Under the government of U Nu (overthrown in 1962), Buddhism was the state religion. Since then the government has been controlled by authoritarian military regimes which have generally placed restrictions on religious freedom. Though the most recent constitution (1974) guarantees religious freedom, the government shows a preference for Theravada Buddhism, which according to government statistics is practiced by about 90% of the population. A number of adherents combine their practice with traditional practices such as astrology, numerology, fortune-telling, and the veneration of pre-Buddhist deities called nats .
The Chinese in Myanmar practice a traditional mixture of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and ancestor worship; the Indians are Hindus; the Pakistanis are Muslims; and most of the Europeans are Christians. Although Christian missionaries had some success with peoples of the hill areas—the Karens, Kayahs, Kachins, and Chins—conversion among the Burmans and the Shans was negligible. About 4% of the population are Christian, with Baptists, Catholics, and Anglicans being the primary denominations. About 4% of the population are Muslim, mostly Sunni.