November 13, 2014

Religion in Latin America

Appendix B: Glossary

Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Brazilian/indigenous religions

Traditions that combined African beliefs and practices, which initially were brought to the Caribbean and South America by African slaves, with religious beliefs and practices that were native to the region. Examples include Candomblé, Santeria and Umbanda.


Religion based on African beliefs that is very popular in Brazil. The religion mixes traditional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs, which originated in Africa, with some aspects of the Catholic faith. The name Candomblé means “dance in honor of the gods.”


Christians who engage in spiritual practices that are considered gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and divine healing, but are not members of a Pentecostal denomination. Most charismatics belong to Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant or evangelical Protestant denominations.

End times

Time period that describes the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind. In the Christian tradition, end times are associated with the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead or the last judgment.

Eternal life

A blessed life free from death, eternal life alludes to the resurrection of the body that many Christians believe will occur after the second coming, the expected return of Christ at the last judgment.


The spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness; the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others with the intention of bringing them to the faith.

Evil eye

A curse believed to be cast by a malevolent glare, usually cast upon a person by someone who is envious of them.

Faith healing

Healing through spiritual means, founded on the belief that certain people have the ability to eliminate disease or heal injuries through a close connection with God. Faith healing can involve a prayer, a visit to a Christian shrine or simply a strong belief in Christ.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-14, these gifts include speaking in tongues, divine healing and prophesying. Some Christians contend that the Holy Spirit gave these gifts, or charisms, only to followers of Jesus during the New Testament period, but Pentecostals and charismatics believe such gifts are as valid today as they were in the early church.


Christians who belong to a denomination or independent church that emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the belief that speaking in tongues is necessary evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals belong either to one of the historical denominations that originated in the religious revivals of the early 20th century, such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ, or to newer, largely independent churches, sometimes labeled as neo-Pentecostal churches.


Spontaneously uttering a message or “word of knowledge” believed to come from the Holy Spirit.

Prosperity gospel

A teaching that has emerged in recent decades in some Pentecostal and charismatic circles that emphasizes biblical verses on health and wealth to make the point that God wants believers to prosper. To release intended blessings, believers must have unwavering faith that God will provide for them, and they must practice certain principles, such as donating one-tenth of their income to a church, a practice known as tithing.


Known by several other names, including Lukumi, this religion began as a combination of Catholic traditions and traditional West African folk rituals practiced in the Caribbean.

Speaking in tongues

Ecstatic worship or prayer using unintelligible speech that is considered a gift of the Holy Spirit; also called prayer language or glossolalia.


People who believe that the living can and do communicate with the spirits of the departed, and who adhere to the various practices by which such communication is attempted. Spiritism originated in France in the 19th century and was codified by French educator Allan Kardec.


Giving money or goods to clergy for the maintenance and advancement of the church. A tithe is generally defined as one-tenth of something.


Catholic belief that the bread and wine of Communion actually become the body and blood of Christ.


Brazilian religion that blends African religions with Catholicism, Spiritism and indigenous beliefs. It is based on the adoration of spirits and other deities, as well as the Christian conception of God. Followers of Umbanda believe in the existence of a visible world and an invisible one, which interact with each other.


Glossary Sources

Burgess, Stanley M., and Eduard M. van der Maas, eds. 2003. “The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.” Zondervan.

Bowker, John, ed. 1997. “The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions.” Oxford University Press.

Friedman, David Noel, ed. 2000. “Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible.” Eerdmans Publishing Co.