In 2006, the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life collaborated on a series of public opinion surveys. Together they interviewed some 4,600 Hispanic adults living in the United States. The surveys explored the religious beliefs and behaviors of Hispanics and compared them with non-Hispanic believers.
According to the findings, more than 90 percent of Hispanics identified as Christians. Approximately 68 percent of them identified as Catholic, while a significant minority identified as Protestant. Approximately 10 percent claimed no religious affiliation and less than one percent practiced Judaism, Islam or another non-Christian faith.
The Hispanic Catholic faith is rooted in the Spanish occupation of Latin America, which began in the late 15th century during a time when Spanish conquerors forced Indians living in Latin America to accept the Christian faith. Nearly 70 percent of Catholic Hispanics in the PEW finding reported that they attended an ethnic church where Spanish is the spoken language, and the majority of clergy members and parishioners are Hispanic.
Catholic Hispanics tended to agree with traditional church teachings more than non-Hispanic Catholics. Forty-four percent of those surveyed believed women should be ordained as priests, compared with 65 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics. Additionally, 44 percent of Hispanic Catholics favored allowing priests to marry, compared with 76 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics.
According to the PEW survey, about 20 percent of Hispanics in the United States are Protestant, most being Pentecostals, and the minority being Baptists and non-denominational Christians. Of those Hispanics who are evangelicals, about half are converts, most of them being former Catholics. Ninety percent of the evangelical converts reported that they chose to change religions because of a desire for a more personal relationship with God. Other reasons given for conversion to Protestantism include a desire for more lively worship, more programs for men and young people, and a stronger sense of community.
Renewalist Christianity is a movement centered on the belief that God, through the Holy Spirit, can intervene in people's daily lives. Renewalists believe in miracles, healings, speaking in tongues and prophesy, which have some roots in historical Hispanic culture. More than half of Hispanic Christians are affiliated with the Renewalist movement. Renewalists often engage in small prayer groups, share their faith with others and believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Beliefs and Practices
Almost 70 percent of Hispanics pray every day. Smaller percentages attend church services weekly. Among Catholics, 42 percent surveyed attend church every week; for evangelicals, the number is higher, with 70 percent claiming weekly attendance. About 80 percent of Hispanic evangelicals read the Bible at least once a week and evangelize at least once a month. Among Catholics, 86 percent display a crucifix or other religious item, and 79 percent pray to the Virgin Mary or to the saints. Devotion to Mary is an important belief in Hispanic Catholicism, with 88 percent of Catholics reporting their belief that Mary is the mother of God and that she watches over believers.
- Pew Research Hispanic Center: Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion
- Pew Research Hispanic Center: Religious Practices and Beliefs
- Pew Research Hispanic Center: The Renewalist Movement and Hispanic Christianity
- Pew Research Hispanic Center: The Ethnic Church
- Pew Research Hispanic Center: Conversion and Views of the Catholic Church
- Pew Research Hispanic Center: Religion and Demography
- National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference: Lation Religion in the U.S.: Demographic Shifts and Trends
- LatinoTeca.com: Latino Religion, Ritual and Culture by Beatriz Morales, pages 2-3 and 17-18
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