Over half of the Malagasy are traditional tribal religionists, some exclusively and others practicing in conjunction with Christian beliefs. Although there are many variations in detail, nearly all Malagasy share certain basic religious ideas, the central one being belief in the soul and its immortality. Besides the almighty (Andrianahary or Zanahary), secondary divinities are recognized, especially the earliest inhabitants of the island (Vazimba), legendary kings and queens, and other great ancestors. The burial places and other places of special significance in the lives of these secondary deities are objects of veneration and pilgrimages, during which special rites are performed.
Christianity was introduced to the Malagasy in the early 19th century, and it is influenced to a large extent by traditional beliefs. According to a 2002 report, most of the population is at least nominally Christian. Of the 15.9 million-person population, about 4.5 million are Roman Catholics; 3.5 million are Protestants belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (mostly from Fianarantsoa North); 2 million are Lutherans (mostly from Fianarantsoa South); and less than 1 million are Anglicans (mostly in Antananarivo and Toamasina). Muslims, concentrated mostly in the north and northwest, constitute approximately 10% of the population. There is also a small number of Hindus among the Indian population.