Hispanic Americans’ religious affiliation is changing.
Though Hispanics are still predominantly Catholic, 24 percent have now converted from Catholicism, according to a new Pew Research report.

While Pew noted a shift in religious affiliation over the past decade, the past four years has seen swift, significant changes.

In 2013, Pew found 55 percent of U.S. Hispanics self-identified as Roman Catholic, compared to 67 percent in 2010.

These former Hispanic Catholics have largely converted to Protestantism (16 percent in 2013; 12 percent in 2010) and religiously unaffiliated (18 percent in 2013; 10 percent in 2010).

Of those who became Protestant, 28 percent now associate with a Pentecostal congregation.

Regarding these trends, Pew commented, “Some religious polarization is taking place in the Hispanic community, with the shrinking majority of Hispanic Catholics holding the middle ground between two growing groups (evangelical Protestants and the unaffiliated) that are at opposite ends of the U.S. religious spectrum.”

The shift is present in all age groups. But Hispanics aged 18 to 29 saw the sharpest decline.

“Fewer than half of Hispanics under age 30 are Catholic (45 percent), compared with about two-thirds of those ages 50 and older (64 percent),” Pew noted.

When asked to give a reason for changing their religious affiliation, respondents cited the following: gradually drifted away, stopped believing the teachings of their faith, found another congregation that reaches out and helps its members, experienced a significant person crisis, moved to a new community, and married someone from a different faith tradition.

Thomas Reece, senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, commented, “The Pew study shows that the Catholic church cannot take Hispanics for granted. If they do not find a welcoming community with a lively liturgy, they may well leave for a Protestant, probably evangelical, church.”

The full report from Pew Research’s Religion and Public Life Project is available here.

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