In a church of their own, Latino atheists fear no God. But Mom? That's another matter

Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

Another survey from the Pew Research Center indicated that "Latinos feel more unfavorably toward atheists than they do toward any other group."

"Religion for Latinos overwhelmingly for the longest time has been Catholic. It's so embedded and imbued in the culture," said Arlene Sanchez-Walsh, a professor of religious studies at Azusa Pacific University. "Becoming completely nonbelieving, that's a major rupture."

Which is something the members of this meetup know all too well.

Alex Flores' mother discussed his loss of faith with the local priest. If the 37-year-old wanted to convert back to Catholicism, she told her son, he could get rebaptized "in one hour."

Tomas Rodriguez Jr.'s family thinks the 54-year-old is going through a phase. His mother jokingly blames herself for his "disbelief in God."

At Alfredo Beltran's job in Commerce, a co-worker announced that she thought atheists were "devil worshippers." Another asked Beltran if he even mourned death.


Beltran, 44, grew up Catholic and recalls the guilt that came with it. When it would rain, his family told him it was because he had "been bad and Diosito is mad." At confession, he wondered why he needed to repent for forgetting to do the dishes or not taking out the trash.

He attended Mass with everyone in his family except for his grandfather.

"He would always stay home, and I would hear little comments (from him) here and there like, 'Oh God didn't give me that meat. I got that meat; I made the money for that,'" said Beltran, who became an atheist when he was in his 30s.

Beltran met Rios while the two stood in line in L.A. to listen to a talk with atheist activist Matt Dillahunty, host of the live internet show "The Atheist Experience." When Rios told Beltran she wanted to start the group, he was immediately supportive.


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