LIKE MANY of its sister nations, Cuba is considered to be a Catholic country. This is especially significant under a communist government that according to Karl Marx views religion to be “the opiate of the masses.” Certainly the communist government has had an impact on religion and religious instruction on the island. Statistics tell the story. In 1960, 70 to 75 percent of the population identified itself as Catholic, and Protestants were 3 to 6 percent. Twenty-five years later, the numbers had diminished. In 1985 the Catholic church stated that Catholics comprised 38 percent of the total population of 10.5 million and Protestant officials estimated that their followers ranged from 25,000 to 80,000. Fewer than 1,000 considered themselves Jewish. The number of practicing Catholics ranged from 150,000 to 200,000, while that of Protestants increased, and approximately 54 percent of them attend services (Crahan 1989, 217 n.5).
Since the beginning of the economic crisis of the 1990s, many have turned to religion as a source of comfort, and all religions in Cuba have shown a significant increase. According to the CID-Gallup poll of Costa Rica, 20 percent of Cubans said they attended church services. Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in January 1998 gave Catholicism much needed support, and more Cubans are expressing their religious beliefs.
Protestant churches support Castro’s government and they have been the beneficiaries of growth. The number of Methodist church members has tripled in the last five years. A June 1999 celebration attracted 100,000 Protestants to the same Plaza de la Revolución where the pope had attracted some