Positivist Temple of Porto Alegre – Porto Alegre, Brazil - Atlas Obscura

Positivist Temple of Porto Alegre

One of the few remaining temples of the Religion of Humanity. 


You will find all kinds of religious temples in Porto Alegre, servicing Hindus, Mormons, and more. But amidst all of these more mainstream faiths is a house of worship of a small and unique religion that few have heard of—yet one that was influential in the creation of modern Brazil.

The Religion of Humanity was founded by Auguste Comte, a seminal figure in the creation of academic sociology. Comte created a methodological approach to sociology that he called positivism, which strictly followed the scientific method. For knowledge to be valid to a positivist, it must be observed by the senses or shown logically. As such, positivists reject metaphysics and theology. So how did he end up founding a religion?

Comte was deeply concerned that society wasn’t ready to depart from religion just yet. He felt that people still needed to participate in the services and communities that religions offered. So he founded his own religion based upon a creed of altruism and a commitment to scientific progress.

The Religion of Humanity, also simply known as Positivism, attracted some followers, though nowhere was the doctrine more influential than in Brazil. When the emperor of Brazil was overthrown in the 1889 coup, many of the republicans involved were directly influenced by Comte and intent on incorporating his ideas into the First Republic of Brazil.

Two temples explicitly built for the Religion of Humanity sprung up in Brazil in the early 1900s. One in Rio de Janeiro, the other, of course, in Porto Alegre. Services at this temple peaked in the 30s, but the Religion of Humanity never caught on and the temple reduced activities. But with other temples like the one in Rio closing, the Positivist Temple of Porto Alegre is the last remaining one in operation.

Thirteen steps lead up to the Positivist Temple, one for each month of the calendar system Comte devised for the Religion of Humanity. The interior is very reminiscent of a church, with a pulpit for sermons and a pipe organ for hymns.

Know Before You Go

The Positivist Temple is open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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