Religion is a big part of El Salvador’s history and culture. 41.9% of Salvadorans are Roman Catholic, 35.9% are Evangelical Christians, 19.9% have no religious affiliation, 1.3% are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 0.9% belong to other religions; according to a
March 2022 survey by the Central American University UCA.
Although many Salvadorans do not have a religious affiliation, most believe in God. An
August 2022 survey by Francisco Gavidia University and Canisius College of New York indicated that 98% of those surveyed believe in a higher power. The 2022 Salvadoran population is approximately 6.3 million.
In general terms: 98% of those surveyed believe in God. 9 out of 10 citizens surveyed believe in miracles, in paradise, in hell, in heaven, and Satan. 8 out of 10 believe that we are in the end times.” UFG Survey.
What are the main religions in El Salvador?
The predominant religion in El Salvador is Christianity, which accounts for almost 80% of the Salvadoran population. Followed by 19.9% who claim not to have any religious association, and the remaining population associate with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions.
Among the Christianity religion, most Salvadorans affiliate with Catholicism, followed by Evangelical Christians, which include Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and others.
A common misconception about religion in El Salvador is that it is a predominantly Catholic country. Maybe that was true in the past. Lately, however, many surveys put the proportion of Catholics at less than 42% of the population.
One of the main reasons El Salvador seems to be a predominantly catholic country is the affiliation between local municipal governments and the Catholic religion.
Municipal Governments and the Catholic Church
During colonial times, Catholicism was the prevailing religion; therefore, all customs and traditions that the country celebrates today and date back to colonial times involve Catholic events.
An example of this association is the yearly municipal festivities celebrated by all 262 municipalities. Even though less than 42% of the population associate with the Catholic church, the celebrations honor the municipality’s patron saint, a Catholic figure.
This association between local governments and the Catholic Church is true in large municipalities like San Salvador, San Miguel, and Santa Ana; and in small municipalities such as Nejapa, Suchitoto, and Panchimalco.
Evangelical Christianity growth in El Salvador
The number of Salvadoran evangelical members is growing. A 2022 CIDGallup survey regarding religion in Latin America showed more Evangelicals in El Salvador than Catholics. According to the study,
40% of Salvadorans are Evangelical, and
38% are Catholic.
Evangelical churches have been gaining ground on the Catholic church. According to
Pastor Mario Vega, the first signs of evangelizing work began in 1856 with the work of the English missionary Frederick Crowe in the city of San Miguel.
Evangelical Christianity is encountering rapid growth in recent decades while the Catholic share of the population is on decline. Today, Evangelicals play significant roles in the Salvadoran social and political arena.
The Catholic Church heritage in El Salvador
Even though the number of Catholics in the country has declined, the Catholic church’s legacy is visible throughout El Salvador.
All over the country, you will find colorful colonial-style Catholic churches with impressive murals and images that date back to colonial times. Many of these Catholic churches are one of the municipality’s predominant tourist attractions; for example, Juayua, Panchimalco, and Santa Ana.
Then there are the popular festivities tied to the Catholic religion, such as the Flowers and Palms festival, the Santa Ana festivities, the day of the cross, the San Miguel Carnival, and many others.
Lastly, the Salvadoran Catholic heritage is not complete without mentioning Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop who was a vocal critic of the violent activities of government armed forces and was assassinated by a sniper while celebrating mass in 1980.
The number of Catholics is declining in El Salvador; however, its heritage and influence in the country’s history will never diminish.
Does El Salvador have freedom of religion?
El Salvador does have freedom of religion. Article 3 of the 1983 Salvadoran Constitution states all persons are equal before the law and provides for freedom of religion; article 25 guarantees freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination.
Article 26 grants an automatic official distinction to the Roman Catholic Church and notes that other religious groups may also apply for official recognition.
Salvadorans are free to practice and affiliate with any religion they choose with no restrictions from any branch of the government or regulations from municipal laws.
Religion in El Salvador
Religion is a big part of El Salvador’s culture and is consequential to most Salvadorans, even those who don’t have a religious affiliation. Most kids in El Salvador have to learn about the religion their family associates with and follows from an early age. Families want their children to follow in the footsteps of what they believe and practice.