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UNIT 7: The Spread of Religions

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PERSPECTIVES ON THE PAST

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Transcript of Audio Clip

Linda Walton, Portland State University

Religions also traveled with people who left their homelands to settle in new places. One of the earliest diasporas — or dispersals — of people who carried their religion with them was that of the Jews, who were forced to scatter throughout the Roman Empire after the destruction of the temple in the year 70. In later centuries, pushed and pulled by many different historical forces, Jews settled in communities from China to the Americas, spreading Judaism by building synagogues, schools, and practicing their faith.

African religions moved with the African diaspora to the Americas, through the transport and enslavement of millions of Africans. Santeria in Cuba today is a popular Afro-Cuban religion that combines Spanish Catholicism with the Yoruba and other traditions of West Africa. Candomble, in Brazil, is an Afro-Brazilian religion born of slaves brought to Brazil to work the sugar plantations. Candomble fuses orishas, Yoruba gods, with Catholic saints. For example, in the modern Brazilian state of Bahia, the coastal city of Salvador looks to its patron saint, an orisha known as Yemanja, the goddess of the sea, who is also likened to the Virgin Mary.

Religious syncretism — the combining of practices from previously distinct traditions — is one of the keys to understanding religions that move by diaspora as well as religions carried by missionaries and pilgrims.



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