The percentage of Hispanic Catholics in America has dropped, while the proportion of born-again Hispanics has increased, a new survey by the Barna Group found.
Over the past 15 years, the proportion of Hispanics in America that is aligned with the Catholic Church has fallen by 25 percent. By comparison, the proportion of born-again Christians for this ethnic group has increased by 17 percent.
"You cannot help but notice the changing relationship between Hispanics and the Catholic Church," commented George Barna, whose company conducted the research. "While many Hispanic immigrants come to the United States with ties to Catholicism, the research shows that many of them eventually connect with a Protestant church."
Moreover, many second and third generation Hispanic Americans are leaving the Catholic tradition, he noted.
The latest Barna survey studies the growing Hispanic population in America in terms of their faith and how they compare to the general American population. It finds that in a surprising number of key aspects the Hispanic population mirrors that of the nation's general population.
Some of the significant similarities between the Hispanic and the general American adult populations include nearly identical profiles on the perceived accuracy of the principles taught in the Bible; a personal sense of responsibility to share their faith with others; belief that the primary purpose of life is to love God fully; the likelihood of having read the Bible in the past week; and having made a personal commitment to Jesus that is important in their life.
"The study points out how significant faith is in the lives of Hispanics," Barna commented. "Not only do most of them assert that importance, but the fact that so much is changing in their faith perspectives and practices underscores how much energy they devote to their spirituality."
But the study also found significant differences that exist between Hispanic Americans and the general American adult population.
Hispanics are more likely to believe that a good person can earn his or her way into heaven than the overall American adult population. This growing group is also twice as likely to be aligned with the Catholic Church (44 percent vs. 22 percent).
The ethnic group was also found to be less likely than Americans overall to claim that they are "absolutely committed" to Christianity (46 percent vs. 58 percent).
But when it comes to the born-again segments, Hispanics and the general American adult population showed few differences.
According to the Barna report, a born-again Christian is not based on self-identification, but rather on certain qualifications as defined by the Barna Group.
Survey results are based on telephone interviews conducted by The Barna Group gathered from nine nationwide random samples of adults. In total, 9,232 interviews were conducted between January 2007 and November 2008. Respondents were asked during the interviews if they consider themselves to be Hispanics. Out of the more than 9,000 people interviewed, 1,195 adults fell into the Hispanic category.