I still remember my first communion. It was the perfect excuse to get your first cell phone back in the 90s. Whether you were a believer or not, attending the rites of Catholicism was not up for debate in our families.

However, that seems to be changing.

Loading the player...

A new report from the Pew Research Center found that the proportion of Catholics in the U.S. Latino population is declining considerably.

The new figures indicate that nearly one in four Hispanic adults (24%) identify as former Catholics.

The Pew Research Center obtained the data from a major national survey among more than 5,000 Latinos. And it indicates a significant shift in the religious identity of our community.

A conflict of faith?

The Pew Research Center survey found that of the estimated 35.4 million Latino adults in the country, some 19.6 million identify as Catholic (55%).

While that figure is still significant, the changing demographic identity is even more interesting.

The figures show that about 22% of Latinos surveyed are Protestant, and 18% have no religious affiliation.

The center surveyed adult Latinos under the age of 50, and the shift in religious identity was evidenced in age ranges.

For example, among younger Latinos, ages 18-29, the net shift was from Catholicism to no religious affiliation.

Among 30-49-year-olds, the movement has been away from Catholicism and toward both evangelical Protestantism and religious non-affiliation.

When the Pew Research Center conducted this survey in 2010, 67% of respondents identified themselves as Catholic.

No, this is not exactly a conflict of faith — although perhaps that is the case for some. The research center found that the decline has to do with the religious changes in Latin America. 

In our home countries, evangelical churches have gained massive followers. The other large part is people who have simply felt let down by the Catholic church or do not find a meaningful spiritual relationship in it.

When belief is religious and political

Another of the Pew Research Center’s important findings was that the three religious groups in the Latino community — Catholic, Protestant, and unaffiliated — also differ in social and political views.

Evangelical Protestants are on the conservative end of the spectrum, and the unaffiliated are on the liberal end. Latino Catholics are somewhere in between.

One of the opinions highlighted by the research was Latinos’ pro-equal marriage stance, which has increased from 30% to 46% over the past few years. This increase coincides with Latinos distancing themselves from Catholicism toward non-affiliation.

The same could be observed with issues such as abortion. While 54% of U.S. adults say abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, only four in ten Latinos take this position.

Overall, the survey found that, across all major religious groups, Hispanics identify more with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

Overall, 56% of Hispanics describe themselves as Democrats or as independents who lean toward the Democratic Party, the Pew Research Center explained. About one-fifth (21%) identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and about one-fifth (22%) lean toward either party.