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What are Mexican religious beliefs and religious relationships?

The World Values Survey, which is the most comprehensive global survey of citizen values and attitudes, clearly demonstrates that Mexicans view themselves as strong believers in God. Indeed, 98 percent said they believed in God, compared with 96 percent of Americans. Nine out of ten Mexicans believe that God is important in their lives and that they receive comfort and strength from religion. Mexicans are much more likely than people in the United States to consider religion important in their lives (see Table 11.1). Regardless of their beliefs and whether or not they attend religious services, three- quarters of Mexicans describe themselves as religious. This description might surprise some readers given the fact that much of Mexican political history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries involved conflicts between church and state, and the suppression of the Catholic Church by the Mexican government. Nevertheless, with the exception of the state of Tabasco, where local suppression of the Catholic Church and all other religious institutions was extreme in the 1920s and 1930s, Christian beliefs are widespread throughout the country. Approximately 81-85 percent of the population is self-described as Catholic, compared with only 67 percent of the population in Latin America. Five to eight percent of the population

Statement

Mexicans

(percent

agreeing)

Americans

(percent

agreeing)

Family is important in life.

99

98

Friends are important in life.

78

93

Politics is important in life.

45

53

Work is important in life.

96

82

Religion is important in life.

84

68

Most people can be trusted.

12

35

I am a member of a church or religious organization.

38

35

Protecting the environment is more important than economic growth.

63

37

Men have a greater right to a job than women.

17

6

Being a housewife is just as fulfilling as working for pay.

68

75

Men make better political leaders than women.

23

19

It would be good to have respect for authority.

83

55

Living under a democratic system is good or very good.

83

80

I have a great deal or some respect for human rights in my country.

49

62

I have a great deal of confidence in churches.

64

58

I would be opposed to having a neighbor of a different race.

10

6

God is important in my life.

92

66

Cheating on your taxes is never justified.

78

79

I am worried about a terrorist attack.

87

53

Source: World Values Survey, Wave Six, 2010-14.

is Protestant, most of these people falling into the evangelical category. Furthermore, more than 80 percent of Mexicans in 2015 reported believing in the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico and Latin America's most important patron saint, and nearly the same number of people pray to her. A tiny percentage of the population claims no formal beliefs or is atheist. Nine percent of the world's Catholics live in Mexico, which explains in part why Pope Francis visited Mexico for a week in 2016. Nearly half of all Mexican Catholics report attending church regularly, typically a much higher percentage than that of people who report regular church attendance elsewhere in Latin America, and three-quarters attend religious services once a month or more. A recent study indicates that one in five Catholics watches or listens to religious services on television, the Internet, or radio. Most Mexicans believe it is important to celebrate births and marriages during a religious service.

Religion, and particularly the Catholic Church, has become more influential in the past two decades, in part because a number of religious restrictions were removed from the Constitution in 1992. The Catholic Church views itself as providing leadership in spiritual matters, but it takes public positions on secular issues, including human rights, democracy, the economic welfare of the population, and what it considers to be moral issues, such as drug addiction and abortion. For example, Church leaders have been critical of the negative economic effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on poor Mexicans. Recently, they also have raised concerns about human rights abuses by the armed forces in carrying out the government's antidrug strategy. About a fifth of all Mexicans expect the clergy to take public positions on important policy issues. Consequently, the clergy has the potential to influence public opinion. Recently, half of all Mexicans said they would heed the opinions of religious leaders regarding politics even though two-thirds of citizens believe that such leaders should not influence government. In 2016, Confraternice, an organization of eight hundred religious associations, reminded religious leaders not to violate Article 130 of the Constitution by giving partisan support to candidates or political parties. Such a violation could lead to a fine of 1.5 million pesos. Furthermore, the Archdiocese of Mexico City, the country's most influential diocese, issued in its official publication a strongly worded statement condemning the extent of organized crime's influence on the 2016 elections and the continued level of violence and assassinations of journalists, and expressing the belief that some of those upcoming elections would take place in locations that can be described as failed states. The degree to which parishioners translate their religious activities into political participation is affected by differences among local dioceses and parishes. Moreover, half of all Mexicans believe that politicians who do not believe in God are unfit to hold public office. Mexicans overwhelmingly believe their religious institutions provide them with answers to moral problems and meet their spiritual needs.

 
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