Catalonia – the region of Spain which speaks a Romance language related to but distinct from Castilian Spanish – harbors the highest number of atheists in the Iberian country. According to an opinion poll conducted by their autonomous government, thirty percent of Catalonians profess atheism. Professed Catholics, on the other hand, now constitute only fifty percent. The Generalitat, Catalonia’s autonomous government, conducted the study so as to track social change in what is the most economically productive and liberal region of the country.
 
The results of the “Barometer of Religion and Diversity Management,” which was conducted by the state Center for Opinion Studies, showed that 30 percent of the Catalonians polled profess atheism, while professing Catholics make up but 50 percent of those polled. Among religious minorities, Muslims constitute the largest group. The poll found that 7 percent of those polled in Catalonia profess Islam. Also, there has been a 1.2 percent increase in the number of mosques. It is thus that Catalonia has become the most religiously diverse region of Spain, where the Catholic faith is believed to have first come with a visit from St Paul during the First Century of the current era.
 
Catholic places of worship are the most numerous of the various faiths professed in Catalonia: 6,701. In smaller towns outside of Barcelona, the capital, some parish churches have closed but not in significant numbers. However, the census included shrines, chapels, hermitages, and other worship centers that, according to the report are hardly used, the actual number of churches may actually be reduced by about one-third. The study found 725 Evangelical Christian churches of which 97 are represented by “La Iglesia de Filadelfia,” a denomination largely denominated by Roma peoples. In third place, Muslims hae 256 places of prayer. All of the various faiths have services in Castilian Spanish or Catalonian, with the exception of the mosques where prayer in Arabic or Urdo is common.
 
According to the study, almost 90% of respondents said testified to "respect and good relations" between practitioners of different religions in Catalonia, while and only 5 percent said they have experienced discrimination for religious reasons.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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