Cuba has different religious groups reflecting the diversity of the country. Roman Catholic is the dominant religion having been introduced by the Spanish colonialists. After the revolution, the state sought to control religious activities, even prohibiting financial contributions from unrecognized organizations. The country has also been an officially atheist state since the 1950s. In the early 1990s, the state relaxed its control and oversight of religious activities and eventually allowed greater freedom. Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Pentecostals are the other religious groups present in the island country.
Religious beliefs in Cuba
Roman Catholic Christianity
About 59% of the total population are Roman Catholic Christians. At the beginning of the popular revolution, the Catholic bishops united to condemn the communist party which ruled the country. Even though the party had not disavowed religion, it did not allow clerics to become its members. The state also widely promoted atheism, thus coming into direct conflict with the Church. In the years immediately following Castro’s rise to power, the Catholic Church suffered serious declines, at one point handling only 7,000 baptisms a year. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, she softened her confrontational tendencies towards the Church. The visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998 was seen as a step forward in encouraging greater religious freedom. Around this time, the country granted more visas for priests to come and visit the country and engage in religious activities. However, the freedom was short-lived as they returned to strict control soon after the papacy left.
Atheism or agnosticism
The country is officially an atheist state and has made efforts to promote its philosophy among citizens, but without banning other religions. The group is large and represents about 23% of the total population. The revolution’s popularity encouraged many who wanted to identify with it to abandon their faith. However, the number is dwindling even though the current leader occasionally attends religious services performed by world spiritual leaders.
Santeria and other Afro-Caribbean folk beliefs
Santeria is a blend of some traditional African practices and Christianity. Its adherents represent approximately 12% of the entire Cuban population. It is inspired by aspects of Yoruba culture mixed with Roman Catholicism. It found its way to Cuba through the slaves who were transported from West Africa to work on the various plantations in Cuba and other Western countries. Santeria allowed communities to retain their traditional beliefs while appearing to practice Catholicism.
Protestantism and other non-Catholic forms of Christianity
Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, among other groups, have also entered the country and gained followers due to less government interference. They report a greater ability to attract new members, import religious materials, and travel for sacred duties due to reduced government oversight and interference. For example, the government stopped its programming of competing school programs during the weekends and allowed them to do more intensive campaigns.
Impact of religion in Cuba
There is an increasing growth in religious activities as the Communist Party has reduced its control over the churches. Cubans, with the exception of atheists, are devoted and engage in various types of rituals and ceremonies to gain God’s favor. The strength of atheism is diminishing especially with less government campaign to spread it.
Religious beliefs in Cuba
|Rank||belief system||Share of population in Cuba|
|1||Roman Catholic Christianity||59%|
|2||Atheism or agnosticism||23%|
|3||Santeria and other Afro-Caribbean folk beliefs||12%|
|4||Protestantism and other non-Catholic forms of Christianity||5%|