and to create an unified structure able to influence and make pressure upon the State.

[7] In the elections of the 2000’s and 2010’s, many candidates overtly used as mottos phrases like “vote for Jesus”, “vote for the Gospels” etc.

[8] Religious Education is the only discipline that is mentioned in the Constitution: besides the fact that specific disciplines of the scholar curriculum should not be inserted in the Constitution, other disciplines more obvious are not cited, like Portuguese and Mathematics.

[9] The article 60 of the Constitution of 1988 affirms the “articles carved in stone” (“cláusulas pétreas”), which are the elements of Brazilian polity that cannot be changed: secret, universal, direct vote; federative form; separation of powers; and individual rights and duties: it is noteworthy that laicity does not integrate such articles.

[10] So, the many states of the Brazilian federation diverge on what the students must learn in Religious Education (confessional or more historical-philosophical approaches), on what is the specific labor regime of its teachers (priests paid as civil servants or not) and even if the discipline is mandatory or not.

[11] Those without religions grew from 0% in 1940 to 8% in 2010 (Alves 2017).

[12] One example of such educational campaigns is the publication of the book The Attorney General Office in defense of the laicity of the State (CNMP 2014).