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Study: Hispanics Transforming Nation's
bout half the nation's Hispanics--including many who are Roman Catholic--consider themselves to be charismatics or Pentecostals, creating a new confluence of streams in American Christianity.
"Simply put, Latinos are transforming the nation's religious landscape," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, one of two organizations that produced a new study.
The survey and accompanying report, released Wednesday (April 25), found that 68 percent--or two-thirds--of Hispanics describe themselves as Roman Catholics while 15 percent are evangelical or born-again Protestants. Eight percent do not identify with a religion.
A joint project of the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the report details results of a bilingual telephone survey of 4,016 Hispanic adults between August and October of 2006. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The religious practice of Hispanics--across religious persuasions-- is a daily, active one, researchers found. Seventy percent of all Hispanics have a crucifix or other religious object in their home. And 58 percent pray to the Virgin Mary or saints at difficult times.
Among Latino Christians:
-- 75 percent believe in miracles
-- 71 percent say religion is very important
-- 70 percent pray every day
-- 53 percent believe the Bible is the literal word of God
-- 52 percent believe Jesus will return in their lifetime
-- 47 percent attend church at least weekly
-- 29 percent speak in tongues at least weekly
Hispanic Catholics are four times as likely as non-Hispanic Catholics to describe themselves as charismatic, but they do not discard traditional Catholic teaching, the report notes. Instead they incorporate charismatic practices into their religious life.
For example, 62 percent of Latino Catholics who attend church services said the Masses at least occasionally include displays of enthusiasm such as clapping, the raising of hands, jumping, or shouting.
"The clear finding here is that taking on a charismatic identity seems to be strengthening rather than weakening Catholic identity so that those two things are able to coexist and ... reinforce each other in some very significant ways," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
While almost half of formerly Catholic Hispanic evangelicals--46 percent--disapprove of the Catholic Church's position against divorce, only 5 percent of them cite that as their reason for leaving the church.
In comparison, 61 percent of Latino evangelical converts from Catholicism said they don't find the typical Catholic Mass to be exciting. Thirty-six percent cited that as a factor in their conversion.
The majority of Latino churchgoers attend predominantly Latino congregations that have Latino faith leaders and offer services in Spanish. Spanish services appeal to Hispanics who also speak English well, which Suro said shows "ethnic clustering" is not exclusive to recent immigrants.
"They worship in Spanish even though English may be the language they speak at work, the language they speak with their neighbors," he said.
Researchers also delved into how religion affected the political viewpoints of Hispanics. Two out of three Latinos said their religious beliefs have a very important or somewhat important influence on their political thinking. A majority of Hispanics -- 56 percent -- said churches and other houses of worship should express their views on political questions while 37 percent said they should keep out of political matters. More than a quarter said clergy at their house of worship speak about candidates and elections.
And there are telling gaps between some religious sectors of Hispanics when it comes to election hopes.
"If you're Republican, your best prayer for this is, `Let them convert from Catholicism to evangelicalism and please, Lord, let them be regular church attenders,'" Lugo said. "Those two are very strongly correlated with Hispanics becoming Republican."