Largest Religions In Chile

More than two centuries after Chile's independence from Spain, the Catholic Christian faith of the conquistadors remains the largest in the country still today.

Religions Commonly Practiced in Chile

In the 15th Century, the Incas inhabited most of what is now present day northern Chile, but in 1533 the Spanish conquered them. Chile gained its independence from Spain on 12 September 1818. Over time a wide array of religions such as the Roman Catholic Church, the agnostics (Atheists), and evangelical churches and each having a sizable following. These religions were introduced by the colonialists, the missionaries, and settlers.

Roman Catholic Church

In the 16th Century, Dominican and Franciscan friars who were with the Spanish first introduced Catholicism into Chile. In 1547, the first parish was established and in 1561 a diocese was also established in the country. The religion was first introduced in the northern and central parts of Chile by around 1650, and the southern regions were reluctant to embrace the religion. Today Chile boasts of 5 archdioceses, 18 dioceses, two prelatures, one apostolic vicariate, one military ordinary, and a personal prelature. However, the numbers of the church membership have decreased significantly over the years as reported by 2002 census. The Roman Catholic Church has established six universities in Chile, and the famous ones include Catholic University of the holiest conception, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and Temuco Catholic University. There many religious sponsors who fund some primary, secondary schools and colleges in the country such as Saint George’s College, which is under the management of the Congregation of Holly Cross. Catholic holidays are celebrated by the nation and are recognized as a national holiday only if it falls on a weekday. These holidays include the feast of Saint Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, feast of Immaculate Conception, Good Friday, and all saints day. Presently, the church membership constitutes 63% of the population.

Protestant and Evangelical Christians

Protestants are the third largest religious following in the country, comprising a proportion of 14% of the total population of the country. The second largest religious followings are the Atheist and Agnostics forming 17% of the total population in the country. The history of Protestantism in Chile dates back to when the government allowed settlers from Germany to occupy the southern parts in the 1840s. Most of these settlers were Protestant and in 1865 the Chilean government acknowledged the faith despite the Catholic Church being the primary faith in the country. The settlers opened the way for the Protestants to give their services in Chile especially the Lutheran and Anglican. Protestant missionaries later formed the Presbyterian denomination. In 1909, groups separated and from the Pentecostal church introduced the evangelical Pentecostal church. A school such as Santiago College, launched by the American Methodist, was open to the middle and lower classes. Many parents that did not agree with the practices of the Catholic Church were persuaded to espouse the faith.

Smaller Faith Groups

Other religions, such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i, and Judaism, are present in Chile as well, but their numbers are less significant, collectively comprising only 6% of the population. The government of Chile has put in place constitutional laws that allow freedom of religion in the country. The different religions are not favored, and there is no discrimination by religion. Religion has contributed positively to the Chilean economy especially the education sector by establishing institutions of learning.

Largest Religions In Chile

RankBelief SystemShare of Chilean Population
1Roman Catholic Christian63%
2Atheist or Agnostic17%
3Protestant or Evangelical Christian14%
4Other Beliefs6%

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