Power, Domination and Intolerance: The Conflict between Fundamentalists and Sociologists in Contemporary Brazil

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Roberto MOTTA, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco at Recife (Brazil), Brazil
Mainline Brazilian sociologists tend to take very seriously their role as heirs of Comte and Marx. They are convinced that “the criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism”. Even though its final demise is expected, religion’s withering away may require an indefinite period to be completed. It would then be incumbent upon social scientists to assume the management of this interim, putting to the best possible use the moral and material assets of surviving, but decaying, religious institutions. This has led, in Brazil, to strong sociological support for the mundanization, indeed for the “unecclesification” of the Catholic and the so-called “historical” Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and others), the “theology of liberation” representing a good example of this tendency. On the other hand, the almost exponential growth of Protestant fundamentalist churches in Brazil, mainly Pentecostal, for the last 40 years or so, has been fiercely resisted by social scientists, who have themselves been no less fiercely resisted by the Fundamentalists, unwilling to yield to the values and attitudes of sociological modernity. In a kind of apparent paradox, social scientists have strongly favored the ecclesification of the highly syncretic Afro-Brazilian cults, which, possessing no consistent theology concerning guilt, sin, or redemption, would spontaneously share some of the basic assumptions of mainline sociology, playing the role of a religion that helps leading to the end of religion.