NOVEMBER 20, 2014
Event Transcript: Religion in Latin America
Latin America is home to more than 425 million Catholics – nearly 40% of the world’s total Catholic population – and the Roman Catholic Church now has a Latin American pope for the first time in its history. Yet identification with Catholicism has declined throughout the region, according to a major new Pew Research Center survey
that examines religious affiliations, beliefs and practices in 18 Latin American countries and one U.S. territory (Puerto Rico).
Historical data suggest that for most of the 20th century, from 1900 through the 1960s, at least 90% of Latin America’s population was Catholic. Today, the Pew Research survey shows, 69% of adults across the region identify as Catholic. In nearly every country surveyed, the Catholic Church has experienced net losses from religious switching, as many Latin Americans have joined evangelical Protestant churches or rejected organized religion altogether.
On Nov. 13, 2014, the Pew Research Center brought together members of the Latin America community, religious leaders, scholars, members of the media and other experts for a round-table discussion about the latest data on religion in Latin America.
, Director of International Survey Research, Pew Research CenterNeha Sahgal
, Senior Researcher, Pew Research CenterAndrew Chesnut
, Professor of Religious Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University
Moderator:Alan Cooperman, Director of Religion Research, Pew Research Center
ALAN COOPERMAN: You know the Talmud says, “Ein kemach, ein Torah.” “If there is no food, there is no Torah study.” No learning goes on. So please keep on eating, but I think we’ll get started.
I’m Alan Cooperman. I’m Director of Religion Research here at the Pew Research Center. Thank you all very much for coming. We’re delighted to have you here for what I hope is going to be a wide ranging and thought provoking discussion. I want to tell you – I think you all already know this, but just to be clear, the Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan organization. We call ourselves a fact tank. We are focused on informing the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social sciences research, but we do not take positions on public policy issues or engage in policy debates. This event is part of an occasional series of roundtable luncheons in which we bring together scholars, policymakers, government officials, religious leaders, journalists and other experts for discussions on topics at the intersection of religion and public affairs in the United States and around the world.
Please note that today’s session is on the record. We have several journalists here, and, as we typically do with these events, we will post a transcript on our website and, of course, you are welcome to share anything you like about this event on social media so go ahead and tweet.
Just this morning, as I think you know, we released our survey; a major survey of religion in Latin America. What you have in front of you here on the table is just the overview of the report, about a 25-page synopsis of some of the key findings. The report itself is more than 300 pages long including the topline which is the full question wording. This survey was a major undertaking. It involved more than 30,000 – that’s 30,000 face-to-face interviews across 18 countries in Latin America and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The interviews were conducted between October 2013 and February of this year. The countries we surveyed encompass nearly all Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, stretching all the way from Mexico through Central America to the very tip of South America. The only Spanish-language exception is Cuba. We were not able to survey in Cuba. The countries we were able to survey together account for more than 95% of the population of the region.
We were able to do this through generous funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation. This is part of what we call the Global Religious Futures Project, a joint project of Pew and the Templeton Foundation.
Our researchers are going to talk about the findings and we’ll have a discussion in a moment, but for those of you who might not have seen the report, I think the big takeaway, the headline in most of the news accounts this morning, is that Latin America, which is home to 40% roughly speaking of the world’s Catholic population and, as you know, the birthplace of the current pope, is a place in which today 69%, by our survey findings, of adults identify as Catholic. That is down from historical estimates of at least 90% for most of the 20th century into the 1960s.
Many Latin Americans, it appears, have joined evangelical Protestant churches or left organized religion altogether. This survey looks at, among other things, the reasons people give for religious switching, their religious beliefs, including not only Catholic beliefs but also Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Brazilian, indigenous religious beliefs, Pentecostalism and associated beliefs and practices – what are sometimes called “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” such as speaking in tongues and prophesying, exorcisms, divine healing and so on. The survey also looks at political attitudes, social attitudes, views on addressing poverty, opinions of Pope Francis, and much more. We probably will not cover all today. It is a big report.
I should mention as well that the overview of the report is available in Spanish and in Portuguese translations. Given these important topics, we do hope that this survey will not only be a matter of discussion and debate today, but will serve as a benchmark for years to come for policymakers, religious leaders, journalists, academics and others. We’re going to start off today with an overview of our findings from two of our principal researchers, Jim Bell and Neha Sahgal, and then Professor Andrew Chesnut from Virginia Commonwealth University, who’s a leading expert on religion in Latin America, as you know, will share some of his thoughts on the survey and then we’ll get to where we really want to be which is a round-table discussion – questions and comments from all of you.
Before we do that, let me please ask you if you have a cellphone or other mobile device, if you can silence it, we’d appreciate that. When we get to the question-and-answer period, you’re going to need, if you want to speak, to push the button on the microphone in front of you and then this red light will light up and I’m going to ask you please to identify yourselves for the purposes of the transcript, even though we can see you and you have a nameplate in front of you.
Let me quickly introduce our researchers and then we’ll move on. Dr. James Bell is our Director of International Survey Research. He has authored our previous reports on the world’s Muslim population, based on the survey in 40 countries around the world; also has authored reports on global opinion on President Obama and on Russians’ views of democracy and religion. Jim previously worked at the U.S. State Department for more than a decade, most recently as Director of International Opinion Research there. He earned his doctorate in geography from the University of Washington in Seattle.
Next to Jim is Dr. Neha Sahgal. She’s a senior researcher here specializing in international polling, particularly on topics related to religion and politics. Before joining the Pew Research Center, Neha worked at the Asia Foundation in San Francisco. She received her doctorate in government and politics from the University of Maryland and she’s an author of studies on the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims worldwide and on Christian Muslim relations in sub-Saharan Africa.
As I mentioned, we’re very fortunate to have had, as an adviser on this survey and as a panelist today, Dr. Andrew Chesnut from Virginia Commonwealth University, an internationally renowned expert on Latin American religion. His early work traces the rise of Pentecostalism in Brazil. His second book focuses on Pentecostalism and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as well as African Diasporic religion. His most recent book, “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint” is the first in-depth study in English of the Mexican folk saint. He’s a frequent commentator on religion in the Americas for media outlets worldwide and a featured blogger for the Huffington Post, and after Jim and Neha run through a quick overview of some of the report findings, Dr. Chesnut will share his perspectives.
So one request as our panelists try to keep the overview to a reasonable amount of time, we’ll ask you to hold your questions, if you can, till the discussion period, but please feel free as well to get up and help yourselves to more food and drink. We want this to be a convivial occasion as well as a serious one. Thank you very much. Jim and Neha?
NEHA SAHGAL: Thank you. Thank you, Alan and thank you all for being here today.
In many people’s minds, Latin America is a region that’s nearly synonymous with Catholicism and, indeed, historical data does show that for most of the century at least 90% of Latin Americans did identify themselves as belonging to the Catholic Church, but more recently, this really strong association between Catholicism and the region may have eroded. Our survey finds that today 69% of Latin Americans identify as Catholic. Again, that’s down from 90% through most of the century. This change is really recent. If you ask people in our survey, “How were you raised?” 84% of them responded they were actually raised Catholic. Again, 69% are Catholic today.
What does this mean for the religious demography of the region? Well, one big factor is that Protestant Christianity is on the rise. In our survey, 9% of Latin Americans say that they were raised in Protestant churches and today, 19% say that they are Protestant. 4% say that they were raised unaffiliated with any religion but nearly double, 8%, are unaffiliated with any religion today. In practical terms, this means that while the continent, while the region is still majority Catholic, there are many countries in Latin America now that do not have a Catholic majority. So countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Uruguay are 50% Catholic or less than 50% Catholic. Even countries like Brazil, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, which maintain their Catholic majority, now have a significant Protestant minority. A quarter, about a quarter of the population in these countries is Protestant.
Why did this change happen? In our survey, we asked people who were former Catholics to rate possibly eight reasons for why they are no longer Catholic. The one reason that really stood out in majority of Catholic-to-Protestant converts across all the countries pointed to this reason for leaving the Catholic Church, and that was that they were seeking a more personal connection with God. Other reasons that also seemed to stand out is that they enjoyed the style of worship at their new church or that someone from their new church reached out to them and asked them to join. Another factor that stood out was that they were seeking a religion that places greater emphasis on living a moral life.
Many Protestants in the region, and indeed majorities in nearly all the countries where we surveyed, identified themselves as Pentecostal. Either they go to a Pentecostal church, actually belong to a Pentecostal denomination, or they personally identify as Pentecostal regardless of their denominational affiliation. A change of this magnitude and especially a religious change of this magnitude could have social implications, could also have political implications, and indeed it would change the way religion is practiced in the region. To talk more about those, I’m going to turn to my colleague, Jim Bell.
JIM BELL: Thanks and thank you all for being here, as Alan said. It’s our pleasure to host you and we really welcome the opportunity to have a discussion about a survey like this. As Alan said, it was a major endeavor. When you talk about a survey that spans this many countries and involves this many interviews, it is just a major task to accomplish, and so it’s very exciting for us to be here today talking about the findings and sharing what I think what we think, Neha and I and the rest of the team, are some really interesting insights into the role of religion in this part of the world, the role of religion in people’s lives in Latin America, and trying to understand some of the changes that we may be seeing in this part of the world.
Neha was talking about change in religious identity and that’s definitely core to the Global Religious Futures Project that’s funded by Pew and the Templeton Foundation, but also central to that project is understanding changes in the landscape of religious beliefs and practices, and also understanding how religion relates to public life. So I want to address a few aspects related to those areas and specifically talk a bit about patterns we see in terms of religious commitment, patterns we see in terms of social attitudes, and then also touch briefly on this issue of how religion relates to patterns we see in overall public opinion in the region.
So to begin with, levels of religious commitment, something that we look at in all our surveys about religion whether it’s in the United States or abroad, one of the very clear patterns we see is the stark difference in the levels of religious commitment comparing Protestants to Catholics, and the overall pattern is that Protestants are consistently more religiously committed than Catholics in Latin America and this is true across countries and this really comes out when we talk to the regional level you find the finding that a median of 83% of Protestants are attending church on a regular basis at least once a week compared to 62% of Catholics. It extends to other measures we have of religious commitment – how often people pray, the importance they place of religion in their lives. In all three categories, Protestants are more religiously committed than Catholics.
In terms of prayer, in terms of importance of religion in one’s life, consistently Protestants are about 10 percentage points more likely than Catholics to say this is true about their life, that they’re praying daily, that religion is important in their lives and so there’s an intensity that we see in terms of the Protestant commitment to their faith that outpaces the intensity we see among many Catholics and I think that story of intensity and religious commitment dovetails with some of the comments and Neha was sharing about the reasons people say they’ve left the Catholic faith and in particular switched to a Protestant faith, this idea of a closer personal connection with God, the search for greater emphasis on morality, a style of worship that is more passionate and ecstatic. There’s a story about intensity here in terms of why people are changing their religion and also how committed they are to their faith today as they practice their religion.
So religious commitment – we see these broad patterns and this consistent pattern of Protestants being more religiously committed than Catholics in Latin America. Along with these findings about religious commitment, we also see a pattern when it comes to social attitudes. Again, we see a contrast between Protestants and Catholics consistently across the countries we surveyed, and that is that Protestants tend to be much more conservative on key social issues than Catholics.
I give you one example, the issue of same-sex marriage and whether it should be legal or not for people who are gay or lesbian to marry. Consistently, Protestants are more opposed to same-sex marriage being legal. Now, let me give you a broad context. As a whole, Latin America is a region where many people are resistant to the idea of same-sex marriage, but in terms of the intensity of opposing same-sex marriage, Protestants consistently are more opposed to this than Catholics. Even in a country like Argentina in which same-sex marriage was legalized in 2010, you see this stark contrast where Protestants are 20 percentage points or more opposed than Catholics to same-sex marriage. So around an issue like same-sex marriage, you see again this difference between Protestants and Catholics in their attitudes and what they would prefer to see happen in their society.
This also extends to abortion which is even less popular overall in terms of legalizing abortion among Latin Americans than same-sex marriage, but when you compare Protestant and Catholic attitudes on this issues, again, it’s Protestants that are much more vocally opposed to legalizing abortion in some or all cases than Catholics. So again, this pattern is reinforced.
So you have this pattern in the region. What does this mean in terms of overall public opinion in these countries? What kind of landscape of public attitudes is emerging out of these differences among different religious groups? What we see is something I think very interesting, especially in some countries, and that is if you don’t understand the religious dimensions of public opinion, you’re not getting the whole story, basically. I give you the example of Brazil, where, overall, less than half of the population says they favor same-sex marriage, but when you look more closely how opinion divides along religious lines, it’s actually 54% of the religiously unaffiliated in Brazil say they favor same-sex marriage. 51% of Catholics, just around half, favor same-sex marriage, but only 25% of Protestants in Brazil favor same-sex marriage which brings the whole public opinion, as you look at it on the surface, to about 46% of people supporting same-sex marriage in Brazil. If you didn’t look beyond that overall number, I think you would be missing a lot about how religion influences public opinion and is shaping and influencing the public debate around the issue like same-sex marriage in Brazil and elsewhere.
So I leave you with those thoughts. In terms of thinking about what this means for the region as a whole, historical context and maybe some thoughts about the future and how the Catholic Church relates to these issues, I’ll hand it over to Andrew.
ANDREW CHESNUT: Welcome. It’s a great pleasure to be here. I’ve been at this for some 20 years and if you haven’t had time to dig into this survey, it really is a treasure trove of data on something that I’ve been studying since 1992-1993. I tend to be a big-picture kind of guy, so I want to leave you with a big picture of the takeaways from this sweeping survey conducted with 30,000 face-to-face interviews.
So one of the big pictures here is that this sharp Catholic decline that basically starts in the early 1970s, and it’s been going on for the past four decades, really has ended up with at the same time with the Pentecostal boom and it’s the Pentecostal churches who have primarily harvested a field of souls of nominal Catholics, and so I have colleagues who say, “Well no, it’s a rising tide that lifts all boats in this new religious economy.” That’s not true. I think this Pew survey shows very poignantly that Catholic losses have been Pentecostal gains and, to a lesser extent, also the gains of the increasingly large contingent of the non-affiliated Latin America as well, who primarily come from the ranks of nominal Catholics as well. So the biggest picture that we see here is the overarching Pentecostalization of Latin American Christianity. Let’s break that down. The overarching Pentecostalization of Latin American Christianity.
If we’re looking at Protestants in Latin America, the Pew survey shows that some 70% of Latin American Protestants are Pentecostal. Most of them actually belong to specific Pentecostal denominations, but others belong to some of the mainline or historic Protestant churches, such as the Presbyterian church, the Methodist church, which have had to Pentecostalize. In Brazil, these congregations call themselves renewed Presbyterians, renewed Methodist. They’ve had to Pentecostalize to be able to complete with the great surge of Pentecostalism.
In the Catholic camp, and I really think for me this is one of the most impressive takeaways from the survey, because I was really kind of on the forefront here looking at the Catholic charismatic, all my colleagues back in the ’80s and ’90s were still very much obsessed with liberation theology and the base Christian communities. Well, 30 years later, the largest Catholic lay movement in Latin America and throughout the global south is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The Pew survey shows that in just four decades of existence in Latin America, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal raised from the United States in the early 1970s having been born in Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 1967. In just four decades in operation in Latin America, now 40% of Latin American Catholics say they’re charismatics and this includes Catholics who just self identify as Catholics, not necessarily observant Catholics. I don’t think you actually have the data on observant Catholics, but I guarantee you if we’re looking only at observing Catholics in Latin America, we’re probably looking at 60% to 70% today of observant Latin American Catholics being charismatic. So the great response of the Catholic Church to this surging Pentecostal competition has been the Pentecostal version of Catholicism. Again, formerly known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
In our largest Catholic country on Earth in Brazil, a little over 60% of Brazilian Catholics say that they’re charismatic. Again, if we’re looking at practicing Catholics, this probably shoots up to 80%. I was in Rio for the pope’s visit during World Youth Day and the entire event and organization of the pope’s visit was carried out by Brazilian charismatics. If any of you were there and witnessed the almost Las Vegas style of show production values, this was because it was the charismatics who put it on.
Following up on this Pentecostalization, we also see that showing up in the survey in data for example on exorcism. I am so impressed – when I first started my research, even on Pentecostals in Latin America, exorcism was something practiced on the sidelines/in the shadows but now, 20 years later, it’s front and center for Pentecostals to the extent that almost a third of Latin American Protestants have actually witnessed an exorcism in their churches and even more impressively, some 20% of Latin American Catholics have witnessed an exorcism. So we’re just seeing a fantastic surge of exorcism in the last two or three decades. Again, because of this Pentecostal influence. I was really surprised.
I already knew that Latin American Pentecostalism had really accepted prosperity theology, also known as the health and wealth gospel, to this point in a hegemonic way, but our new Pew survey also shows that even among Catholics, prosperity theology, also known as “name and claim it” theology, is also prevalent among the majority of Catholics in the region as well. This is a theology that really was only imported into Pentecostal churches in Latin American in the 1980s and, really, the church that was on the vanguard is a very controversial Brazilian Pentecostal church, which is the second largest Pentecostal church in Brazil, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, headed up by billionaire Bishop Edir Macedo. He really was the agent of importing U.S.-style prosperity theology.
Another huge trend that we see even beyond the Pentecostalization, I should say the Pentecostalization of Christianity in Latin America is not peculiar to Latin America. We also see this in Africa as well and parts of Asia. The Catholic Church in the Philippines, which is home to the third largest Catholic population on Earth, is thoroughly charismatic. Some I think 80%-85% of Filipino Catholics practice a charismatic form of Catholicism, but even larger than this Pentecostalization of Latin American Christianity is an overarching pluralization of the religious landscape and I think that allows us to bring in the fact that we also have relatively fast growing contingent of the unaffiliated in countries like Uruguay – almost a third. Does Uruguay show the rest of the region its future? Who knows? Or is it a strange Latin American outlier? But in a country like Brazil, and for me, Brazil is just at the epicenter of everything. Brazil is now 8% unaffiliated, right? Brazil, I would argue, more than any other nation on Earth, really is the epicenter of the future of the Catholic Church. We’re down to 61% now and if the trend does not reverse, we’re looking at Brazil, home to the largest Catholic population on Earth, being a non-Catholic-majority country by 2030; kind of a mirror image of this country which apparently no longer has a Protestant-majority population. So there’s this overarching pluralization where an increasing number of Latin Americans are choosing no religious affiliation are also are affiliating with groups that historically have been persecuted and discriminated such as more importantly, the Afro-Brazilian and the Afro-Caribbean religions.
I think I’d like to end and open this up to discussion, but going back to this Pentecostalization of the Christian landscape, the one major interesting group who kind of escapes this dynamic and is the outlier Pentecostalization are the Mormons. The Mormons are flourishing in Latin America, yet they’re not charismatics. They’re not Pentecostals. They’re from a completely separate religious tradition and we just don’t really have enough data. It’s difficult, as you can imagine, to research the Mormon Church, but they’re one of the major groups here who have not Pentecostalized and who are kind of outliers in this hegemonic Pentecostalization of the region. OK. I’ll stop there.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Thank you, Dr. Chesnut. Thank you Dr. Sahgal. Thank you Dr. Bell. Let’s have a discussion and I’ll do my best, if you raise your hands, to kind of keep a running list. One thing. Please. Please, when you can, remember to push the button and identify yourself. Thank you.
JOAN FAUS: My name is Joan Faus. I’m a reporter El Pais newspaper from Spain. I have two questions. I’m not an expert on this topic, so the first one I wanted to ask if there’s any difference, and if there is, if you can explain, between evangelism and Pentecostalism, because it seems to be in the same category, but I want to understand when you mean the rise of evangelism if you’re including Pentecostal as well or? Then if you could explain if there is a reason why the majority of the countries that have more Protestant people are Central American countries. So if you guys have found any reason that explains why these particular countries are the ones that have a larger number. Thank you.
NEHA SAHGAL: I can at least take the first one. Evangelism and Pentecostal – Andrew, please feel free to jump in here as well – what we found when we were designing our survey was a very practical problem and that is that in the United States, being an evangelical Protestant means something very specific. You can say the Bible is the literal word of God, make a personal connection with Jesus Christ, but in Latin America the term Protestant and evangelical were coterminous. So in our survey, we asked both identities almost as if they mean the same thing.
Now, Pentecostal is a subset. So all Protestants in our survey were asked what kind of denomination they identify with – whether they belong to historical Protestant church, for example, Baptist or Methodist, etc. whether they belong to a Pentecostal church or something else. Separately, we also asked all Protestants in our survey the question, “Do you personally identify yourself as a Pentecostal Christian?” and what we found is among the Protestants, the majority in Latin America, across most of the countries surveyed identified themselves as Pentecostal either by denomination or by personal identification or both. Well, the Protestants/evangelical who are also Pentecostal. There you go.
ANDREW CHESNUT: The thing is in Latin America the term is usually used, “evangelico” and people rarely say, “Protestante.” That’s the difference. Yes. So the difference in meanings and this doesn’t show up in the survey, but I will say that one of the new trends is a lot of Protestants and Latin America self-identify as Cristiano, Christian – “I’m Christian,” where it’s implying that Catholics are not Christian. Even more than I hear evangelico lately, I hear, “Soy Cristiano.”
NEHA SAHGAL: We did allow for that response as well. We did find that some people did take that option. Your second question was about Central America and that’s a question a lot of people have. It could be that their proximity to the United States has something to do with that and indeed in our survey, we did ask the question. It’s actually not in the report, but since you’re here, you get to hear the data on this. We did ask people, “Does your church, or where you attend most often, maintain ties with the United States by passing clergy back and forth or any other kind of exchange?” and we did find that Protestants are considerably more likely to say that their churches maintain ties with the United States than Catholics.
ANDREW CHESNUT: I would add the factor of violence. These are also the countries with the highest homicide rates in the world and they’re also the countries I think in the survey that say religion is most important in their lives, and so Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. So I think the increasing acute need for divine protection is also an important factor of growth in the last couple of decades in many Central American nations as well in addition to proximity.
JIM BELL: I would add if you look at the Central American countries, it’s not simply the case that Protestants are highly religiously committed there. The fact is Catholics and Protestants both in the Central American countries especially like El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, these countries in general have cultures that are conservative socially, based on our findings, and have high levels of religious commitment, and so I think it’s an interesting observation that we talk about Latin America and I think it’s important to talk about regional findings but we do see differences within the region. So the Southern Cone countries, if I may call them that, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, they’re distinct in their social milieu – I use that French word again – and Central American countries are different and then you have Brazil. So others have written about religion in Latin America and emphasized what we have found in other surveys in other parts of the world the historical context and national context does matter. So we give you an important perspective on religious identity and what’s happening in the region, but there are other factors that consider and understand what’s going on.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Dan?
DAN BURKE: Thank you. First of all, just thank you for doing this study in the first place. The idea of 30,000 face-to-face interviews is just amazing. I’m Dan Burke from CNN by the way. I have kind of two questions. No. 1, we can see from the numbers that Pope Francis is very popular in Latin America and I’m wondering if you’ve noticed any hints of kind of trend toward lapsed Catholics or maybe Protestant Catholics moving back into Catholic pews because of that. Is there any kind of real Francis effect there? No. 2, maybe Dr. Chesnut you can answer this – it’s fascinating that one of the primary reasons that Catholics, nominal Catholics, might be turning toward Protestantism is this desire for a personal relationship with Jesus. I’m kind of wondering what’s in the air there that makes people seek that out? You mentioned violence. Are there other factors that people are looking for that personal relationship?
JIM BELL: Sure. Well, you’re absolutely correct. Based on our survey, it’s quite impressive how favorable the opinion is toward the new pope especially his home country of Argentina. Somewhat not surprising, but the other question we ask is whether the pope represents a change for the church, whether it’s a minor or major change and I think the important finding there is that when we ask that question of former Catholics what you see is many few former Catholics, unlike Catholics, think he represents a major change for the church and so that finding suggest to me, and what we actually got from people was you know the sense that either they don’t think he’s a major change or they don’t know if they’re former Catholic.
So in a way we’re saying our survey says it’s too soon perhaps and in fairness to the new pope, we don’t have a trend that we can compare exactly measuring his impact yet and of course, this is the big question, “What is the Francis effect?” and one of the things that I would extend from what I was saying earlier is that in some countries like Chile or Argentina, when it comes to social attitudes, it’s interesting to see that Catholics and the followers of Catholic Church often are in the middle, so to speak, of the spectrum on whether they are very opposed to something like same-sex marriage or very open to it. With Protestants very opposed, unaffiliated very open, relatively speaking, and Catholics in the middle.
So it’s not necessarily always the case that it’s the same people that anyone in the Catholic Church is speaking to. There’s different groups in society and who are they appealing to? Because what our findings are showing is that yes, many people are leaving Catholicism for Protestantism but as Andrew pointed out, in some cases there are also leaving organized religion altogether. What is the conversation you’re having with these different groups?
ANDREW CHESNUT: The question about what’s in the air and why the attraction, the yearning for personal connection – I think it reflects a desire for a more individual connection with the divine. Latin America is actually one of the most urbanized regions on Earth now, despite some of the lingering stereotypes about campesinos and such. Countries like Uruguay are some of the most urbanized countries on Earth, and I think urbanized Latin Americans have become much more individually oriented and, kind of like U.S. evangelicals, are interested in that personal relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit that perhaps has historically been lacking in the Catholic Church, however, it is there in a very prominent way in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
So it’s no longer the case that you have to exit the Catholic Church to find that anymore, but until the Catholic Charismatic Renewal came along, I think that was more difficult. I would also add that the Pentecostals are great about addressing people’s earthly afflictions, health problems, prosperity, such and I think the rest of the religious competitors have had a hard time keeping up with that.
CARL MEACHAM: Carl Meacham with CSIS. I’m the director of the Americas Program there. You mentioned a little earlier liberation theology and some of the role that religion has played in society in the past. You know, this might be a little sort of outside of what we’re talking about a little bit, but it definitely has some implications and I was hoping that you could touch on the role of religion in politics in Latin America has been very important throughout history and I was wondering with these perceptions and these changes that you’re seeing on the ground in different countries, if the role of religion is also changing with regards to politics, politicians and how that discussion occurs. I know the social attitudes issues that were mentioned could be a reflection of that but I would wonder what your views or impressions are of this in general.
NEHA SAHGAL: Sure. When it comes to politics, we asked about attitudes toward democracy. We asked about the role of religion in politics and should government promote religious values in the country. We also asked about whether religious leaders should have an influence in politics. One interesting question was political engagement, “How engaged are you? How much do you follow the news?” There we found that Catholics and Protestants are about as likely to be engaged politically or to at least follow the news and what is going on in public affairs. We also didn’t see any significant differences between Catholics and Protestants when it came to views toward democracy and in most cases, we didn’t see too many differences when it comes to views on, “What’s the role of religion in politics?” So on political questions, they seem to be pretty much on par.
Where we did see a difference is on some economic attitudes. So one question we asked people is, “What is the most important way that people of the Christian faith can help the poor and needy? Do you have to bring them to Christ? Do you have to evangelize them? Is it most important to take care of their needs through a charity work or should you be advocating for their rights in government?” What we found is that Catholics were more likely than Protestants to point to charity work as the most important way that the poor and needy could be helped while Protestants were more likely than Catholics to point to evangelization efforts, bringing the poor and needy in Christ. So there’s a difference in kind of economic attitudes and how to solve the economic ills in society.
ANDREW CHESNUT: You also found that Protestants are more involved actually in charitable work. So Catholics might say that charity’s more important but Protestants get more involved in charitable work is part of the finding, right?
NEHA SAHGAL: Absolutely. Yes.
JIM BELL: Which is not to say that maybe charitable work is a way to evangelize, so they could be doing both, but that’s exactly correct. I was going to point that out and in general, this sense of volunteerism seems to be very prevalent among the Protestants in our survey said that they’re also more engaged in their churches and congregations too. So there’s this level of engagement that you see coming through the survey.
KEVIN HEALY: Kevin Healy from Georgetown University. Just picking up on that last question a little bit more. Pushing you a little bit. Somebody referred to the Catholic Church as base communities that came out of liberation theology, very strong in Brazil. It’s one of the strongest places in the world then there was reversal because of change of pope, change or orientations in the seminarists and bishops were renamed and so forth. I’m wondering to what extent your survey looked at the base community movement as an expression of the Catholic Church that focuses on structural inequality among other things that are hindering broad-based development and social justice and so forth and economic and social inequalities that were structural in nature. This was something of course Pope Francisco was addressing. He’s bringing social movement leaders together in the Vatican to talk about working on these issues and so forth and I’m just wondering when you use a term like charismatics, would that capture Christian-based communities that are very involved in small communities, participatory, expressing the values and so forth in working together at the communities?
NEHA SAHGAL: Sure. So one question we did ask is, “How often do you work together with other people in your church and form kind of a community group to help those in need?” It was kind of our attempt to get at this without really using technical terminology in a questionnaire. Here again we found that Protestants are much more likely to be engaged with members of their church group or in their community to help solve community issues or to provide for the needs of the poor.
ANDREW CHESNUT: I would add that base Christian communities, even though they’re contemporaneous with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, long ago in terms of number were greatly eclipsed by the charismatic renewal. This was one of the hopes to revitalize the church but the movement that has to some extent really helped revitalize the church is not base Christian communities and liberation theology but the charismatic renewal.
KEVIN HEALY: [Question unavailable]
ANDREW CHESNUT: Partly, but I also think it involved a maybe over-intellectualization sometimes of the faith that wasn’t necessarily so appealing to people, the grass roots who are very interested in palpable hands-on spirituality. So, yes, no doubt. We had the Vatican arrayed, aligned against liberation theology, no doubt, but I think there also were some inherent problems with its appeal to the Latin American masses as well.
JIM BELL: In the survey we do ask some broader questions about attitudes toward the economy and it’s not directly on this topic of base communities and liberation theology, but we do see half or more in all the countries we surveyed saying that people believe in the free market even though some people are worse off because of that. At the same time, somewhat interestingly, at least four-in-ten of these countries say the gap between rich and poor is a big problem, a very big problem. So there’s on one hand, some acceptance of the free market principle and other, there are concerns about what happens to the poor in society.
It’s also interesting that overwhelmingly, and we don’t see big differences on these questions between Catholics and Protestants, by the way, overwhelmingly, eight-in-ten or more in the countries surveyed said the government should play a role in helping those in need. So that’s kind of a context against which we can talk about volunteerism and engagement. It’s not necessarily I think based on these survey findings the case that people are presuming that the state gets out of that business and it becomes a matter of charity to help the poor. So that’s something I think to keep in mind.
IONE MOLINARES: Ione Molinares with CNN News Espanol. I’m sorry for my voice. Can you talk about the Hispanics, the Hispanics in the U.S. and were you surprised of the finding and are they actually following the trend in their own socio group from Latin America?
NEHA SAHGAL: Sure. The Hispanic survey in the United States was conducted before the Latin America survey and we did notice even in the Hispanic survey that there was a definite falloff in the proportion of Hispanics in the United States who call themselves Catholic. Now, in the United States, the movement away from Catholicism has been in two directions: Some have become Protestant and others have become unaffiliated with any religious faith and about half of those who have left Catholicism or have at least changed their religion say that they did so before they arrived in the United States. So when we conducted the Latin America survey, we expected to see some similar trends. So in that sense, it was not a huge surprise.
Of course, the difference is the religious composition of Latin America is somewhat different from the Hispanic community in the United States where the unaffiliated population is much bigger. So among Hispanics in the United States, 18% are unaffiliated with any religion which is about the same as what we have in the general American population. It’s about 20% whereas in Latin America, the population of the unaffiliated is much smaller. It has a much smaller impact.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Let me just note that Dr. Jessica Martinez, who was the principal investigator on our survey of Hispanics in the United States, is here. Jessica, did you want to add anything on that point, Hispanics in the U.S.?
JESSICA MARTINEZ: I think that Neha sort of covered what the broad connection was between that survey and the survey in Latin America. So we’re seeing very similar changes in terms of people being raised Catholic and no longer being Catholic; about one-in-four Latinos in the U.S. say they were raised Catholic and they’re no longer Catholic, but like Neha said, I think there’s a little more movement within the U.S. population away from religion altogether than we’re seeing in Latin America as a whole.
ANDREW CHESNUT: I think the figure’s down to 55% of Latinos now Catholic, right? So also within a decade we’re looking at a non-Catholic majority among U.S. Latinos as well which is of concern to the U.S. Catholic Church given that the future of the Catholic Church in this country is a Latino future.
IONE MOLINARES: Anything that surprised you guys from the U.S. Hispanic Catholics in the United States in the survey?
NEHA SAHGAL: To me, the movement toward the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated was quite surprising, especially for a community where religion is important to this community. It’s a fairly religious community and so many people now say they have no religion? That’s quite interesting.
ALFONSO AGUILAR: Hi. Alfonso Aguilar with Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. Based on your research, could it be concluded, or at least it could lead us to think, that one of the reasons why so many are leaving the Catholic Church and converting to Protestant Christian churches is rather than seeking a church or religion that is more lax in terms of moral standards, they’re actually seeking a religion that is more challenging in terms of personal morality. Is that something that can be concluded upon?
NEHA SAHGAL: That is something that did stand out in our survey. So we offered people who have left the Catholic Church to rate eight possible reasons for why they may have left. One of the reasons we offered to them was you were seeking a religion that places greater importance on living a moral life, and indeed that was one of the reasons that stood out among the eight. We also find, and as Jim was pointing out earlier, the Protestants across Latin America consistently are more socially conservative and morally conservative than Catholics.
ANDREW CHESNUT: A really big example is they demonize alcohol and so the No. 1 detox centers in Latin America are Pentecostal churches. In my own early research in Brazil, I found that the majority of men had converted to Pentecostal churches looking for solution for sobriety.
JIM BELL: That clearly comes out in the survey when we look at the findings on drinking alcohol, it’s consistently and very dramatically clear that Protestants see that as morally wrong much more so than Catholics and so that comes out very loud and clear. An issue like divorce, where it’s not necessarily a Protestant or Catholic issue in terms of moral standards, again, Protestants are consistently more conservative in terms of saying it’s morally wrong to get a divorce. The sanctity of the marriage is something very important to many of the Protestants in the region.
ERIC HERSHBERG: Eric Hershberg from American University. What have you found in terms of the characteristics of the unaffiliated? Uruguay but beyond?
NEHA SAHGAL: Great question. There are a couple of things that do make them stand out. One, they are younger. Their average age is definitely lower than that of Catholics, who tend to be kind of the oldest group, but definitely lower than Protestants as well. The second thing that’s kind of interesting, they are more male than female. So around the world it’s generally true that women are more religious than men and so that’s not surprising, that the unaffiliated are more male than female.
JIM BELL: I would add, too, let’s parse this category of unaffiliated a bit. So there are at least three main ways you can fall into this category in our survey and that is you’re an atheist, you’re agnostic or you have no particular religion, and what we see in most countries is that it’s no particular religion is the most frequent category that people are actually identifying with and the other interesting finding is that in a number of countries, several countries, we’re actually finding people who say they’re unaffiliated with any particular religion praying on a daily basis, some even going to religious services at least once a week. So it’s not necessarily that these people have always in all cases rejected religion entirely. You look at some of the Central American countries and particularly you see it more there than religion still is not only something people value, but they’re actually practicing in some way but they don’t identify with particular formal religious institution. So I think that’s something to keep in mind too.
ALAN COOPERMAN: May I take a point of privilege and then I’ll ask a follow up. How about on social and political attitudes. Do the unaffiliated tend to be slightly more liberal on these issues than even Catholics?
NEHA SAHGAL: The answer to that question is yes and no. So in some countries like in Uruguay and Argentina and Chile, those countries seem quite polarized on social issues with Protestants on one end and the unaffiliated on the other end. So issues like gay marriage. The unaffiliated are in support of gay marriage, Protestants completely against it and then the Catholics fall somewhere in between. This is the case in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Elsewhere, not so much. Elsewhere, the unaffiliated seem to resemble Catholics on social issues and particularly in Central America, there doesn’t seem to be any difference. So depends on where you go but the unaffiliated not necessarily always very socially liberal on those questions.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Yes, ma’am?
CAMILLE GASKIN-REYES: My name is Camille Gaskin-Reyes from Georgetown University. First of all, great study. I really loved it. I read the summary and I think it’s great work. I definitely would use it in my class. I have two questions. The first one is: Did you find anything about the socioeconomic levels of the respondents and any correlation between income levels and types of answers? The second thing is on Guatemala. Could the rise of the Pentecostal movement in Guatemala have something to do with the war? Did you notice any aftermath about that? Because there were some military dictators that were also in those churches. I’m wondering if there’s anything that came out of that.
ANDREW CHESNUT: Rios Montt.
CAMILLE GASKIN-REYES: Rios Montt is one. Yes. Thirdly, well, it’s not a question. This is a comment. It’s quite ironic how Catholicism is declining. Today in Georgetown we’re commemorating the murder of the six Jesuit priests today. Sometime this afternoon and we have nuns who were killed in Brazil working with the [unintelligible]. So it’s quite interesting that doing work with the poor and the disadvantaged is not seen anymore as something that is charity in that sense. I’m just wondering if there’s anything going on there. Just thought about it in my mind. What’s happening in the poverty area?
NEHA SAHGAL: Andrew, would you like to take Guatemala?
ANDREW CHESNUT: Yes. There’s no doubt that particularly with the earthquake – was it ’76, I think? I think really was kind of a catalyst when we start to see the Pentecostal boom and, of course, we have our first Pentecostal head of state in Latin America and the genocidal figure of Gen. Efraín Rios Montt, the first Pentecostal, was only there for 16 months but responsible for some 30,000 Guatemalans dead, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to go too far in ascribing that as the reason for Pentecostal boom in Guatemala, which is maybe the most Pentecostal country today in Latin America. Really important part of their growth in Guatemala and Chiapas wherever you have large indigenous populations was their very quick turning over of reins of leadership to Mayan and other indigenous groups. So now you have scores of Guatemalan Mayan men who are Pentecostal pastors and the Catholic Church has been very, very slow with indigenous Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian training men as priests and such and so that’s been a huge advantage and in Mexico, the greatest Pentecostal growth has been in Chiapas, which is also the most indigenous state as well. So yes, no doubt the terrible civil war in Guatemala, the fact that you have a Pentecostal dictator is a factor that relations with the U.S. but we shouldn’t take that too far in explaining.
NEHA SAHGAL: So your question about social demographics. One thing we looked at really closely in this survey is whether social demographics could have some correlation with conversion out of Catholicism and movement into Protestantism. There’s a couple of ways of measuring social demographics. We like to look at education. One other thing we looked at was geographic mobility whether people say that they have moved from their current location or they’ve always lived in the current location their entire life. We did find that in a few countries, people who have converted from Catholicism to Protestantism are more likely to say that they have moved, and in a few countries, they are more likely to be less educated. So there’s slightly lower levels of education than current Catholics. However, this is not a trend we see everywhere across the board. It’s only limited to a few countries.
ANDREW CHESNUT: Going back to Guatemala, there’s even specific Pentecostal denominations that are mostly made up of Guatemalan professionals in the capital and very heavy on prosperity theology.
NEHA SAHGAL: There’s another question right there.
MAR MUNOZ-VISOSO: My name is Mar Munoz-Visoso. I work at the Catholic Bishops Conference here in Washington. Two questions. One is technical. Could you tell a little more about the sample? Where did you do your interviews? It’s very impressive and I thank you because I think you are providing us good statistical numbers for trends that we have all observed for a number of decades now but nobody was giving us good numbers. So thank you for that.
I’m interested in knowing a little more, if you can explain a little more, in how the sample was selected, who was interviewed, etc., but, secondly, I think following on what Ione Molinares said before in terms of the trends and the parallelisms that you may see with Latin Americans and then Latinos in the United States, because this almost seems to me kind of an inversion of the cones at some point. What I mean by that is that what you have here in the United States, a phenomenon where you have Latinos have been responsible for about 70% of the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States for the last three decades, to a point where now about 54% of Catholics under 33 years, millennials, are Latinos of the overall population. So you have in the one sense, that tendency to grow and the church at times struggling with that reality, coming to terms with that reality, versus in Latin America, I think you are seeing a different phenomenon, where you have a religion that has been majority that now realizes cannot take for granted its people anymore and that it has to exist and revive. We’re talking about a revival thanks to the charismatic renewal earlier. There are some other factors too, but I think by and large, that’s a really true assertion by any observations. So I think that you have a church, a Catholic Church also that has to compete in a different world also in Latin America where it has to exist and craft its identify now in a plurality of choices versus that was not the case for much of the time period before.
So I just wanted to see if you could comment on those trends and see if you see a little bit of that kind of inversion, if you will, like Latinos have helped propel the Catholic Church in the United States to be now the largest Christian denomination, if you will, but at the same time, it’s not immune to the same trends of secularism and I think we all see in that trend of the unaffiliated you know as something I think that is concerning. Final kind of question related to that is has Pew done any follow up research in terms of those who convert or go from Catholicism to Protestantism, how many of them stay in those churches? Because at the same time that we see this trend for the first generation convert, if you will, we all seem to be having the same kind of problem in retention in the growth in unaffiliated. So just put it out there.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Thank you very much for coming and thank you for those wonderful questions. Jim, would you address perhaps samples and Jessica, would you be able to talk then perhaps about shares of Catholics who are Hispanic and shares of Hispanics who are Catholic in the United States?
JIM BELL: Sure. I’d be happy to talk about how we did the survey. I would emphasize that a full description is in the report which is part of what makes us proud at Pew Research Center, to be very transparent about how we do the work that we do. What we did in Latin America is what we tend to do in most countries around the world and that is to rely on face-to-face interviews still. In part, that’s because this survey, as all our religion surveys tend to be, is a very lengthy instrument. We ask a lot of questions and we ask people to spend quite a bit of time talking to us about their religious beliefs and practices and identity. I don’t know exactly the average interview length, but typically it’s 45 minutes. So that’s a good amount of time.
If you can imagine in our society, we get phone calls mostly for surveys and we can barely spare 30 seconds. We’re asking people to spare 45 minutes, if not longer, with someone. So it’s face-to-face interviews. The samples are designed to be nationally representative. There are some countries where we couldn’t go everywhere or it was too costly or it was just too difficult. So some very small outlying rural areas in Argentina are not part of it. The Galapagos, we do not know what people think in the Galapagos. We just don’t have that kind of budget, although I’d like to go. [Laughter] But they are nationally represented.
ALAN COOPERMAN: I think I have a follow up study. [Laughter]
JIM BELL: We’re very precise about what is omitted but we try for nationally representative surveys and for us, it’s very important that these surveys are based on scientific method, that is random selection of respondents. So this is not convenient samples we’re just getting people to come to us. A very important principle is that we designed the sample so that we’re taking country and we’re designing it so that we’re getting to all the regions in the country and we’re breaking it down to smaller areas that we’re reaching. So it could be provinces or parishes and then we’re making sure that we get a mix of urban and rural as well and in terms of the design for Latin America, we were told by all the experts that advices us this is very important to consider socioeconomic differences in the country, so that was also factored into the random selection from different kinds of areas and countries so that we got that broad representation.
All the countries had at least 1,500 interviews. We had more interviews in Mexico and Brazil, given their large populations, and wanted to make sure we represented those countries. In Mexico, taking Andrew’s point, that in the southern states you find greater concentration of evangelical Protestants, and we also made certain that we had more interviews there to capture that part of society but then in that kind of scenario, we make sure through statistical weighing that we have everyone having equal weight in terms of the findings you see today. So everyone has part of the same weight in terms of percentage you see on the page. So it’s a standard procedure.
It does have some challenges, as you might imagine, to do it with interviewers having to travel to different parts of the country and most importantly, to get people to cooperate. So, honestly, it varies from one region of the world to another. In Latin America it’s not infrequent and it’s completely acceptable to have these conversations on a doorstep, for example. Other parts of the world, people invite you into their house. You’ll spend some time with them. It’s great. It varies, but we relied on local firms to be our partners in conducting the survey. These are firms that have a lot of experience, understand the culture, interviewers were well trained. They’re trained specifically on this questionnaire. They practice it. They try it out and they are told about what are we trying to get at with these questions? Because it is a conversation at the end of the day that the interviewer has with the respondent and so having the interviewers really understand what’s the purpose of the question? We respect a “don’t know” answer by the way. It’s a real answer but we also want people to understand what we’re asking.
So it’s a lengthy process. A lot of quality control at every stage. We check the findings, check the data coming in and then we go back and check it again but in this case, it was a major undertaking but very satisfied with what we were able to achieve. Then I think there was another aspect.
JESSICA MARTINEZ: Yes. I can address to that. So, Jessica Martinez here. So you bring up a really interesting paradox that we thought about a lot when we did the U.S. Latino survey last year and that is that in recent years, even as we’ve seen a growing share of Catholics are Latino, a growing share of Latinos are not Catholic and these two things can kind of happen simultaneously just because of sheer numbers, because of the growth of the Latino population in the U.S. So it’s really difficult to sort of predict what this will mean number-wise down the road because there’s so many moving parts, but you could imagine that if these trends continue and if the growth of the Latino population continues, there could be a point at which fewer than half of Latinos are Catholic, but perhaps more than half of Catholics in the U.S. will be Latino. So you raise an interesting point that it’s sort of a puzzle but makes sense once you think about the growth of the Latino population in the U.S.
ALAN COOPERMAN: While the numbers and shares of Hispanics in U.S. population have been rising, have Catholics been rising as a share of the U.S. population, Jessica?
JESSICA MARTINEZ: Overall, Catholics have sort of maintained their share in the U.S. population. So much of the sort of maintenance of the share of the Catholic population is due to the growth of the Latino population.
NEHA SAHGAL: So you had one more question about people leaving the Protestant Christianity and that’s a great question. So, on page 33 of the report, you’ll find a full table that breaks down how many people are entering and leaving each group. So take a look at that. For Protestants, we don’t find that a lot of people are leaving. It’s mostly in the other direction, but your larger point is really well taken, that it could be in the future because Latin America is kind of becoming religiously more plural and more diverse, we could see movement among all of these groups and indeed in the United States whenever we ask people about if they have switched religions, one question we also asked was have you switched only once or more than once? Interestingly, Americans switch religions. They switch more than once and in the future when we go back to Latin America and repeat the survey, perhaps we have to start asking the same way because it could be that because of greater diversity in the landscape, people will switch and they will switch more than once just like Americans do.
ALAN COOPERMAN: I think we probably have time for one more question, maybe two more if they’re brief. Is there someone who hasn’t asked a question yet among our guests? Yes, sir?
EVAN BERRY: Hi there. Evan Berry from American University in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. So religious studies is sort of halfway between sociology and philosophy in the first place. This is sort of a hybrid question. Does the survey instrument allow people to identify as participating in multiple religions at one time? In other words, I’m thinking specifically here about the relationship between indigenous traditions and these various categories of Christianity we’re working with.
NEHA SAHGAL: Yes, the instrument does allow for that. We have been exploring this a bit more now. When people as they have more than one religion, the interviewer is instructed to ask a follow-up question. “Is there one that you identify with more?” and then record that response and then we also asked the interviewer to record additional responses separately. So for this survey we did take a look at those additional responses. There weren’t too many however, as we sort of do more surveys in more parts of the world, particularly in Europe, etc., this may come up.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Glad in particularly that you raised this question about Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Brazilian and indigenous religion and the beliefs and practices which are also measured in the survey and perhaps…
ANDREW CHESNUT: Yes. I think historically there’s been great underreporting of that because of discrimination and persecution, so most of these people will self-identify as Catholic or have historically.
NEHA SAHGAL: But many have beliefs associated with Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian religions.
EVAN BERRY: Just a quick follow-up. I guess my question has to specifically with religion being measured as a kind of belonging, versus other layers of religious identity formation, which may or may not be part of belonging in an institutionalized church.
NEHA SAHGAL: That’s a really great question. Belonging is one thing, but since this is a religion survey, we asked a whole series of questions about belief and practice, including beliefs and practice that may not be traditionally Catholic or Protestant or Christian at all. So we’ve included a whole bunch of questions about that relate more to Afro-Caribbean religions. We’ve asked about tithing, we’ve asked about fasting, and you can sort of break it down a number of ways if you like and see what Catholics actually believe rather than what they call themselves.
ANDREW CHESNUT: Do you mind, Neha, why don’t you talk a little bit about some of the Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian practices that we see cropping up across the region?
NEHA SAHGAL: Jim, do you want to go?
JIM BELL: Well, I mean, across the region, it’s a median of a third, at least a third of all countries are saying that they believe in the evil eye for example. We asked about reincarnation. We asked about making offerings to spirits. We see substantial percentages, especially among people who identify as Catholic – they talk about belonging but these practices are part of people’s reality, and it’s also a factor among Protestants to a smaller degree in terms of how we ask identity in these questions but we definitely see this is an influence that’s there, and Andrew’s been very good about us making sure that we didn’t overlook this as he’s pointed out. This is something that has traditionally been underreported and it’s probably possible I should say that in our own survey it might have been underreported a bit because you ask a lot about formal religion and then you ask about these things that maybe some people think they shouldn’t talk about. So in a way, I would say look at the findings and look at those percentages. I think they’re substantial on the face of it. I think it’s important to consider given what Andrew said about the context that it’s probably very important substantial percentages.
ANDREW CHESNUT: If I may add, what really jumped out at me and I’d seen similar figures, Latin America is by far the most Christian region on Earth, 88% to 89% Christian, yet 20% believe in reincarnation – 20%. And I think among Catholics we’re looking probably at 30%. This isn’t due to influence of Hinduism. This is due to widespread new age beliefs which have had a greater penetration in Latin America than they have here in the U.S.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Andrew, is it also possible, getting back to the growth of Pentecostalism and charismatic Catholicism, that these fell on fertile ground in Latin America because of the indigenous and African traditions?
ANDREW CHESNUT: Yes. Another really interesting point is that both the two great Christian dynamic movements in Latin America are American exports – Pentecostalism, born in L.A., 1905-1906, exported within a few years, and then again, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal born in Pittsburgh in 1967 and also exported to Latin America within a few years, and both of these movements have proved to be far more attractive in Latin America than they have here in their birthplace. So I think there’s a type of ecstatic charismatic spirituality that exists there that has resonated, has greater resonance both in Latin America and Africa and Asia as well than it has in its birth place.
ALAN COOPERMAN: All right. Last question, Dan Burke.
DAN BURKE: Really quick one. What do we know about why lapsed Catholics who are now unaffiliated, why they became lapsed Catholics? Do we know anything about their views?
NEHA SAHGAL: There are enough interviews with Catholics who are now unaffiliated in Uruguay and I think one other country maybe, but one reason that seems to stand out for why they said they left the Catholic Church, they say they stopped believing in the Catholic Church’s teachings. We don’t look at them very much in the survey because there’s just such few countries where we have enough interviews but if you’re interested in those particular countries, we can certainly look at them some more. Give you some more.
ALAN COOPERMAN: All sample sizes are those who specifically gone from Catholicism to unaffiliated.
NEHA SAHGAL: Yes. That’s right.
ANDREW CHESNUT: I might add that historically, the great majority of Latin American Catholics have not been institutionally observant. That’s a historical pattern. Maybe 15% to 20%, depending on the country, and so it’s in this field of nominal or cultural Catholics that Pentecostals and has really reaped the bonanza harvest.
ALAN COOPERMAN: Wonderful. I want to thank our panelists. Thank you, Andrew, very much. Thank you, Neha. Thank you, Jim. I want to thank all of you for the great questions and comments and, again, I want to thank the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation for making this research possible financially. I hope that you will dig into the report and I’m sure you will find additional questions and we are available. Thank you very much.
Full Report: Religion in Latin America
PUBLICATIONSNOV 13, 2014
Religion in Latin America
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