Everyone enjoyed our humorous announcement about English in Europe. That was of course fiction (smile) But today we bring you something amazing and true from the mainstream. Many of you have already seen this if you subscribe to Hindu Press international, but we wanted to share this article that recently appears in Newsweek. It could be said to mark a new era for Hinduism in America, that it should be spoken of so positively in one of the USA’s top national publications
We Are All Hindus Now
Lisa Miller, Religion Editor
USA, August 15, 2009: America is not a Christian nation. We are, it is true, a nation founded by Christians, and according to a 2008 survey, 76 percent of us continue to identify as Christian — the lowest percentage in American history. Two million Hindus live in the United States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity.
The Rig Veda says this: “Truth is One, but the sages speak of it by many names.” A Hindu believes there are many paths to God. The most traditional, conservative Christians have not been taught to think like this. They learn in Sunday school that their religion is true, and others are false.
Americans are no longer buying it. According to a 2008 Pew Forum survey, 65 percent of us believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life”–including 37 percent of white evangelicals, the group most likely to believe that salvation is theirs alone.
Also, the number of people who seek spiritual truth outside church is growing. Thirty percent of Americans call themselves “spiritual, not religious,” according to a 2009 NEWSWEEK Poll, up from 24 percent in 2005.
Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, says “It isn’t about orthodoxy. It’s about whatever works for Americans. If going to yoga works, great–and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that’s great, too.”
Then there’s the question of what happens when you die. Christians traditionally believe that bodies and souls are sacred, that together they comprise the “self,” and that at the end of time they will be reunited in the Resurrection. You need both, in other words, and you need them forever. Hindus believe no such thing. At death, the body burns on a pyre, while the spirit–where identity resides–escapes. In reincarnation, central to Hinduism, selves come back to earth again and again in different bodies.
So here is another way in which Americans are becoming more Hindu: 24 percent of Americans say they believe in reincarnation, according to a 2008 Harris poll. So agnostic are we about the ultimate fates of our bodies that we’re burning them–like Hindus–after death.
So let us all say “om.”
[HPI notes: While this article makes a point about Americans believing in reincarnation, the trend is not new. Gallup first asked Americans a direct question about reincarnation in 1968 and found 18% of people believed in it. The number was rather a shock for many, as the belief cut across religious affiliations. The increase to 24% today may only indicate a change in the number of people willing to honestly answer the question, and not necessarily the result of increased “Hindu” influence. Arguably, the most relevant change is in the fact that two-thirds of Americans believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” As some HPI readers may recall, when this survey was taken two years ago the results were so staggering that Gallup re-did the poll, asking more clearly if religions like Hinduism and Islam were also valid paths. “Yes,” said America’s majority once more.]
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