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Pentecostals and religious entrepreneurs delivering global impact

It is the 3pm exorcism at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God on the Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio in São Paulo. The air is sticky and the afternoon has a lazy siesta feel.

Middle-class Paulistas drift into the cool, calm church, which, with its comfortable seats, sparkling granite floor and raised stage, has a very American feel, more like the in-house conference centre of a decent-sized multinational than a place of worship. Most of them are women, some with children. There are plenty of shopping bags. The 3pm exorcism seems to be squeezed in between the school run, the laundry and the groceries.

The preacher, Pastor Eginaldo, wearing a white shirt and slacks, asks people to bring forward trinkets belonging to loved ones whose souls are in torment. The congregation sings a hymn — and hands are raised.

Pastor Eginaldo talks about the rudimentary problems of life — these demons cannot be driven out by going to the hospital, he says. Then all the people in the church link hands in a huge circle. They close their eyes. Pastor Eginaldo lays his hands on people’s heads, willing the evil spirits out of them.

There are ripples of great trauma. A woman in a pink T- shirt collapses, writhing, screaming. Some of the helpers are a bit aggressive: they order people who open their eyes to shut them. But their main job is to catch people who fall over when the pastor cries out, “Leave in the name of Jesus!”

Pentecostalism is growing like crazy in Latin America, where it has shattered the Roman Catholic Church’s monopoly of religion. According to the World Christian Database, there are now 24 million Pentecostal Christians in Brazil, compared with 5.7 million in the United States.

But if you want to see the full power of Pentecostalism there is only one place to go: David Cho’s Yoido Full Gospel Church. . . .

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