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The share of Latinos who identify as religiously unaffiliated has been steadily increasing over the past decade, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center surveys. While Catholics remain the largest religious group among Latinos in the United States, their share has declined, while the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Latinos has grown substantially.
Catholicism among Latinos
As of 2022, 43% of Hispanic adults identify as Catholic, down from 67% in 2010. Despite this decline, Latinos are still twice as likely as the overall U.S. population to identify as Catholic. The share of Latinos who are religiously unaffiliated has also increased, standing at 30% in 2022, up from 10% in 2010. This percentage is now on par with the overall U.S. adult population.
Demographic forces shaping religious affiliation trends
The demographic makeup of the Latino population in the United States has played a role in the changing religious landscape. The growth of the Latino population has been driven by young people born in the U.S. rather than immigrants. Among U.S. Latinos ages 18 to 29, 79% were born in the United States, and approximately half of this age group now identifies as religiously unaffiliated. In contrast, only about one-in-five Latinos ages 50 and older are unaffiliated, with the majority of these older Latinos being foreign-born.
Protestantism among Latinos
Protestants, including evangelical Protestants, make up the second-largest religious group among Latinos, accounting for 21% of Hispanic adults. The share of Latino Protestants has remained relatively stable since 2010. Latino evangelicals, in particular, have received national attention due to the political activism of some evangelical churches. Among Hispanic Republicans, 28% identify as evangelical Protestants, compared to 10% of Hispanic Democrats.
Religious switching among Latinos
Many Latinos have switched away from their childhood religion, contributing to changes in religious affiliation. Among Latino adults, one-third indicate that their current religion is different from their childhood religion. Catholicism has experienced the greatest losses due to religious switching, with nearly a quarter of all U.S. Hispanics being former Catholics. In contrast, the religiously unaffiliated have seen the biggest gains, with fewer Latinos raised with no religious affiliation than currently identifying as unaffiliated.
Religious commitment among Latinos
Religious commitment among Latinos varies. Protestant Latinos, especially evangelical Protestants, tend to express high levels of religious commitment, with nearly three-quarters of evangelical Protestants saying religion is very important to them. Catholics fall somewhere in the middle, with 46% saying religion is very important to them. The religiously unaffiliated, on the other hand, are a relatively nonreligious group, with three-quarters saying religion is not important in their lives.
Praying in tongues and Latino Catholicism
Pentecostalism and other forms of charismatic Christianity have gained influence in Latin America, and this has also had an impact on Latino Catholicism. Nearly half of U.S. Hispanic Protestant churchgoers say their services include praying in tongues, and this is even more common among evangelical or born-again Christians. Among Mass-attending Latino Catholics, four-in-ten say their services involve praying in tongues.
The share of Latinos who are religiously unaffiliated has been growing, while the percentage of Catholics among Latinos has been declining. The demographic makeup of the Latino population, along with religious switching, has contributed to these changes. Protestantism has remained relatively stable among Latinos, with evangelical Protestants receiving attention for their political activism. Religious commitment varies among Latinos, with Protestants tending to have higher levels of commitment. The influence of Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity can also be seen among Latino Catholics, with a significant percentage reporting praying in tongues during services.