How Many Hispanic ‘Nones’ Are There? Survey Says 14%!

We tend to think of ethnic minorities as being more religious than the general population, but new data shows this may not be the case any more. The Pew Hispanic Center just released the results of a nationwide poll and found that non-religious Latinos are more numerous than we might think.

In fact, unaffiliated Hispanics — the “nones” — make up 14% of the demographic (compared to 19% of the general population). That’s *huge*. I know, I know, not all of them are “atheists” — but many of them are and there’s no reason to think the proportions are different between the two groups.

Not only that — 50% of unaffiliated Hispanics say religion is not very relevant in their lives!

Half of them!

That means that there are more Latino/a atheists (and apatheists) out there than we previously imagined — people who don’t find religion relevant and who aren’t affiliated with any one particular faith.. Many of them may be looking for an organization to join, a place to discuss their (usually) religious upbringings, somewhere their families feel welcome.

What are we doing to reach out to them and make them feel appreciated?

(via The LatiNone)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LightAngel

    Colombian atheist here! Born in Colombia but raised in the states, and raising two atheist kids.

  • Lenna

    As a hispanic atheist, this is even a little surprising to me.

  • Anonymous

    For a college assignment, I interviewed a Latino family who had immigrated to the U.S. two years ago. I went in expecting that they probably attended one of the local Catholic or charismatic Spanish-speaking churches. I also went in assuming they received help from the local Catholic charity for new immigrants. Turned out my assumptions were wrong, as they didn’t attend church, didn’t receive any help from the charity, and were perfectly happy spending Sunday at home as a family. At the time, I thought they were an anomaly of sorts (especially for our highly religious town), but seeing these stats, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  My stereotype was incorrect… who’d have thought?!  ;-)

  • Jeduthun78

    Thanks for including a banner in Catalan! I doubt many Hispanics speak the language, though. You might want to try Spanish instead…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Dammit, I thought that was Spanish! I’ll try to swap it out later…thanks for catching it!

    • Dudeman

      I was wondering what language that was. I speak French and Spanish, and it was both but neither…

  • Katie

    I am hispanic and atheist.  It is interesting to know that it is not such a rarity. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=589210320 Victor Harris Jr.

    I’ll just leave this here for all the Hispanic Freethinkers. http://hafree.org/ One of the organizers gave a presentation at the AA Convention this year. 

    • Katie

      Thank you for posting this.

  • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

    Thanks Hemant for the link. One of the main problems with non-religious Latinos, and nonreligious Americans in general, is that we tend to think we are the only ones. I was going to link to HAFree but Victor beat me. There’s also Latino Atheists in Chicago, I’ll be meeting them next week during my trip to the Windy City.

    • chicago dyke, venomous lesbian

      this is always surprising to me, and reminds me what a priv’d life i’ve led in this respect. i have no religious friends, family (except one) and the vast majority of my clients and people i work with are similarly atheist or agnostic or just don’t consider it an important topic. i guess i move in very rare circles or something, but i read these stories here about people afraid to be out about their atheism, and it’s just shocking and foreign to me. 

  • Rieux

    Happy news indeed.

    This past year or so seems to have come with lots more news about, and visibility for, diversity in the atheist community. I think it’s fantastic.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Since when does unaffiliated mean atheist? It could mean that they attend a non denominational church.  Frankly at my church which is a nondenominational church of about 7000, we have a very large number of Hispanic members. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      That’s what I said. They’re not all atheists.

      • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

        Hemant, although they’re not all atheists, they’re certainly not affiliated with a religion. Very few, if any, nondenominational Christians will fall through the cracks, because they may not have an official denominational affiliation (e.g. Methodist; Episcopalian) but they have a religious identification (Christian).

    • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

      “Unaffiliated” in Pew-speak means basically not affiliated with religion. This term captures basically the same population of “nones” in the ARIS surveys. Non-denominational people are considered Christians because they have a very thorough probing of religious affiliation.

  • http://therovingrockhound.myopenid.com/ Rovin’ Rockhound

    Another hispanic atheist here. I wonder if a fraction of the catholics that say religion is somewhat important wouldn’t start calling themselves atheists if it became culturally acceptable. I’m surprised at how long I listed myself as catholic even when I was very much an atheist – and I still lie to my family/country-of-origin-friends about it.

    • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

      You’re into something. In the sociological literature, religious identification is the last thing to go. The process goes from loss of behavior (stopping attending church or praying), loss of belief, and then loss of identity.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder what the sociological literature about religiosity in Latin America has found. Did many European freethinkers find refuge in Latin American countries and influence the Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking cultures to some extent? Did the local intellectual elites turn to the writings of European freethinkers for guidance in modernizing their countries?

    For example, I’ve read that Auguste Comte’s idea of a “religion of humanity” gained influential adherents in 19th Century Brazil and Mexico.References:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/comte/ 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_of_Humanity 

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/117700/cientifico

    • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

      That’s a good question but I think you’re over-thinking this. But first, a couple of disclaimers. I’m a political scientist, not a sociologist (many of my colleagues are) nor a historian. Also, from what I know about the sociological and political literature on religion in Latin America, most of the scholarship is interested in conversions from Catholicism to Pentecostalism, very few scholars focus on secularism or “laicismo,” one of the most important is Roberto Blancarte from Mexico who I constantly link to in my bog. 

      What I originally posted and that Hemant nicely summarizes is a trend among Latinos in the U.S.A. Most Latinos are not immigrants from Latin America, and the ARIS Latino Report (www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org) finds that foreign-born Latinos are more religious (and Catholic) than U.S.-born Latinos. The Pew survey cited in the post finds this as well. In fact, 20% of 2nd generation are nonreligious in the Pew (22% U.S.-born Latinos in the ARIS ), similar to the rate among the U.S. population in general. So when think about the rising secularity of Latinos in the U.S. it is a necessity to stop stereotyping Latinos as the “other” and as “foreign” and assuming that this trend originates in Latin America. Instead it is a testament to the losing grip of religion in American society at large.

  • chicago dyke, venomous lesbian

    again, i wonder how much the internet has to do with this. is there an age breakdown of this group? i have been arguing lately that the internet is killing religion faster than anything we could ever do, among the young at least. i could be wrong of course, but it seems to me once a kid figures out that they can google any and all religions, the critiques of them, and find people with different or no belief, it’s all good for our cause from there. i used to work with teens a lot, and saw this quite a bit. the lure of things like gaming and fantasy worlds in which religion is a tool to help you win points for your character go a long way towards breaking down respect for the mythologies of today’s religions. 

    • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

      I have no empirical evidence for this, and off the top of my head, designing a study that could capture an “internet effect” would be rather difficult. My own opinion is that the share of people with doubts or some level of distrust of religion is even larger than the 15-19% showing up in surveys. We have, however, reached a time in history when the authority of religion and religious leaders is damaged enough in the U.S. and it is so common that people don’t go to church anymore that many are taking the next logical step and admitting that they either “don’t believe” or “don’t care.” I think the web has made people predisposed to distrust religion to find information about this without having to “out” themselves but that would be a self-selection process since the people looking for that type of info are the same who are the more likely to leave in the long term. 

      • bismarket

         I agree with both you & chicago dyke, i’m confident there is an”Internet effect”. Going by my own experience i had my doubts about religion from as far back as i remember & although i was aware of Atheism as a “Thing” i associated it wil the so called elites & intellectuals. It wasn’t until i had regular internet access that i saw “Normal” people claiming the label & realised that i had been in fact an Atheist all along. I’m sure there must be many others who have had similar experiences. I live in the UK & there is not a large hispanic/spanish population here, i do have a few Portuguese friends all of whom are nominally Catholic but none of whom ever talk of religion & i’ve never known any of them go into a church. I am now curios to know about their beliefs & am going to ask them.

  • Anonymous

    “Bueno Sin Dios!”   We need a billboard with that in the Southwest.

  • http://badbluemoon.wordpress.com/ BadBlueMoon

    I’m one of them (and proudly so)! 

  • mkb

    I do volunteer work with Hispanic kids.  We don’t specifically talk about religion because that is not the point but I have been surprised how little of a role it appears to play in many of their lives.

  • Drew M.

    I’m one too, although I am quite the rarity in my circle of family, friends, and neighbors.

  • Anonymous

    Well the real number to analize, in order to get a closer aproximate to the number of atheists, is 7%, since half of the 14% said that religion is at least somewhat important to them and therefore, we can conclude that they are theists. The question is, out of the 7%, how many are atheists?

  • Anonymous

    Hemant,

    Since you are an acquaintance, if not already a friend, of David Silverman, would you propose to him to erect the “You know it’s a myth” billboards in spanish in Hispanic enclaves?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I think (but don’t know for sure) that they’re working on additional language billboards that will be coming out soon.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure if this should be taken as heartening. Latinos have had a long romance with communism and it just may be a lot of these people are Che type admirers of what is a irrational religion in it’s own right.

    • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

      Thank you for your sweeping generalization and nuanced evidence of Latino long relationship to communism. Very enlightening

      • Anonymous

        What word in “not sure” or “lots” are you unfamilar with.  

  • MM

    Hispanic atheist here as well. Glad to know there are some mant of us!


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