Religion is fundamental to Jamaican life. Its importance is evident in Jamaican speech, which has many references to Biblical events. The island has the highest number of churches per capita in the world and more than 100 different Christian denominations. On Sundays, churches are filled with large congregations; people dress in their finest clothes and take the day as a time for rest and prayer.

Most Jamaicans are Christians; the largest denominations are the Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Brethren and Roman Catholics. Christianity in the form of Roman Catholicism arrived with Spanish colonization in the late 15th century. When the British overthrew the Spanish in 1655, they introduced the Church of England (Anglicanism) and repressed Catholicism; the practice went underground until 1792, when Catholic worship was permitted again. Baptists arrived in Jamaica during the Civil War, when Americans immigrated to the island, bringing their former slaves. The Baptist church had an antislavery stance and quickly grew in popularity.

Jews arrived in Jamaica in the 16th century, fleeing the Spanish inquisition. Home of the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, Jamaica still has a large Jewish community in Kingston. There are also many Hindus and Muslims, descendants of people who came from India to work as indentured servants.

Jamaica is home to several religions, one of which is Rastafarianism, practised by about 5% of the population. Based on Black nationalism, Rastafarianism was first embraced by people at the bottom of the economic ladder, who were trying to reclaim their African heritage. Central to the religion is the belief in the divinity of Haile Selassie, who was crowned king of Ethiopia in 1930 and claimed his descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Rastas believe that Selassie was chosen to lead the African people (Jahs), who hold a special significance in the Bible and the world. Rastafarianism has no churches or political parties, but it is very visible; followers adopt styles of speech, behaviour, diet and dress that distinguish them from "Babylon" (the rest of society).

Cults have also been an important part of religion in Jamaica, though they are less so today. A number of religious sects have incorporated some practices that originated in cults, which were often based on African spiritual practices and beliefs.

  Did you know?
The Pocomania (also called Pukkumina and Pocco) and the Revival Zion groups are two of Jamaica's cults. Pocomania adherents invoke earthly spirits, while Revivalists worship angels, saints and the Holy Spirit.

  Did you know?
The cottonwood tree is said to be the favourite residence of duppies (ghosts).