Religion and Philosophy

Why the Catholic Church Is Losing Latin America

The same thing is now happening in Latin America that happened in North America previously. As mainstream US churches started to become largely social institutions oriented towards secular issues, people who wanted “real religion” started moving toward evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Now the same process is being played out in Latin America. Ironically, “liberal churches” are now growing or at least have stopped shrinking in size relative to evangelicals in the US because more people are leaving evangelicalism, and either becoming non-believers or repopulating mainstream churches. Although, on a worldwide basis, Africa is the current hotspot for evangelicalism and for Christianity generally. I suspect that the future of evangelicalism and to some degree “religious conservatism” as a whole in the US will be among Latin American and other “Third World” immigrants. Meanwhile, “white evangelicalism” will become more like the Mormons in the sense of being a zealous but relatively small and marginalized subculture.

The Wall Street Journal

RIO DE JANEIRO—Tatiana Aparecida de Jesus used to walk the city’s streets as a sex worker, high on crack cocaine. Last year, the mother of five joined a small Pentecostal congregation in downtown Rio called Sanctification in the Lord and left her old life behind.

“The pastor hugged me without asking anything,” said Ms. de Jesus, 41, who was raised a Catholic and is one of more than a million Brazilians who have joined an evangelical or Pentecostal church since the beginning of the pandemic, according to researchers. “When you are poor, it makes so much of a difference when someone just says ‘good morning’ to you, ‘good afternoon,’ or shakes your hand,” she said.

For centuries, to be Latin American was to be Catholic; the religion faced virtually no competition. Today, Catholicism has lost adherents to other faiths in the region, especially Pentecostalism, and more recently to the ranks of the unchurched. The shift has continued under the first Latin American pope.


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