Reading Time: 4 minutes

The results of a major new survey on religion in Latin America were released yesterday by the Pew Research Center.
Here are some of the takeaways when it comes to people without religion:
1) Uruguay has the greatest percentage of religiously-unaffiliated people:

The country even warranted a sidebar in the report explaining what’s going on there:

Laicidad, or the separation of religion and the state, has a long history in Uruguay. In 1861, the government nationalized cemeteries across the country, breaking their affiliations with churches. Soon after, the government prohibited churches from having a role in public education or issuing marriage certificates. Secularization continued in the 20th century: A new constitution enshrined the separation of religion from public life, references to God were removed from the parliamentary oath and religious references were dropped from the names of cities and villages.
Today, Uruguay has by far the lowest levels of religious commitment among the countries polled. Fewer than a third of Uruguayans (28%) say that religion is very important in their lives; in no other country surveyed do fewer than four-in-ten people say this. Relatively few Uruguayans say they pray daily (29%) or attend religious services weekly (13%). In neighboring Brazil, by contrast, 61% of adults say they pray daily, and 45% report attending services at least once a week.

2) Even when you break down the Unaffiliated group into atheists, Agnostics, and everyone else, Uruguay still stands out in each category… and U.S. Hispanics (as a group) come out looking far more secular in comparison to other countries:

In case you’re wondering, it’s not surprising that the percentages of atheists and Agnostics is so low down the line. (Even in the U.S., those numbers are in the low-single digits. There are a lot more people who’ll say they’re not religious than those who’ll admit to being atheists.)
3) When you look at the Unaffiliated group, most of them have low or medium-level commitments to religion… so it’s not like they’re super-religious and just hate religious labels. Good news all around.

4) The Unaffiliated, as expected, are younger than their religious counterparts:

5) In most countries, the Unaffiliated are more likely to have higher levels of education:

6) When it comes to understanding science, it’s not surprising which countries are most likely to accept evolution over Creationism. In the graphic below, blue is better.

And keep in mind: These numbers are generous. People who say we “evolved over time” may believe God guides the whole process.
7) Another effect of the religious demographics: It’s not surprising which groups of people are most likely to support marriage equality:

Nice work, Unaffiliated Uruguayans and Argentinians!
8) If you included the United States in that graphic, we wouldn’t be anywhere near the top:

9) Across Latin America, a lot of people raised in religious homes have either become Protestants or shed their labels altogether. And both groups are siphoning people off from the Catholic fold:

10) No, seriously, we’re all siphoning people off from the Catholic fold:

People with no religion also have experienced double-digit gains in a few countries, as more adults report having switched into the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated than report switching out. The unaffiliated have seen significant net gains in Uruguay (plus 15 points), Chile (plus 10 points) and the Dominican Republic (plus 10 points).

11) U.S. Hispanics are more than twice as likely to be Unaffiliated as people in Latin America: 18% vs. 8%:

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments