Culture

Atheist And Non-Religious Latinos Are Growing In Numbers

As a majority of U.S. Latinos, about 77 percent, identify as Christians according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Of those, 48 percent identifying as Roman Catholic and 19 percent identifying as Evangelical Protestant. It’s easy to see how some Latinos may not believe or approve of those who identify as Latino atheists.

Throughout centuries, Latinos have been linked to Christianity.

View this post on Instagram

#atheist #atheism #agnostic #secular #religion #god #faith

A post shared by Atheist (@atheist_memes_) on

This was mostly through the indoctrination of faith by Spaniards who brought over the Roman Catholic faith to the New World.

A multitude of memes, films and television shows portray Latinos as lighting a saint candle as an ofrenda, praying for El Tri to finally make it to the fifth round in the World Cup, or exclaiming ¡Ay,Dios mío! as a colloquial form of expression, but what about those Latinos who identify as non-religious or atheist? They do in fact exist and are growing larger in numbers.

According to the 2014 Pew’s religious landscape survey, 20 percent of U.S. Latinos identify as unaffiliated with any religion.

Jessica Martinez, an author for the Pew study, told NBC News in 2014 that Latinos between the ages of 18-29 are leaving Catholicism for non-religious affiliation.

Although smaller in number than Roman Catholics, non-religious and atheist Latinos want you to know they have the same strong moral compass as the person next to them who is praying to St. Anthony to help them find a parking spot in downtown traffic.

Here’s what a couple Latino atheists have to say about their lack of faith.

Eddie, 24, of Salvadoran and Mexican descent, grew up attending Catholic school until he headed off to college at a public university. When he was a sophomore in college, a debate with a Christian group on campus solidified the fact he wanted to identify as non-religious.

“After having a conversation with a Christian organization on campus and asking ‘So if a Buddhist monk lives his life along the same values as Christianity, just because he has grown to accept his faith, especially since geographically Christianity might have a smaller presence, is he destined to go to hell?’ When the response was ‘Yes, he would go to hell.’, I knew this wasn’t for me,” he said.

Eddie added after reading holy books and creation stories from other civilizations, he didn’t see Christianity as being “that special or unique to other religions of the past.”

While some Latinos such as Eddie changed their beliefs once they got older, others were raised in a non-religious household and continued their non-religious beliefs into adulthood.

One person wants others to know that religion is not necessary to have good morals.

Born in Argentina, Val, 35, said he was raised in a family that often talked about life, ethics, and history.

“My personal upbringing differed [compared to religious Latinos] because from a very early age, we were never lied to, about anything. My parents did their best to explain the world without creating narratives to simplify the unknown.”

He doesn’t consider himself an atheist, but instead just doesn’t believe in God or in organized religion.

“I just believe in life and the true evolution of earth and human kind,” he said.

While both Eddie and Val said they have family, friends and work colleagues who accepted their non-religious views, some Latinos and other members of religious communities still have misconceptions about non-religious people and atheists.

“I find few Latinos that are atheist or that don’t feel internally sorry for me for being one,” says Matias, 39, who was born and raised in Argentina throughout his childhood.

He said the biggest misconception about atheists is “that without religion one has no morals or values. It’s absolutely ridiculous and insulting.”

“I am an atheist, and while we never know exactly how we evolved, I am convinced of the absence of god and any truth in religious beliefs. Rarely do I get very negative, aggressive responses. But again, very few agree or take it seriously within the Latino community I am with,” he continued.

While views about religion among especially older Latinos is still seen in a traditional way, the misrepresentation and under representation of atheists at large in media and pop culture is bound for a change—a change Eddie is still hopeful for.

“[Atheist and non-religious Latinos] are possibly more underrepresented, but that’s what makes this time so pivotal. In so many areas, including religion, people are able to break the status quo and define what a Latino or atheist can look like,” he said.


READ: 10 Folk Religions You Didn’t Know Existed In Latin America And The Caribbean

What are your thoughts on religion as a Latino? Are you atheist or non-religious? Let us know in the comments below!

A Mexican-American Now Holds One Of The Highest Positions In The US Catholic Church, Could This Be An Anti-Trump Statement?

Things That Matter

A Mexican-American Now Holds One Of The Highest Positions In The US Catholic Church, Could This Be An Anti-Trump Statement?

America The Jesuit Review

The Catholic Church has had a varied position in the political spectrum in contemporary times in the Americas. While in South American countries such as Chile and Argentina it has aligned with conservative governments and those in power, in the United States this centuries-old institution has traditionally been seen as a progressive force that generally innovates when it comes to the inclusion of ethnic minorities (they are, however, still pretty conservative when it comes to gender and sexual diversity, and reproductive rights).

It should not come as a surprise that the conclave of US Catholic bishops just made a pretty big decision by choosing an immigrant archbishop as perhaps the highest ranking priest in the country. He is a defender of migrant rights and can potentially be highly influential with the Latino vote come the 2020 presidential election. 

José Gomez, an immigrant of Mexican heritage was just named the next president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

In vernacular terms, this is a BFD. Archbishop José Gomez leads the Church in Los Angeles, a key jurisdiction when it comes to important affairs such as immigration, bilateral relations with Mexico and progressive agendas that the Church traditionally opposes, such as same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana. Los Angeles is also the largest archdioceses in the country, in part due to the large population of Latinos and Filipinos, who are traditionally born and raised Catholic.

He was elected almost unanimously with 176 votes from his fellow bishops, with just 18 votes going to his opponent, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, who was subsequently voted vice president.

America The Jesuit Review sums up his background: “Archbishop Gomez, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, was ordained to the priesthood in the Opus Dei prelature in 1978. In 1980, he received a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of Navarra, in Spain. He served as a priest in Texas from 1987 to 2000”. Even though he comes from one of the most conservative congregations in the Church, the Opus Dei, he has made a career by defending the rights of the marginalized.

He is a defender of migrants and a fierce supporter of DACA, so his election could be read as a political statement.

Credit: America The Jesuit Review

Archbishop José Gomez has long defended migrant rights, which has made him popular among the Latino population of Los Angeles, one of the most multicultural metropolis in the world. Even though he had been serving as vice-president and his election followed tradition, some argue that it is also a sort of unofficial positioning of the Catholic Church against the iron-fisted immigration policies of the Trump administration, which have brought immense suffering to Latinos in the greater Los Angeles area, including forced family separations and deportations by the now despised government agency ICE. 

He doesn’t hold his words back when it comes to border affairs and the human crisis at hand.

Credit: The Intercept

As The New York Times reported, the archbishop said after his election: “We have this situation at the border, which is a tragedy. We are constantly talking about immigration, especially encouraging our elected officials to do something, and to come up with immigration reform that is reasonable and possible”. Traditionally the separation of Church and State has been pretty clear in the United States, but as some Christian Evangelical denominations have become quite tight with the Trump White House and validate its tough policies, perhaps the Catholic Church will be a counterbalance when it comes to political lobbying in defence of migrant rights. 

He was born in Mexico and now defends DACA recipients.

Archbishop Gomez, contrary to many men of the cloth, is very direct when it comes to his political position. In the eve of his election he read a message for DACA recipients from the pulpit, just as the Trump administration is fighting to reverse the program and as the president has called some DACA recipients “criminals” on Twitter.

The message read: “In this great country, we should not have our young people living under the threat of deportation, their lives dependent on the outcome of a court case. So, we pray tonight that our president and Congress will come together, set aside their differences, and provide our young brothers and sisters with a path to legalization and citizenship”.

As we said, he doesn’t hold back. This is an elegant way of opposing the POTUS without being confrontational. He also believes that there is a Latino wave in the Church, given that the Pope is Argentinian: “The fact that the pope is a Latino makes us feel a responsibility for the church. He has been a great blessing for me and for the church. For Latinos, it’s easy to understand some of the wonderful things Pope Francis is doing to reach out to people”. 

Just A Reminder That It’s Super Strange To Take Pictures With A Dying Man On The Cross

Culture

Just A Reminder That It’s Super Strange To Take Pictures With A Dying Man On The Cross

Like many aspects of Latino culture, we have a complicated relationship with Catholicism. While many of us grew up in the church and take solace in the ritual and community that the church provides, there are also some other aspects of the religion that are harder to deal with. For example, many Catholics express their love for Jesus in some…unusual ways. Anyone who grew up in the church knows that Catholics can be prone to depicting the death of Jesus on the cross in–some would say–graphic ways. Growing up, many Latinos don’t think twice about seeing explicit pictures of Jesus dying at their local parish.

But after Latinos grow up and are exposed to other lifestyles and religions, we develop a different perspective on Catholic art. Outside of our Catholic/Latinx bubble, we begin to see why a lot of people view Catholic art as morbid. And honestly, sometimes we can’t blame them. So, with both Dia de Muertos and Halloween quickly approaching, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to deep-dive into the sometimes weird world of Catholic art. Take a look below and see if any of these spark any memories!

1. The Towering Shadow of Jesus

@bishi_music/Instagram

Whoever thought this giant Jesus shadow was inspiring probably has a different idea of what brings people comfort than what your average person does. To outsiders, it may look intimidating, to say the least. 

2. The Floor Made of Bones

@danmstephenson/Twitter

Yes, Catholics have an unfortunate history of plastering their buildings with bones of their dead patrons. It was very trendy back in the day. We can’t say we want this one to come back in style.

3. Skeletons Everywhere!

@fakingitfab/Instagram

When non-Latinx people think of skeletons, they generally think of spooky stuff like Halloween. But many Latino Catholics have seen a skeleton or two pop up in their own cathedral’s decor (that still doesn’t mean it’s not a little spooky).

4. Morbid Public Rituals

@hildahoy/Twitter

You know an event is sufficiently Catholic when there is a life-size rendering of Jesus on the cross being carried by a group of people. When you’re experiencing stuff like this, you don’t even question it. 

5. Unfortunate Artistic Interpretations of Jesus

@jupit3rrr/Instagram

Look, no one really knows what Jesus looked like. We, however, hope Jesus didn’t look like many of the old and dilapidated statues that we have seen of him in certain cathedrals. It may have looked great back in the day, but some of these need some refurbishing.

6. Tone-Deaf Baked Goods

@hotoynoodle/Twitter

A quick internet search will turn up some unfortunate Catholic-themed baked goods that look like they were made by some clueless but well-intentioned abuelas. If you think these hands-of-Jesus cookies are bad, you should see the “blood of the lamb” cake we stumbled across on Pinterest. 

7. Uncanny Pope Memorabilia

@jscates/Twitter

Naturally, the Pope is someone to be venerated in the Catholic religion, but odd-looking artwork depicting His Holiness is…well, odd. Especially when it’s a dinner table’s centerpiece. 

8. This disproportionate statue of Jesus

@julie_van_winkle/Instagram

Again, it’s obvious that the artist had the best of intentions, but unfortunately, the execution left a bit to be desired. Odd artwork like this is par for the course in many smaller parishes.

9. Graphic Depictions of Saints Being Martyred

@julie_van_winkle/ Instagram

It’s art like this that we remember being particularly afraid of as children. Blood coming out of saints was hard to look at and may have kept us up at night once or twice.

10. Embalmed Bodies of Saints

@ktcoulter/Instagram

Most other religions don’t display their heroes of yore out in the open for everyone to see. Again, this is what makes being a Catholic a sort of secret society–it doesn’t feel unusual when you’re a part of it!

11. This altar dedicated to the preserved head of St. Catherine

@LectorGirl85/Twitter

Really, there are countless sites dedicated to displaying the bodies (or body parts) of Saints who are no longer with us. Like this altar that’s dedicated to displaying the mummified head of St. Catherine. 

12. Yes, it’s as creepy as it sounds:

@VivantBlondie97/Twitter

We can understand how outsiders would give this practice a bit of a side-eye. But they just don’t understand, okay?

13. This Glow-In-The-Dark Crucifix

@revinthenorth/Twitter

This one is equal parts funny and spooky. Who thought it would be a good idea to display this in a church? 

14. To sum up with this astute observation from a priest with a sense of humor:

@thehappypriest/Twitter

Truer words have never been spoken. Sure, Catholic art can be morbid, but for many Latinx people, being Catholic is a substantial and important part of their identity.