Nothing Can Stop The Spread Of Latin American Atheism

Feb 17, 2015

By Víctor Herrero

The specter of atheism is haunting this most Christian of regions, Latin America. From Mexico to Argentina, dozens of voices and groups of freethinkers, atheists and agnostics are demanding to be heard and calling for more secular structures in their countries.

Most don’t seek to convert the religious but instead to ensure that their own rights are respected in countries where separation of church and state isn’t often a flimsy legal concept.

These activists want “respect for diversity,” says Argentine engineer Fernando Esteban Lozada, Latin America spokesman for the International Association of Free Thought.

Four years ago, Lozada, who has organized four annual national atheism congresses in Argentina, took legal action against the Jesuit-run El Salvador University, or USAL, in Buenos Aires, for discrimination “based on religion.” USAL’s charter calls for a “struggle against atheism.” It was drafted in 1974 by the country’s then-ranking Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis.

Argentina’s National Institute Against Discrimination (INADI), which is part of the Justice Ministry, ruled in Lozada’s favor, though USAL has yet to eliminate the contested principle. Discrimination in education, traditionally a bastion of Latin America’s Catholic Church, is a chief concern for atheists and agnostics. In Chile, almost half of Catholic schools require baptism certificates of prospective students and parents’ church wedding certificates for admission — and these are not private schools, but institutions receiving state subsidies.

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8 comments on “Nothing Can Stop The Spread Of Latin American Atheism

  • Same in Ireland, but here, because of the shortage of places (thanks to Angela Merkel’s economic philosopy) there is a shortage of places, so Catholic schools, that is most schools, are forced to be more stringent in the matter.

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  • This is encouraging. I couldn’t read the whole article, but I wonder if it included Portuguese-speaking Brazil? I am interested in that populous country that has the largest number of Roman Catholics in the world (124 million), because of the scary growth of Protestant pentecostalism. Protestants as a whole now account for 22% of the population. I found a Pew Research poll that is cause for optimism for freethinkers. I have attached the link here. You have to scroll down to the explanation of the number of “unaffiliated” Brazilians, which “includes atheists and agnostics.” Since 1970 the number of Brazilians in this category have risen from 1 million to 8 million (from 1% to 8%).

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  • Catholicism is a flesh and blood inheritance, and often practiced wIth a cultural veneer whereas Pentecostalism is a choice and consequently is spread with an enthusiasm which isn’t found in Catholicism.

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  • Since when were the children of religious parents given much “choice” ?

    You might well be right about the enthusiasm of the Pentecostalists. I have heard that the indigenous spirit religions in South America also have got mixed up with the imposed Christianity. A real bloody mish-mash of indecipherable woo !

    Of course religion thrives upon poverty and ignorance. Mother Tereza loved poverty as does the RCC. It seems God loves poverty also !

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  • Mr Darcy , isn’t all religion a “mish-mash of indecipherable woo” ,? , I can understand how people in these countries must feel , because here in NZ , one of the least religious and most respectful of those who choose not to believe , I still feel that the Atheists of society are some of the most discriminated in society , even here , we have no political representation , despite there being christian and muslim members of parliament , there are no Atheist parties , clubs groups , Atheism is discouraged on every level , but religion , any crazy version you like , can get government funding charitable trust status , their own rooms for just them at our local high school , society bends over backwards for a muslim who has just arrived , and deny me an Atheist who was born and bred here , I am not happy .

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  • I live in Uruguay, considered the most secular country in the Americas (not just Latin America). Most politicians are openly atheist and there is no discrimination for whatever belief, or non-belief, one may have. That said, there is still a lot of pseudo-scientific thinking and superstition. Most morning shows and newspapers have a horoscope or tarot reading included. And people almost always finish a sentence with “gracias a Dios.”
    I didn’t understand the cover photo showing a pro-choice demonstration.

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  • Has some of the markings of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec when people were demanding that the Catholic Church get out of politics. Wouldn’t say it was “spreading” there either, just that those that held these beliefs finally got a chance to express them without being harassed. The Quiet Revolution was chock full of devout people inside and outside of the Catholic Church.

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