Latinos Divorcing Catholicism? March 17, 2010

Latinos Divorcing Catholicism?

Hi everyone, this is Ron Gold.

Latino-Americans have traditionally been dependable Catholics, though they are slowly but surely becoming more religiously diverse, as seen below:

Notice the number who report no religion has almost doubled from 1990 to 2008, going from 6.4% to 12.4%. This is encouraging, because it shows that cultural influences can drive people to become more moderate and enlightened in their religious beliefs. Hopefully, other cultures can benefit from assimilation in a similar manner.

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  • NewEnglandBob

    Fantastic. Progress on all fronts.

  • I’m glad to see that the “Other Christian” category isn’t taking up the slack. If they were all becoming Pentecostal, I would regard that as a move to the worse.

  • Trace

    This is encouraging, because it shows that cultural influences can drive people to become more moderate and enlightened in their religious beliefs.


  • The conclusion might sound like a politically incorrect thing to say, but while it’s harder to be an atheist in some parts of the US than others, there’s no denying that Latino immigrants typically don’t come from atheist communities.

  • This looks encouraging. It’s great to see that people are moving away from religion. I hope that people from various groups realize that religion does not necessarily have to be a part of their identity and that secular life offers great benefits. Maybe living in a country with people of many different religions and ideas of secularism makes people realize that the dogmatic ways of their Church don’t match up with the real world.

    It does seem that, although the percentage of Catholics has decreased, the actual number seems to have increased from 9.6 million to 18.3 million. Still, the percentages are encouraging and maybe this will make the Church realize that they can’t just act any which way they want and still expect their members to stay.

    From the article:

    “The biggest challenge the Catholic Church faces is the movement of Latino people not to other religions but rather to a secular way of life in which religion is no longer very important,” he [Allan Figueroa Deck, a Catholic priest and executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, a program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] says. “We really need to ask ourselves why that is and what response the church can develop for this challenge.”

    As usual, the Church is afraid of secularism. I don’t understand how the Church can expect to look like a better alternative to secular life given its various problems. Their “response” to secularism too often seems very negative and discriminatory.

    All the best to those who have left the Church!

  • muggle

    Isn’t everybody? Seriously, I really don’t know how they’re holding on to anyone any more. Pedophile preists, abusive nuns, Nazi pope, no divorce, no birth control…

    Get with the times, that’s how, but then, of course, it wouldn’t be Catholicism; now would it?

  • I think it’s awful that you would consider this as a sign of assimilation. There’s no connection and you didn’t prove one. People find atheism through their own journey.

  • Tom

    Has their incidence of autism increased?

  • When I was at the AAIC 2009 one of the speakers said that when latinos come the US they see their traditions challenged by a new way of life. Among those traditions was religion, so this makes pretty much sense. Hopefully the number of hispanic non-believers keeps growing. We breed pretty fast.

  • @Hrag,
    I understand your point, but I don’t see how Hemant’s assertion is “awful”. An unusual word choice that just screams for an explanation. How is it awful?

  • Revyloution

    Muy bueno. Perder sus dioses y establecer su mente libre.

  • Actually, the number who report no religion didn’t ‘almost double’, but the percent did. The raw number of Latinos reporting ‘no religion’ went from 0.9 million to 3.8 million. This is freakin’ excellent if you ask me.

  • Ed

    This is one possible reading, albeit one that strikes me (an atheist Puerto Rican) as seriously condescending. I usually enjoy the things you blog, but um:

    Of course, there is no data here showing how much of the (actually quadruple, in population terms) increase in “non-religiousness” is attributable to freshly-arrived immigrants versus long-term transplants versus U.S.-born Latinos. No data that indicates on what soil the conversion (if any) is taking place. No margin of error correcting for any of the factors which leave Latinos particularly underreported in the U.S. census (issues of language proficiency, legal status, doubts about the census’ efficacy or purpose, etc).

    Perhaps most importantly, and as Hrag points out, there is no information which would indicate how the very personal process of moving away from religion is taking place. Having been raised in a (Protestant) Christian tradition, I certainly do not conceive of my own decision to identify as an atheist as “assimilation” and can scarcely believe that someone who doesn’t even know me could have the gall to blanketly describe it as such. Couching this trend in terms like assimilation and “enlightenment” cuts eerily close to the patronizing language the Spaniards used in their justification for dominating the belief systems my indigenous and African ancestors.

    It’s tacky, off-the-mark, not especially “friendly,” and not appreciated.

  • To those who were offended, let me assure you that that was not my goal. When I used the phrase “enlightened,” it was intended to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek (I fully realize the vast majority of Americans will find it outrageous to call atheism enlightened, and that bragging about my self-proclaimed enlightened philosophy is over-the-top.)

    I also realize that assimilation is a touchy subject, and at risk of offending more people, when me explain my thoughts on how assimilation is connected to religion. I believe that geography is the single most important factor in determining one’s religion. Assuming this is true (and I know many would disagree), and assuming assimilation does indeed occur, then it follows that religions will change as part of the assimilation process.

    Of course, there will be a personal story behind every statistic; no one is denying that. For that matter, everyone should be free to choose their own religion, and being forced or pressured to assimilate only for the sake of conformity is horrible. But I’ll add that assimilation is not inherently good or bad: sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but overall, it’s going to be a bit of both.

    Remember that Hemant doesn’t make all the posts here. He’s the Friendly Atheist, while I’m more of the “occasionally friendly atheist.” Trust me though, I try to be friendly!

    Alright, hope I didn’t ramble to much. Cheers!

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