Planning a trip to Chile anytime soon? Great choice. Making the most of any vacation involves an understanding of the local lifestyles, culture and customs. In Chile, religion plays a significant role in society, so we’ve put together this quick guide to understanding Chile’s major religions.
Understanding Chile’s religions
Chile separated church and state in 1925, though religion is a big part of private life here all the same. The biggest religion in Chile, by far, is Christianity. Chilean Christians account for 72% of the population, split mostly between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Beyond that, all manner of faiths are represented. Chileans follow Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism and more besides. We’ll run through the top Chile religions that you are likely to encounter on your trip.
Chile religion #1: Catholic
Well over half of Chileans identify as Roman Catholic, so chances are high that you’ll meet some Catholics on your travels. Spanish colonialists introduced Catholicism to Chile in the 16th century, and today the faith is around nine million strong. The Chilean government observes many Catholic religious holidays, and the Catholic church is involved in education, running a number of universities, primary schools and secondary schools.
Chile religion #2: Protestant
Another branch of Christianity, Protestantism is the second most popular religion in Chile. Around 13% of Chileans identify as Protestant, and branches include Lutheran, Anglican and Presbyterian. The history of the Protestant religion in Chile is more recent, dating back to the 19th century.
Chile religion #3: Mormon
Officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormonism in Chile has more than half a million followers. Santiago is home to Chile’s first Mormon temple, the Santiago Chile Temple. The Mormon religion in Chile dates back to the late 1950s, when the first branch was formed in 1956.
Other religions in Chile
Christians are in the majority, and there’s a significant minority of Mormons, too. The other major (and some minor) world religions are also represented here, including:
- Bahá’í Faith, a relatively young world religion, has been active in Chile since 1940. There are conflicting figures as to how many followers the religion has, but it’s probably between 5,000 and 25,000.
- Judaism as a religion in Chile dates back to at least 1535, and has over 16,000 followers today.
- Islam is small in Chile. The first Muslim institution was established in 1926. There are little more than 3,000 Chilean Muslims today.
- Hinduism is tiny in Chile, with fewer than 1,000 followers.
- Buddhism has a small but growing presence, largely influenced by the influx of Japanese residents in Brazil to Chile.
Non-religious beliefs in Chile
Though religion is widespread, almost a quarter of the Chilean population identify as atheist or agnostic, or do not follow any particular religion. Little more than a quarter of the total Chilean population, religious and non-religious, consider religion to be “very important”.
Whether you are religious or not, you will be welcome in Chile. Religion here is part of everyday life, but it is not the whole story. Be aware of religion in Chile, and be considerate of those beliefs, and you’ll get on just fine. Brush up on your Chilean Spanish, and you’re good to go!