How Religion Has Shaped the Economy of the Caribbean

The Caribbean world has been shaped by many factors. Not the least of these, of course, is its history with slavery. Even modern factors such as the vast influx of tourism in the Caribbean region continue to shape the Caribbean economy. However, one of the most significant factors in shaping Caribbean history and economy has been religion.

Without a doubt, the Caribbean is and has been dominated by Christianity when it comes to religion. Having said that, there are a variety of sects and different cultural religions and cultural versions of Christianity that can be found throughout the islands. Whether you are talking about the religion of slaves and indentured servants, or whether you are talking about homegrown religion styles developed on the islands, the Caribbean has many choices.

In terms of the economy, the Caribbean world has always been shaped mostly by Christianity – in particular, this has been taken the form of Roman Catholicism as well as Dutch reformed religion. The Europeans, when they originally came to the Caribbean, brought these religions with them. The French and the Spanish brought Roman Catholicism. The Dutch, of course, brought Dutch reformed religion to the Caribbean.

Over time, the religions of the region became more and more mixed and you began to see specific versions or styles of Christianity. There are even offshoots of Christianity as far as Rastafarianism. In many ways Rastafarianism is Christianity under a very specifically Caribbean style.

Originally, slavery affected the economy of the Caribbean as well as the religion. As slavery ended, slaves that had come over from Africa were freed and able to practice their own spiritual or religious practices. In many cases, they merged these practices with Christianity.

In terms of actual numbers, approximately 60% of the population in the Caribbean is Roman Catholic. Another 25% or so are Protestants. There are no other major world religions represented in significant numbers in terms of a percentage, although one can find Jewish, Muslim, as well as Hindu practitioners on the islands.

Finally, it is the afro-Caribbean Creole religions that make up about 15% of religious belief in the Caribbean.