Is religion’s influence on Latinos fading?

Two recent polls caught my attention.

The first was taken at the height of Tebow-mania, when many otherwise rational adults believed that a mediocre quarterback could actually win the Super Bowl.

According to the survey, 43 percent of Americans “believed divine intervention was at least partly responsible” for Tim Tebow’s success. But most shocking was the claim that “a whopping 81.3 percent of Latino respondents answered yes, God has a headset,” implying that four out of five Latinos believed that the Man upstairs directly intervenes in something as trivial as a football game.

Now, I’ve written before about the powerful influence of religion, especially Catholicism, on Latino culture.

The Tebow poll indicates that Latinos are still tight with the idea of God watching over them and, if necessary, interfering with human activities.

However, the results of another poll mess with that easy conclusion. The survey comes via the awkwardly named National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. The NLIRH poll tackled one of the big theological and societal issues: abortion.

They found that 74 percent of Latinos “agree that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion.”

This is a shocker. As we all know, the Vatican has decreed abortion to be a mega, no way, deal killer, whooper of a sin. And yet, 68 percent of Latinos agree with the statement “even though church leaders take a position against abortion, when it comes to the law, I believe it should remain legal.”

How can this be?

Well, no doubt, some of those respondents are among the growing numbers of Latino atheists. In the past, a Latino non-believer was about as common as a Jewish folksinger at a John Birch convention. But, just as America itself is growing more agnostic, so are Latinos. Still, the poll’s results cannot solely be the result of a few more Latinos saying, “No thanks” to the concept of God.

Most Latinos still believe in the Big Guy. They just don’t necessarily agree with organized religion’s dictates. This is potentially a sea change of massive proportions. For Latinos, religion influences everything from how we spend our Sundays to who we vote for.

Perhaps that institution’s power is now being called into question. Certainly, one poll does not definitively prove anything. But the bigger picture is that, for the first time, Latinos are seriously questioning the role of religion in their lives.

Now, it may be decades before we see the outcome of this process. In the meantime, I have one thing to say to those who insist that God plays favorites on the football field.

If God were really interested in who wins the Super Bowl, my Green Bay Packers would have repeated as champions this year.

Now that’s ironclad proof.

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