The lead story in today’s edition of The Gleaner features a headline that might be perplexing to the average Jamaican: Goodbye, God? Irish Scientist Predicts Atheism Will Overtake Religion In Jamaica. How could this be, when about 77 per cent of the population identifies as religious? We have also been told that Jamaica has the most churches per square mile of any country in the world. However, Irish scientist, Dr Nigel Barber, argues that the majority of Jamaicans will not believe in the existence of God by 2041. Barber based his conclusions on a study of people living in 137 countries, including Jamaica. Those conclusions are published in his book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion.
Whether Dr Barber is right or not, religion has certainly played a major role in shaping the lives of the average Jamaican. We explore some some of the Christian denominations this Fact Friday.
- The Church of England (Anglican) was established in Jamaica seven years after the capture of the island by Admiral Penn and General Venables in 1655. It is the oldest continuous religious presence on the island and has its historic centre at the Cathedral of St Jago de la Vega in Spanish Town.
- The first church to be built on the island was commissioned by Christopher Columbus’ son, Diego, in St Ann’s Bay in 1510.
- The Baptist presence in Jamaica began in 1783 when George Liele, a ‘free black slave’ from Atlanta, Georgia, came to preach in Kingston. Sixty-six years and much missionary work later, the Jamaica Baptist Union was founded at Falmouth, Trelawny in 1849.
- The first Ethiopian Orthodox Church was founded in Jamaica on Labour Day, May 26, 1971. The church is, however, a part of one of the oldest extant denominations of Christianity in the world.
- The Seventh-day Adventist faith is the biggest denomination in Jamaica, with more than 250,000 members worshipping in more than 650 congregations island-wide.
For an overview of religion in Jamaica, read Ecclesiastical + Religious
View a slideshow of Parish Churches in Jamaica
Read about Jamaica’s own indigenous religion, Rastafarianism