Religious beliefs in Spain
Roman Catholicism and SpainWhile Roman Catholicism is no longer an official state religion in Spain, as it was under the Franco regime, an overwhelming percent of the population is, at least in some way, still associated with the church. According to an April 2012 study by the Spanish Center of Sociological Research, roughly 71 percent of the Spanish population self-identifies as Roman Catholic. Other faiths account for a combined 2.7 percent of the population, while approximately 24 percent identify with no religion (9.4 percent of this total are atheists).
The estimated population of Spain currently stands at roughly 47.2 million. When you compare this figure to our data above, you’ll see that there are approximately 33 million Catholics in Spain, 7 million agnostics, 4.5 million atheists, and only about 1.2 million people practicing something other than Catholicism. These numbers would seem to suggest that the Sunday highway traffic in Spain—as the country’s 33 million Catholics are heading to mass—would be bumper to bumper with cars. This, as you might have guessed, is not the case.
In the same April 2012 study, the data showed that the preponderance of Spaniards do not participate regularly in religious services. In fact, of those residents who identify themselves as religious, only 14 percent attend church every Sunday or multiple times a week. Another 59 percent admit they “never or hardly ever” attend church services, 15 percent attend church a few times a year, and 8 percent attend church once or twice a month. This failure to participate in religious services has led to a downsizing of the Catholic church in recent years. The number of parish priests in Spain gradually diminished from 24,300 in 1975 to 19,307 in 2005. Additionally, the number of Nuns also dropped 6.9% during that period to 54,160 in the period 2000-2005.
Overall, about 22 percent of the population attends religious services at least once per month. This figure is down dramatically from that of the middle of the 20 century, when nearly half of all religious Spaniards attended mass frequently. It is not all bad news, though, when it comes to the future of the Catholic Church. While the Spanish society has certainly become increasingly more secular in the last several decades, the recent influx of Latin American immigrants is slowly helping the Catholic Church to recover.
Other Religious Faiths Practiced in SpainAlthough Roman Catholicism is far and away the most practiced faith in the Kingdom of Spain, nearly 3 percent of the population practices something other than Catholicism.
People of Muslim faith make up the most prevalent religious minority in Spain. This may seem rather odd considering that after the Reconquista in 1492; all Islamic adherents were expelled from the country, but the colonial expansion in northwestern Africa in the 19 century gave a number of the inhabitants living in Spanish Morocco and Western Sahara full citizenship. in addition, the number of Muslims has also been bolstered by recent immigration, particularly from Algeria and Morocco. According to a study conducted by Unión de comunidades islámicas de España, there are currently about 1.5 million individuals of Muslim background living in Spain. The majority of these inhabitants are immigrants who hail from Morocco and other African countries. However, according to the same study, 30 percent of Spain’s Islamic followers were actually born in the country.
Also expelled after the Reconquista were the Jews, who now total roughly 62,000 in Spain, or 0.14 percent of the population. They were allowed to re-enter the country in the 19 century, although most of the current followers of Judaism arrived during the past century.
Protestants of various denominations account for the second-largest religious minority in Spain, numbering approximately 120,000. They are followed (after the practitioners of Judaism) by Jehovah’s Witnesses, with roughly 105,000 members, and Mormons, who total 46,000 in numbers. Recent immigration into Spain has also led to an increasing number of Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.
Spanish Attitudes about ReligionAccording to the most recent Eurobarometer poll—an instrument used to collect certain social data regarding European countries and their citizens:
- Fifty-nine percent of Spaniards responded that “they believe in God.”
- Twenty-one percent answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”
- And nineteen percent responded that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force.”
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