Pope Francis
Pilgrims watch Pope Francis on a video screen as he celebrates mass on Copacabana Beach.

Are Hispanics losing their religion? A new study indicates Hispanic-Americans are becoming increasingly atheist, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Indeed, the number of Latinos who say they do not follow a particular religion is growing to rival the number of evangelical Hispanics. A 2013 Hispanic Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that the number of Hispanics who are atheist or agnostic reached 12 percent, doubling the rate reported in 1990 by the American Religious Identification Survey. A 2012 survey by Patheos suggests the number may be as high as 14 percent. Given that 56% of Hispanics over 30 identify as Catholic, this increasing trend suggests somewhat of a dynamic shift among young Hispanics.

The trend towards agnosticism or atheism is nation-wide: a Gallup poll shows that in 2008 14.6 percent of Americans identified as non-religious, while in 2012 the number has risen to 17.8 percent. While the Hispanic number is slightly lower, it still indicates a move away from religious affiliation. The results are indicative of a wider social change, as Evangelical alignment often leads to conservative social views. The study also found that 80 percent of non-religiously affiliated Hispanics favored same-sex marriage, while only 21 percent of evangelical Latinos were pro marriage equality. Statistics for abortion found a similar result. Latina.com suggests that Hispanics are also more willing to express their faith or lack thereof, particularly among educated young adults: "becoming college-educated has ... encouraged them to open up about their anti-religious stance."

The Catholic Church is seemingly aware of the downward trend in religious affiliation among Hispanics in the US and indeed much of the western world: the election of Pope Francis as the first Hispanic Pope was a clear indication of the Church's desire to connect with Latino Catholics. The choice has proven popular: the PRRI poll also reveals that 84 percent of American Hispanics have a favorable view of the new Pope, and 81 percent have a favorable view of the Catholic Church. By constrast, a new Quinniac University poll shows that among non-believers, only 54 percent have a favorable view of the Catholic Church. The findings become even more relevant in the light of the Pope's latest statement in regards to atheists: "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists."

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