7 Figures: The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the U.S.
Religion & Liberty Online

7 Figures: The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the U.S.

7figuresReligious polarization is taking place in the Hispanic community, with the shrinking majority of Hispanic Catholics holding the middle ground between two growing groups (evangelical Protestants and the unaffiliated) that are at opposite ends of the U.S. religious spectrum, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. Here are seven figures you should know from that report:

1. Because of the growing Hispanic population, a day could come when a majority of Catholics in the United States will be Hispanic, even though the majority of Hispanics might no longer be Catholic. Even though the percentage of Hispanics who identify as Catholic has been declining, Hispanics continue to make up an increasingly large share of U.S. Catholics. Indeed, as of 2013, one-third (33%) of all U.S. Catholics were Hispanic.

2. Catholicism is the only major religious tradition among Latinos that has seen a net loss in adherents due to religious switching. Roughly a quarter of Latinos were raised Catholic and have left the faith (24%), while just 2% were raised in some other faith and have converted to Catholicism, for a net decline of 22 percentage points.

3. Of those who have left the faith of their childhood, 55% say they just gradually “drifted away” from the religion in which they were raised, and 52% say they stopped believing in the teachings of their childhood religion.

4. Latinos who have left the Catholic Church are especially likely to say that an important reason was that they stopped believing in its teachings; 63% of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated and 57% of former Catholics who are now Protestants give this reason for having left the church.

5. The influence of Pentecostalism is still strongly felt within the Hispanic community. The new survey finds that among Hispanics who have left Catholicism and now identify as Protestants, more than a quarter (28%) are Pentecostal.

6. Among Hispanic Protestants overall, two-thirds either say they belong to a traditional Pentecostal denomination (29%) or describe themselves as charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (38%). Among Hispanic Catholics, 52% describe themselves as charismatic Christians.

7. Latino evangelical Protestants are the most likely to say they attend worship services at least weekly, pray daily and consider religion to be very important in their lives. Religiously unaffiliated Latinos are at the other end of the spectrum, with just 6% reporting that they attend services weekly and a minority saying that religion is very important to them (20%) or that they pray daily (29%). Latino Catholics and mainline Protestants fall in the middle between these two groups.

Note: The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in the Pew report.


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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).