Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2010 Volume 6 :: Article 7
2010 Volume 6, Article 7
Conversion to Latin American Protestantism and the Case for Religious Motivation

Author: Rodney Stark (Baylor University) and Buster G. Smith (Baylor University)

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ABSTRACT

The literature on the success of Pentecostal Protestantism in Latin America has yielded a number of hypotheses about the role of material deprivations in producing converts. The gist of the hypotheses is that people will seek supernatural solutions to their thwarted social and material desires. But analyses of national samples from eighteen Latin American nations, in surveys collected by the Gallup World Poll, fail to confirm these hypotheses. This suggests that deprivation theory should be extended to include religious deprivation. According to this extended theory, people will pursue or initiate supernatural solutions to their thwarted existential and moral desires. This hypothesis is consistent with the fact that most religious movements have originated among the privileged and, in the case of Latin American Protestantism, the fact that an effort by the Catholic Church to counter the Protestant threat by supporting Liberation Theology (which assumed the primacy of material deprivations) failed, while the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement (which is aimed at religious motives) has successfully generated a strong Catholic response to Protestantism in Latin America.

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