The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – Catholic Latin American families are increasingly adopting the Protestant faith or are completely abandoning organized religion altogether, which is a major change in the religious identity of the region, according to a survey released last week.

While 84% of Latin American adults say that they were raised in the Catholic faith, only 69% currently identify themselves as such, said the Pew Research Center in Washington. Meanwhile, Protestantism has gained support.

For example, 1 in 10 Latin Americans were raised Protestant, but now one in five say they are Protestants. Additionally, 4% say they were raised without religion, but 8% say they have no ties to any faith.

The survey, conducted between October 2013 and February 2014, reveals the challenge facing the Catholic hierarchy in an area that was formerly a stronghold for the faith. The survey indicates that there are currently 425 million Catholics in Latin America, 40% of the parishioners in the world, but this number is rapidly declining.

This exodus was one of the reasons for the 2013 election of Pope Francis, former archbishop of Buenos Aires and the first Latin American pope. In most countries, two-thirds or more of the respondents expressed favorable positions for Francisco. But the authors of the Pew report claim that former Catholics are more skeptical about the pope. However, in Argentina and Uruguay a majority of former Catholics still supported him.

According to Pew, the percentage of Catholics who embrace Protestantism has increased steadily in recent decades in most of the 18 Latin American countries and Puerto Rico where the survey was conducted. “In almost all countries surveyed, at least one third of Protestants today were raised as Catholics and half or more say they were baptized,” says the report.

Most former Catholics who now profess the Protestant faith say that the reason for his decision was to have a personal connection with God. Others said they were looking for a different ritual or a church with more members and support.

The countries with the highest numbers of Catholics were Mexico (with 81% Catholic and 9% Protestant) and Paraguay (89% and 7% respectively).

Uruguay is the most secular country in Latin America with 37% of the population claiming agnostics, atheists or without religious affiliation and 42% were Catholics.

The more than 30,000 personal interviews were conducted in all Spanish-speaking Latin American countries except Cuba. The margin of error varies by country, of about 3 or 4 percentage points. (AP)

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

San Jose, Costa Rica