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Although Chile is considered to be a secular state, religion has always been of great importance not only for Chilean society but also for the country’s political sphere. Indeed, the preamble of the Constitution of Chile pointed out the significance of religion as a legitimizing factor up until 2005. At present, almost 65% of the population is Roman Catholic, while approximately 14% are parishioners of the Evangelical Church. However, more than 6% belong to other religions, and 15% are agnostic (Largest religions in Chile 2016). It should be stated that the Church has always tried to support Chilean society, and is intended to influence the political setting in Chile.
Religion and Politics
At the end of the 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church began to take an active role in the passing of social reforms in Chile. It had a significant influence on the formation of the centrist bloc and the emergence of the Christian Democratic Party in the country. For instance, in the early 1970s, the church announced its rejection of the ideas of capitalism, and it abandoned the securities that it owned (Patterson 2013).
Also, it gave up its payable land and property. In connection with the events taking place at that time, the church condemned the torture and killing of people and promoted morality, democracy, and justice. Even though the military junta often referred to religious values (which were close to the Catholic cultural paradigm), the Roman Catholic Church denounced the repression of Pinochet’s reign, and its leaders later joined the opposition movement (Patterson 2013).
Religious institutions intended to retain their active political position not to obtain control over governmental activities but to promote and support the democracy movement. It assisted those experiencing harassment from the government and strived to secure human rights for the country’s population. Beyond such supportive actions, it also furnished legal counsel to those in need of it.
The Church still has an influential position in both the social and political aspects of Chile; however, there has been a noted decline in its importance. For instance, divorce was legalized almost ten years ago, and one of Chile’s former presidents is a strong socialist agnostic. Nevertheless, religion remains vital to many Chileans, and the country’s religious bodies continue working to address many current issues such as the weak rights of the poor and the need to establish stronger relationships with the working class (Levine 2014). To make strides in these areas, the Church constantly initiates humanitarian movements.
Largest religions in Chile. 2016. Web.
Levine, D 2014, Religion and politics in Latin America, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Patterson, E 2013, Latin America’s neo-reformation: religion’s influence on contemporary politics, Routledge, Abingdon.