In Spain, the gap between Catholics and atheists is narrowing

The latest official figures, published in July, show that only one in five practice Catholicism, while atheism exceeds 16%.

Evangelical Focus

Protestante Digital · MADRID · 24 AUGUST 2023 · 09:25 CET

People attending a Spanish local festival. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="">Jez Timms</a>, Unsplash, CC0.,
People attending a Spanish local festival. / Photo: Jez Timms, Unsplash, CC0.

That the synergy between national identity and the Roman Catholic religion in Spain is in a continuing crisis is no secret. The latest barometer published by the Centre of Sociological Investigations of Spain (CIS) shows that the percentage of the population that identifies with Catholicism in the country continues to fall.

Two years ago, the same barometer carried out in July 2021 showed that 56.6% of the Spanish population considered themselves to be Catholic (practising or not). In the results published this July 2023, the sum between practising (19.2%) and non-practising (33.7%) reaches 52.9% of the population, almost four points below.

While just over 19% of those surveyed declare themselves to be practising Catholics, a close 16.2% identify themselves as atheists. In total, atheists, agnostics (15.2%) and “indifferent” plus “non-believers” (12.1%) account for 43.5% of the Spanish population.

“Believers in other religions”, as the CIS survey calls them, account for 2.5% of Spaniards, including the indicative 2% of the evangelical Christian community (according to 2021 statistics from the Observatory of Religious Pluralism). In the barometer of two years ago, the CIS assigned 4.7% to this category.


Little practice

In its survey, the CIS also asks respondents about their daily religious practice. In the case of 26.3%, it is non-existent. 19.3% answered “almost never” (45.6% in total).

23.4% say they attend a worship service “several times a year”, and 10% say “two or three times a month”, while 15.5% say they meet every Sunday or public holiday. Another 5.3% says they attend a religious service “several times a week”.


Decline also among young people

According to newspaper El Debate, based on the sae survey, twenty years ago 66% of under-25s in Spain identified themselves as Roman Catholics, and up to 70% of under-35s.

In 2023, only 37% of 18-24 year olds define themselves as Catholics and 31% of those under 35.

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