Jamaican Religion
An Overview

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Jamaican Religion - by Tracie Blake

Religion is a very important part of everyday life in Jamaica. Primarily on Saturdays and Sundays the streets are filled with adults and children holding their Bibles and heading to and from Church.

There is a church on almost every corner of Jamaican streets. I am serious! Check the Guinness Book of World Records; we are listed as the country with the most churches per square mile!

As slaves, our descendants were not allowed to attend church. But, they were given Sunday as a rest day. On this day, their Masters would attend church and the slaves were left up to their own devices. So, they decided to keep church also. These ‘services’ consisted mainly of singing, drumming & dancing.

This changed somewhat when the Bible was first introduced by two black pastors in 1770 that were freed and took up their homes in Jamaica.

They were Baptists and preached and read to the slaves from the Bible. They eventually setup schools and taught the slaves to read so they could read and understand the bible for themselves.

This blossomed into a strong Christianity faith.

To today’s date, Jamaicans have remained predominantly Christians. However, this has been broken off into many different denominations such as:

  1. Presbyterian,
  2. Pentecostal,
  3. Methodist, 
  4. Moravians
  5. Anglican,
  6. Church of God,
  7. Seventh Day Adventist
  8. Seventh Day Baptist and
  9. Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In fact, there are over one hundred denominations in Jamaica, however, the Church of God and Seventh Day Adventist accounting for the major proportion of the group.

The one constant in all these congregations however is Christianity.

With the mixture of many cultures in the island, other non traditional religions were were introduced.

These include:

  • Rastafarianism

    Named after Ras Tafari, an African Prince who was eventually crowned King. This is a religion that originated here in Jamaica with strong African roots.

    One of the defining attributes of this belief is the non cutting of the hair. The emphasis on healthy eating and the smoking of marijuana are other notables.

  • Judaism

    This is based on a belief in God and Abraham whose life and relationship with God is recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible.

  • Revivalist/Pocomania

    These religions are heavily rooted in African rituals Singing, drumming, and the calling on spirits are attributes of these faiths.

  • Hinduism

    This came about by the employment of indentured labour from Asia, primarily India.

Religion here is truly a testament to the diversity of our people. Our motto could not be more fitting; after all, it is ‘Out of Many One People’.

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[selected pictures from flickr]

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