A new study out this morning from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center includes a chapter on religious conversion among Hispanics in America.

Basic Data on Latino Conversion:

“The vast majority of Latinos (82%) give no indication of ever having changed their religious affiliation. However, almost one-in-five (18%) Latinos say they have either converted from one religion to another or to no religion at all,” study authors write. Most Hispanics are Catholic, and most of those who convert join evangelical churches, study data reveals.

Notable Findings on Conversion:

Second-generation immigrants are eight percent more likely to convert than first-generation immigrants. “Though it is impossible to determine the precise extent to which conversion is a product of assimilation, it does appear that migrating to the United States, learning English and undergoing the other changes that occur with exposure to American ways do seem to be somewhat associated with changes in religious affiliation,” study authors write.

Of those Latinos who convert, nearly one in four leave religion in favor of secularism – and men are twice as women to make this move.

In spite of extensive media coverage of Latino conversion to Islam in America, the study found that less than 0.9% of Hispanics are Muslims. (See examples of media coverage here and here and here.)

Questions The Data Raise:

Does conversion happen simply because Hispanics who leave Catholic-dominated countries are now exposed to Protestantism, and evangelicalism in particular, in the Protestant-dominated United States? In other words, is conversion simply about exposure to new religions? Or is there something about “becoming American” that is associated with religious seeking and conversion?

Related Content:

“For Many Americans, Religious Identity is No Longer a Given,” by Andrea Useem, Religion News Service, Feb. 12, 2007. This article begins with the story of a Mexican-born Catholic woman who now practices a Hindu-influenced New Age faith with her Jewish American husband .

“Religion in a Globalizing World,” transcript of a talk by religion scholar Peter Berger at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Dec. 4, 2006, in which he argues that modernity and globalization inherently destabilizes religious identification.

American Religious Identification Survey 2001, from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). This survey is one of the most comprehensive studies to date on American religious identification. Interestingly, one of the fastest growing categories was “no religious identification.” According to this morning’s study from Pew, 7.8% of American Latinos identified as secular: Will this number continue to grow with assimilation?


1 Comment so far

  1. Religion and the Presidential Candidates: Fun Facts : Religion Writer.com on August 15, 2007 12:00 pm

    […] (That percentage may be lower now, since it declined by 2.3% between 1990 and 2001, and because an increasing number of American Hispanics are leaving Catholicism for other — or no- religions, according to a recent Pew Forum […]

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