Roman Catholic Christianity is the largest religion in Spain, but practical secularization is strong. Only 3% of Spaniards consider religion as one of their three most important values, even lower than the 5% European average. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 abolished Catholicism as the official state religion, while recognizing the role it plays in Spanish society. As a result, there is no official religion and religious freedom is protected.
According to the Spanish Center for Sociological Research, 68.5% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholic Christians, 2.6% as followers of other faiths (including Islam, Protestant Christianity, Buddhism etc.), and 26.4% identify as atheists or non-believers as of January 2018 . Most Spaniards do not participate regularly in religious worship. This same study shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 59% barely ever attend mass, 13.3% attend mass a few times a year, 9.9% few times per month, 14.1% almost every Sunday, and 2.2% multiple times per week.
Although a majority of Spaniards are Catholics, most, especially those of the younger generations, ignore the Church's moral doctrines on issues such as pre-marital sex, sexual orientation or contraception. The total number of parish priests shrank from 24,300 in 1975 to 18,500 in 2018, with an average age of 65.5 years. The number of nuns dropped by 44.5% to 32,270 between 2000 and 2016; most of them are old. By contrast, some expressions of popular religiosity still thrive, often linked to local festivals.
While Roman Catholicism is still the largest religion in Spain, most Spaniards--and especially the younger--choose to ignore the Catholic teachings in morals, politics or sexuality, and do not attend Mass regularly.Irreligiosity, including Agnosticism and Atheism, enjoy social prestige in line with the general Western European secularization.
Culture wars in Spain are far more related to politics than religion, and the huge unpopularity of typically religion-related issues like creationism prevent them from being used in such conflicts. Revivalist efforts by the Catholic Church and other creeds have not had any significant success out of their previous sphere of influence. According to the Eurobarometer 83 (2015), only 3% of Spaniards consider religion as one of their three most important values, just like in 2008 and even lower than the 5% European average. And according to the 2005 Eurobarometer Poll:
Evidence of the secular nature of contemporary Spain can be seen in the widespread support for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Spain -- over 70% of Spaniards support gay marriage according to a 2004 study by the Centre for Sociological Research. Indeed, in June 2005 a bill was passed by 187 votes to 147 to allow gay marriage, making Spain the third country in the European Union to allow same-sex couples to marry. This vote was split along conservative-liberal lines, with Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and other left-leaning parties supporting the measure and the center-to-right People's Party (PP) against it. However, when the Popular Party came into power, the law was not revoked. Changes to the divorce laws to make the process quicker and to eliminate the need for a guilty party have also been popular.
The recent waves of immigration, especially during and after the 1990s, have led to an increasing number of Muslims and Protestants. Nowadays, Islam is the second largest religion, but far behind Roman Catholicism and irreligion. A study made by Unión de comunidades islámicas de España showed that there were almost 1,900,000 inhabitants of Muslim background living in Spain in 2016 (4% of the total population.) The vast majority was composed of immigrants and descendants originating from Morocco and other African countries. Almost 780,000 of them had Spanish nationality.
Protestantism in Spain has also been boosted by immigration, but remains a small testimonial force among native Spaniards. Spain has been seen as a graveyard for foreign missionaries among Evangelical Protestants. Protestant churches have about 1,200,000 members.
Jews in Spain account for less than 1 percent of the population, mostly in Barcelona, Madrid and Murcia.
Along with these waves of immigration, an important number of Latin American people, who are usually strong Catholic practitioners, have helped the Catholic Church to recover part of the attendance that regular Masses (Sunday Mass) used to have in the sixties and seventies and that was lost in the eighties among native Spaniards.
Since 2003, the involvement of the Catholic Church in political affairs, through special groups such as Opus Dei, the Neocatechumenal Way or the Legion of Christ, especially personated through important politicians in the right-wing People's Party, has increased again. Old and new media, which are property of the Church, such as the COPE radio network or 13 TV, have also contributed to this new involvement in politics by their own admission. The Church is no longer seen as a neutral and independent institution in political affairs and it is generally aligned with the opinion and politics of the People's Party. This implication has had, as a consequence, a renewed criticism from important sectors of the population (especially the majority of left-wing voters) against the Church and the way in which it is economically sustained by the State. While by 2017-2018 the Church was slowly backpedalling, the damage is potentially long-lasting among the younger generations who had not experienced it personally in such degree.
Irreligion in Spain is a phenomenon that exists at least since the 17th century.Atheism, agnosticism and freethinking became relativelly popular (although the majority of the society was still very religious) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During Spanish civil war irreligious people were repressed by the Francoist side, while religion was largely abolished among the republicans. During the Francoist dictatorship period (1939-1975) irreligion was not tolerated, following the national-catholic ideology of the regime. Irreligious people could not be public workers or express their thoughts openly. After the Spanish democratic transition (1975-1982), restrictions on irreligion were lifted. In the last decades religious practice has fallen dramatically and atheism and agnosticism have grown in popularity, with over 12 million people (26.4% of the population as of January 2018 ) with no religion.
However, some expressions of popular religiosity still thrive, often linked to Christian festivals and local patron saints. World famous examples include the Holy Week in Seville, the Romería de El Rocío in Huelva or the Mystery Play of Elche, while the Sanfermines in Pamplona and the Falles of Valencia have mostly lost their original religious nature. The continuing success of these festivals is the result of a mix of religious, cultural, social and economic factors including sincere devotion, local or family traditions, non-religious fiesta, perceived beauty, cultural significance, territorial identity, meeting friends and relatives, increased sales and a massive influx of tourists to the largest ones. The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is not so popular among Spaniards but it attracts many visitors too. Most if not all cities and towns celebrate a patron saint's festival or similar, no matter how small or known, which often includes processions, Mass and the like but whose actual religious following is variable.
Another trend among Spanish believers is syncretism, often defined as religión a la carta. In religion à la carte, people mix popular Roman Catholic beliefs and traditions with their own worldview and esoteric, self-help, New Age or philosophical borrowings they like, resulting in an unique personal 'soft' spirituality without any possible church. These people typically self-define themselves as Catholics, but they only attend church for christenings, funerals or weddings and are not actual followers. Unbelievers are, by definition, not syncretic or otherwise.
|Belief||Male||Female||18-29||30-44||45-59||60+||Elementary school||High school||College & higher||Practicing Catholic||Non-practicing Catholic||No religion||Yes||No||Unsure||N/A|
|Existence of God||45||61||45||50||49||68||61||48||47||89||54||0||53||23||23||1|
|Divine creation ex nihilo||26||42||26||28||30||51||43||29||26||68||26||3||34||47||17||2|
|Adam and Eve||21||37||20||25||23||40||22||19||23||58||24||2||29||53||17||1|
|Historicity of Jesus||70||76||63||65||71||80||70||77||72||94||68||65||73||13||13||1|
|Jesus son of God||40||54||38||41||45||63||57||41||39||85||46||0||47||25||23||2|
|Virgin birth of Jesus||35||46||26||35||37||63||55||31||29||81||35||0||41||41||16||2|
|Three wise men visited Jesus||40||51||37||43||45||56||52||42||38||71||47||11||45||35||18||2|
|Resurrection of Jesus||35||50||32||38||36||63||52||37||33||83||38||0||43||38||17||2|
|Communication with the dead||13||15||24||19||9||5||12||18||12||13||17||8||14||72||13||1|
|Divination of the future||14||16||20||18||15||8||14||20||10||14||16||10||15||72||12||1|
A study carried out by the Center for Sociological Research (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas) in January 2015 discovered information relating to the rates of religious self-identification across Spain's various autonomous communities.
|Castile and León||79.4%||1.8%||13.1%||4.0%||1.8%|
Spain, it has been observed, is a nation-state born out of religious struggle mainly between Catholicism and Islam, but also against Judaism (and, to a lesser extent, Protestantism). The Reconquista against Al Andalus (ending in 1492), the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition (1478) and the expulsion of Jews (1492) were highly relevant in the union of Castile and Aragon under the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando (1492), followed by the persecution and eventual expulsion of the Moriscos in 1609. The Counter-Reformation (1563-1648) was especially strong in Spain and the Inquisition was not definitively abolished until 1834, thus keeping Islam, Judaism, Protestantism and parts of Enlightenment at bay for most of its history.
Most of the Iberian Peninsula first accepted Christianity while still part of the Roman Empire. As Rome declined, Germanic tribes invaded most of the lands of the former empire. In the years following 410 the Visigoths - who had converted to Arian Christianity around 360 - occupied Spain. The Visigothic Kingdom established its capital in Toledo; its kingdom reached its high point during the reign of Leovigild (568-586). Visigothic rule led to a brief expansion of Arianism in Spain, however the native population remained staunchly Catholic. In 587 Reccared, the Visigothic king at Toledo, converted to Catholicism and launched a movement to unify doctrine. The Council of Lerida in 546 constrained the clergy and extended the power of law over them under the blessings of Rome.
In 711 an Arab raiding party led by Tariq ibn-Ziyad crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, then defeated the Visigothic king Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete. Tariq's commander, Musa bin Nusair then landed with substantial reinforcements, and by 718 the Muslims dominated most of the peninsula, establishing Islamic rule as a factor in the peninsula until 1492. During this period the number of Muslims increased greatly through the migration of Arabs and Berbers, and the conversion of Christians to Islam (known as Muladis or Muwalladun) with the latter forming the majority of the Islamic-ruled area by the end of the 10th century. Most Christians who remained adopted Arabic culture, and these Arabized Christians became known as Mozarabs. While under the status of dhimmis the Christian and Jewish subjects had to pay higher taxes than Muslims and could not hold positions of power over Muslims.
The era of Muslim rule before 1055 is often considered a "Golden Age" for the Jews as Jewish intellectual and spiritual life flourished in Spain. Only in the northern fringes of the peninsula did Christians remain under Christian rule. Here they established the great pilgrimage centre of Santiago de Compostela.
In the Middle Ages, Spain saw a slow Christian re-conquest of Muslim territories. In 1147, when the Almohads took control of Muslim Andalusian territories, they reversed the earlier tolerant attitude and treated Christians harshly. Faced with the choice of death, conversion, or emigration, many Jews and Christians emigrated. Christianity provided the cultural and religious cement that helped bind together those who rose up against the Moors and sought to drive them out. Christianity and the Catholic Church helped shape the re-establishment of European rule over Iberia.
After centuries of the Reconquista, in which Christian Spaniards fought to drive out the Muslims, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 to complete the religious purification of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim and Jewish thought and practice.
In the Early Modern Period, Spain saw itself as the bulwark of Catholicism and doctrinal purity. Spain carried Catholicism to the New World and to the Philippines, but the Spanish kings insisted on independence from papal "interference" - bishops in the Spanish domains were forbidden to report to the Pope except through the Spanish crown. In the 18th century Spanish rulers drew further from the papacy, banishing the Jesuits from their empire in 1767. The Spanish authorities abolished the Inquisition in the 1830s, but even after that, religious freedom was denied in practice, if not in theory.
Catholicism became the state religion in 1851, when the Spanish government signed a Concordat with the Holy See that committed Madrid to pay the salaries of the clergy and to subsidize other expenses of the Roman Catholic Church as a compensation for the seizure of church property in the Desamortización de Mendizábal of 1835-1837. This pact was renounced in 1931, when the secular constitution of the Second Spanish Republic imposed a series of anticlerical measures that threatened the Church's hegemony in Spain, provoking the Church's support for the Francisco Franco uprising five years later. In the ensuing Civil War, alleged Communists and Anarchists in Republican areas killed about 7,000 priests.
The advent of the Franco regime saw the restoration of the church's privileges. During the Franco years, Roman Catholicism was the only religion to have legal status; other worship services could not be advertised, and only the Catholic Church could own property or publish books. The Government not only continued to pay priests' salaries and to subsidize the Church, it also assisted in the reconstruction of church buildings damaged by the war. Laws were passed abolishing divorce and civil marriages as well as banning abortion and the sale of contraceptives. Homosexuality and all other forms of sexual permissiveness were also banned. Catholic religious instruction was mandatory, even in public schools. Franco secured in return the right to name Roman Catholic bishops in Spain, as well as veto power over appointments of clergy down to the parish priest level. In 1953 this close cooperation was formalized in a new Concordat with the Vatican that granted the church an extraordinary set of privileges: mandatory canonical marriages for all Catholics; exemption from government taxation; subsidies for new building construction; censorship of materials the Church deemed offensive; the right to establish universities, to operate radio stations, and to publish newspapers and magazines; protection from police intrusion into church properties; and exemption of military service.
The proclamation of the Second Vatican Council in favor of religious freedom in 1965 provided more rights to other religious denominations in Spain. In the late 1960s, the Vatican attempted to reform the Church in Spain by appointing interim, or acting, bishops, thereby circumventing Franco's stranglehold on the country's clergy. Many young priests, under foreign influence, became worker priests and participated in anti-regime agitation. Many of them ended as leftist politicians, with some imprisoned in the Concordat prison reserved for priest prisoners. In 1966, the Franco regime passed a law that freed other religions from many of the earlier restrictions, but the law also reaffirmed the privileges of the Catholic Church. Any attempt to revise the 1953 Concordat met Franco's rigid resistance.
In 1976, however, King Juan Carlos de Borbon unilaterally renounced the right to name the bishops; later that year, Madrid and the Vatican signed a new accord that restored to the church its right to name bishops, and the Church agreed to a revised Concordat that entailed a gradual financial separation of church and state. Church property not used for religious purposes was henceforth to be subject to taxation, and over a period of years, the Church's reliance on state subsidies was to be gradually reduced. The timetable for this reduction was not adhered to, however, and the church continued to receive the public subsidy through 1987 (US$110 million in that year alone).
It took the new 1978 Spanish Constitution to confirm the right of Spaniards to religious freedom and to begin the process of disestablishing Catholicism as the state religion. The drafters of the Constitution tried to deal with the intense controversy surrounding state support of the Church, but they were not entirely successful. The initial draft of the Constitution did not even mention the Church, which was included almost as an afterthought and only after intense pressure from the church's leadership. Article 16 disestablishes Roman Catholicism as the official religion and provides that religious liberty for non-Catholics is a state-protected legal right, thereby replacing the policy of limited toleration of non-Catholic religious practices. The article further states, however, that "The public authorities shall take the religious beliefs of Spanish society into account and shall maintain the consequent relations of cooperation with the Catholic Church and the other confessions." In addition, Article 27 also aroused controversy by appearing to pledge continuing government subsidies for private, Church-affiliated schools. These schools were sharply criticized by Spanish Socialists for having created and perpetuated a class-based, separate, and unequal school system. The Constitution, however, includes no affirmation that the majority of Spaniards are Catholics or that the state should take into account the teachings of Catholicism. The Constitution declares Spain a "non-confessional" state, however it is not a laïque state like France or Mexico.
Government financial aid to the Catholic Church was a difficult and contentious issue. The Church argued that, in return for the subsidy, the state had received the social, health, and educational services of tens of thousands of priests and nuns who fulfilled vital functions that the state itself could not have performed at that time. Nevertheless, the revised Concordat was supposed to replace direct state aid to the church with a scheme that would allow taxpayers to designate a certain portion of their taxes to be diverted directly to the Church. Through 1985, taxpayers were allowed to deduct up to 10 percent from their taxable income for donations to the Catholic Church. Partly because of the protests against this arrangement from representatives of Spain's other religious groups and even some from the catholic religion itself, the tax laws were changed in 2007 so that taxpayers could choose between giving 0.52 percent of their income tax to the church and allocating it to the government's welfare and culture budgets. For three years, the government would continue to give the Church a gradually reduced subsidy, but after that the church would have to subsist on its own resources. The government would continue, however, its program of subsidizing Catholic schools, which in 1987 cost the Spanish taxpayers about US$300 million, exclusive of the salaries of teachers, which were paid directly by the Ministry of Education and Science.
In a population of about 39 million at the beginning of Transition, the number of non-Catholics was probably no more than 300,000. About 290,000 of these were of other Christian faiths, including several Protestant denominations, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons. The number of Jews in Spain was estimated at about 13,000 Murcia Jewish community. More than 19 out of every 20 Spaniards were baptized Catholics; about 60 percent of them attended Mass; about 30 percent of the baptized Catholics did so regularly, although this figure declined to about 20 percent in the larger cities. In 1979, about 97 percent of all marriages were performed according to the Catholic rite. A 1982 report by the church claimed that 82 percent of all children born the preceding year had been baptized in the church.
Nevertheless, there were forces at work bringing about fundamental changes in the place of the church in society. One such force was the improvement in the economic fortunes of the great majority of Spaniards, making society more materialistic and less religious. Another force was the massive shift in population from farm and village to the growing urban centers, where the church had less influence over the values of its members. These changes were transforming the way Spaniards defined their religious identity.
Being a Catholic in Spain had less and less to do with regular attendance at Mass and more to do with the routine observance of important rituals such as baptism, marriage, and burial of the dead. A 1980 survey revealed that, although 82 percent of Spaniards were believers in Catholicism, very few considered themselves to be very good practitioners of the faith. In the case of the youth of the country, even smaller percentages believed themselves to be "very good" or "practicing" Catholics.
In contrast to an earlier era, when rejection of the church went along with education, in the late 1980s studies showed that the more educated a person was, the more likely he or she was to be a practicing Catholic. This new acceptance of the church was due partly to the church's new self-restraint in politics. In a significant change from the pre-Civil War era, the church had accepted the need for the separation of religion and the state, and it had even discouraged the creation of a Christian Democratic party in the country.
The traditional links between the political right and the church no longer dictated political preferences; in the 1982 general election, more than half of the country's practicing Catholics voted for the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. Although the Socialist leadership professed agnosticism, according to surveys between 40 and 45 percent of the party's rank-and-file members held religious beliefs, and more than 70 percent of these professed to be Catholics. Among those entering the party after Franco's death, about half considered themselves Catholic.
One important indicator of the changes taking place in the role of the church was the reduction in the number of Spaniards in Holy Orders. In 1984 the country had more than 22,000 parish priests, nearly 10,000 ordained monks, and nearly 75,000 nuns. These numbers concealed a troubling reality, however. More than 70 percent of the diocesan clergy was between the ages of 35 and 65; the average age of the clergy in 1982 was 49 years. At the upper end of the age range, the low numbers reflected the impact of the Civil War, in which more than 4,000 parish priests died. At the lower end, the scarcity of younger priests reflected the general crisis in vocations throughout the world, which began to be felt in the 1960s. Its effects were felt especially acutely in Spain. The crisis was seen in the decline in the number of young men joining the priesthood and in the increase in the number of priests leaving Holy Orders. The number of seminarists in Spain fell from more than 9,000 in the 1950s to only 1,500 in 1979, even though it rose slightly in 1982 to about 1,700. In 2008, there were just 1,221 students in these theological schools.
Changes in the social meaning of religious vocations were perhaps part of the problem; having a priest in the family no longer seemed to spark the kind of pride that family members would have felt in the past. The principal reason in most cases, though, was the church's continued ban on marriage for priests. Previously, the crisis was not particularly serious because of the age distribution of the clergy. As the twentieth century neared an end, however, a serious imbalance appeared between those entering the priesthood and those leaving it. The effects of this crisis were already visible in the decline in the number of parish priests in Spain--from 23,620 in 1979 to just over 22,000 by 1983 and 19,307 in 2005. New ordinations also dropped 19% from 241 in 1998 to 196 in 2008, with all-time record lows of 168 priests out of 45 million Spaniards taking their vows in 2007. The number of nuns shrank 6.9% to 54,160 in the period 2000-2005 as well. On the 21 August 2005, Evans David Gliwitzki became the first Catholic priest to get married in Spain.
Another sign of the church's declining role in Spanish life was the diminishing importance of the controversial secular religious institute, Opus Dei (Work of God). Opus Dei, a worldwide lay religious body, did not adhere to any particular political philosophy. Its founder, Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas, stated that the organization was nonpolitical. The organization was founded in 1928 as a reaction to the increasing secularization of Spain's universities, and higher education continued to be one of the institute's foremost priorities. Despite its public commitment to a nonpolitical stance, Opus Dei members rose to occupy key positions in the Franco régime, especially in the field of economic policy-making in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. Opus Dei members dominated the group of liberal technocrats who engineered the opening of Spain's autarchic economy after 1957. After the 1973 assassination of Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco (often rumored to be an Opus Dei member), however, the influence of the institute declined sharply. The secrecy of the order and its activities and the power of its myth helped it maintain its strong position of influence in Spain; but there was little doubt that, compared with the 1950s and the 1960s, Opus Dei had fallen from being one of the country's chief political organizations to being simply one among many such groups competing for power in an open and pluralist society.
Paganism is extremely minoritary in Spain. The most visible Pagan religions are forms of Germanic Heathenism (Spanish: Etenismo), Celtic paganism (and Druidry) and Wicca. Spanish Heathen groups include the Odinist Community of Spain -- Ásatrú, which identifies as both Odinist and Ásatrú, the Asatru Lore Vanatru Assembly, the Gotland Forn Sed and Circulo Asatrú Tradición Hispánica of which four the first one is officially registered by the State; Celtist or Druidic groups include the Dun Ailline Druid Brotherhood (Hermandad Druida Dun Ailline) and the Fintan Druidic Order, both registered. Amongst the Wiccan groups, two have been granted official registration: the Spanish Wiccan Association (Asociación Wicca España) and the Celtiberian Wicca (Wicca Tradición Celtíbera).
Galicia is a center of Druidry (Galician: Druidaria) due to its strong Celtic heritage; the Pan-Galician Druidic Order (Galician: Irmandade Druídica Galaica) is specific to Galicia. In Basqueland, traditional Basque Gentility (Basque: Jentiltasuna) and Sorginkery (Basque: Sorginkeria), Basque witchcraft, have been revived and have ties with Basque nationalism. Sorginkoba Elkartea is a Basque Neopagan organisation active in the Basque countries.
Taoism has a presence in Spain, especially in Catalonia. Among Spanish people, it was introduced by the Chinese master Tian Chengyang in the 2000s, leading to the foundation of the Catalan Taoist Association (Asociación de Taoísmo de Cataluña) and the opening of the Temple of Purity and Silence (Templo de la Pureza y el Silencio) in Barcelona, both in 2001. The association has planned to expand the Temple of Purity and Silence as a traditional Chinese Taoist templar complex, the first Taoist temple of this kind in Europe.
A further Taoist temple was opened in 2014 by the Chinese community of Barcelona, led by Taoist priest Liu Zemin, a 21st-generation descendant of poet, soldier and prophet Liu Bo Wen (1311-1375). The temple, located in the district of Sant Martí and inaugurated with the presence of the People's Republic of China consul Qu Chengwu, enshrines 28 deities of the province of China where most of the Chinese in Barcelona come from.