A Pious Paradox

Analyzing the Contradictory Paths of Chile and Argentina in Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Amidst Varying Levels of Religiosity


  • Jacob Wesoky




The divergent trajectories in the legalization of same-sex marriage amidst disparate levels of religiosity challenges conventional wisdom about the relationship between religion, state, and society. Contrary to the conventional belief that higher religiosity in countries fosters conservative views and resistance to progressive social reforms, Argentina and Chile present an intriguing anomaly. Utilizing data from the World Values Survey and examining the historical, political, and social contexts of each country, this paper seeks to understand why Argentina, with its higher religiosity and constitutional favoritism towards Catholicism, became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010, while Chile, less religious but more socially conservative, followed much later in 2021. The paper explores the divergent pre and post-dictatorship economic philosophies, governmental structures, sociopolitical landscapes and the distinct roles of the Catholic Church in 21st century Chilean and Argentine politics. It argues that in Argentina, individual political views and a vibrant civil society have developed independently of religious beliefs, fostering a political culture more open to progressive social reform. Conversely, Chile’s entrenched neoliberal policies and the Catholic Church’s sustained influence in Chilean civil society align with more conservative social values, impeding similar progress. These findings challenge the assumption that higher levels of religiosity necessarily correlate with social conservatism and underscore the complex interplay between religion, government, and social values. This research not only illuminates the nuanced dynamics at play in the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in Latin America but also suggests broader implications for understanding the impact of religiosity on political and social attitudes globally.


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