Religion in South America has been a major influence on art, culture, philosophy and law and changed greatly in recent years. Roman Catholicism has rapidly declined. Most of this is due to the growth of Protestantism, particularly evangelical Christians.[1] A smaller number of South Americans are also beginning to identify as irreligious.[2] Sizeable adherents of other religions are also present, including of various indigenous religions.

Religious freedom

Currently, all countries in the region in general are separate of the Catholic Church and declared secular states, which guarantees freedom of religion for its inhabitants. However, in Peru, Roman Catholicism serves as the official religion. In that country Catholic religious education is mandatory, and in most of the region's nations Roman Catholicism still sways the population.


The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida is the second largest in the world, after only of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City.[3]

According to Pew Research Center 83.43% of the South American population is Christian,[4] although less than half of them are devout.


In many South American countries Catholicism is the most professed Christian denomination. In Paraguay, Peru, Colombia and Argentina more than three-quarters of the population is Catholic. Catholicism was the only religion allowed in the colonial era; the indigenous were forced to abandon their beliefs, although many did not abandon it at all, for example, countries with predominantly Amerindian population such as Bolivia and Peru there is a syncretism between indigenous religions and the Catholic religion, that has occurred since colonial times. In Brazil or Colombia, Catholicism was mixed with certain African rituals.


Protestantism has had a presence since the nineteenth century, as a minority, but witnessed a strong increase since the 1980's. The majority of Latin American Protestants in general are Pentecostal.[5] Brazil today is the most Protestant country in South America with 22.2% of the population being Protestant,[6] 89% of Brazilian evangelicals are Pentecostal, in Chile they represent 79% of the total evangelicals in that country, 69% in Argentina and 59% in Colombia.[5] On the other part, in Uruguay 66% of evangelicals are Methodist, while only 20% are Pentecostal.[5]


Brazil is the country with more practitioners in the world of Allan Kardec's codification of the Spiritism, followed by over 12 million people, with 30 to 45 million sympathizers. Most followers of the Spiritism are people that were mostly Catholic, Protestants and Atheists respectively.

Chico Xavier wrote over 490 books, which complements the spiritualist doctrine.

Eastern Orthodoxy

Eastern Orthodox Christianity was brought to South America by groups of immigrants from several different regions, mainly Eastern Europe and the Middle East. This traditional branch of Eastern Christianity has also spread beyond the boundaries of immigrant communities. There are several Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastical jurisdictions in South America, organized within the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Latin America.[7]

Oriental Orthodoxy

Several groups of Christian immigrants, mainly from the Middle East, Caucasus, Africa and India, brought Oriental Orthodoxy to the South America. This ancient branch of Eastern Christianity includes several ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the South America, like Coptic Orthodox Church in South America and Syriac Orthodox Church.[8]

Other Christians

Practitioners of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses religions also are exercised in Latin America.


Main article: Hinduism in South America

Hinduism is the second-largest religion in both Suriname and Guyana. According to the 2015 census of Suriname, Hindus constitute 23.1% of the population. While according the 2020 census of Guyana, Hindus constitute 31% of the populaition. Guyana and Suriname also have the Third and Fourth largest population of Hindus in the Western Hemisphere respectively, after the United States and Canada.


Indigenous creeds and rituals are still practiced in some countries with large percentages of Amerindians, such as Bolivia and Peru.

Other religions

The Mosque of Abou Bakr Alsiddq in Bogotá.

Argentina has the largest communities of both Jews[9][10][11] and Muslims[12][13][14] in Latin America. Practitioners of the Judaism, Buddhist, Islamic, Hinduism, Bahá'í Faith, and Shinto denominations and religions also exercised in Latin America.[15]


Country By Religion in South America (2020 estimate):

Countries Total Population Christians % Christians Population Unaffiliated % Unaffiliated Population Other % Other Population Sources
 Argentina 47,327,407 85.4% 37,420,000 12.1% 5,320,000 2.5% 2,000,000 [4][16]
 Bolivia 11,830,000 94% 11,120,000 4.1% 480,000 1.9% 230,000 [4]
 Brazil 210,450,000 88.1% 185,430,000 8.4% 17,620,000 3.5% 7,400,000 [4]
 Chile 18,540,000 88.3% 16,380,000 9.7% 1,800,000 2% 360,000 [4]
 Colombia 50,000,000 95.5% 47,750,000 4% 2,000,000 0.5% 250,000 [4][17]
 Ecuador 16,480,000 94% 15,490,000 5.6% 920,000 0.4% 70,000 [4]
 Guyana 850,000 67.9% 580,000 2% 20,000 30.1% 250,000 [4]
 Paraguay 7,630,000 96.9% 7,390,000 1.1% 90,000 2% 150,000 [4]
 Peru 32,920,000 95.4% 31,420,000 3.1% 1,010,000 1.5% 490,000 [4]
 Suriname 632,638 52.3% 300,000 6.2% 40,000 41.5% 240,000 [4]
 Uruguay 3,407,213 57% 1,990,000 41.5% 1,450,000 1.5% 50,000 [4]
 Venezuela 29,789,730 89.5% 29,540,000 9.7% 3,220,000 0.8% 250,000 [4]
South America 422,194,269 83.43% 385,210,000 9.18% 35,480,000 7.39% 11,080,000

See also


  1. ^ Franco, Marina (28 April 2022). "The decline of Catholicism in Latin America". Axios. Retrieved 6 October 2023.
  2. ^ Andres Henao, Luis; Pisarenko, Natacha (5 October 2023). "The Nones: South America". Associated Press. Retrieved 6 October 2023.
  3. ^ "Basílica de Aparecida aguarda 160 mil pessoas". Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Religious Composition by Country, 2010-2050". Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  5. ^ a b c «Luis Palau: Evangelist to Three Worlds», Christianity Today, 20 de mayo de 1983, pp. 30-1. Luis Palau, «The Gospel's Social Impact», Briefing (Portland, Oregon: Cruzada Luis Palau), verano de 1984, pp. 14-16.
  6. ^ "Censo Demográfico 2010". Archived from the original on 24 November 2020. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Organizations - Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Latin America". Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Meeting with the President of Brazil". 27 October 2016. Archived from the original on 11 March 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  9. ^ LeElef, Ner. "World Jewish Population". Archived from the original on 17 May 2020. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  10. ^ "The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute; Annual Assessment, 2007". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  11. ^ United Jewish Communities; Global Jewish Populations Archived 2008-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Argentina". Archived from the original on 4 June 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Argentina". Archived from the original on 3 August 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  14. ^ "Arabs and Muslims in Latin America". 17 March 2005. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 9 August 2015 – via
  15. ^ "Religion & Theology in Latin America - LANIC". Archived from the original on 5 November 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  16. ^ "Primeros datos provisorios del Censo 2022: Argentina tiene 47.327.407 habitantes" (in Spanish).
  17. ^ Carlos Hernando Ardila Arenas; Yolanda Bodnar Contreras; Carmen Elisa Flórez Nieto; Ciro Martínez Gómez; Álvaro Pachón Muñoz; Magda Ruiz Salguero; Beatriz Piedad Urdinola Contreras (12 July 2019). "Informe Comité nacional de expertos para la evaluación del censo nacional de población y vivienda de Colombia 2018" (PDF). (in Spanish). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 October 2021. Retrieved 23 August 2023.