Writing in the Christian Century, Philip Jenkins suggests that there are signs of an early stage European style “secularization” at work in parts of Latin America, as evidenced by changes in birth rates as well as social attitudes:
Several factors shape a country’s religious outlook, and prosperity and the welfare net certainly play a role. A country’s fertility rate also tells us a lot about attitudes toward religion. When a country develops economically, women are needed to enter the workforce rather than remain in the home. Meanwhile, shifting religious values place less pressure on women to have large families. In turn, smaller families mean diminished links with religious structures—fewer children go through religious education or first communion classes. And couples who have decided to limit families tend to run up against church policies on issues of contraception and abortion. When sexuality is separated from conception and child-rearing, people are more open to nontraditional family structures, including gay unions. Whatever the causes, the European experience indicates that countries where the fertility rate falls well below replacement (2.1 children per woman) might be facing rapid secularization.
According to Jenkins birthrates have been steadily declining in the most developed Latin American nations, while rates of disaffiliation have been on the rise, particularly among younger generations. What does it mean for future generations of Latin Americans? Jenkins doesn’t believe it is time to “start writing the obituary for Latino faith,” but suggests instead that such faith “will be taking quite surprising forms in the near future.” Read the full article here.