America: We Are All Hindus Now (Newsweek)

We Are All Hindus Now
By Lisa Miller, NEWSWEEK, Aug 31, 2009

http://www.newsweek.com/2009/08/14/we-are-all-hindus-now.html

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 (still, that’s the lowest percentage in
American history). Of course, we are not a Hindu-or Muslim, or Jewish,
or Wiccan-nation, either. A million-plus 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, the most ancient Hindu scripture, says this: “Truth is
One, but the sages speak of it by many names.” A Hindu believes there
are many paths to God. Jesus is one way, the Qur’an is another, yoga
practice is a third. None is better than any other; all are equal. 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. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No
one comes to the father except through me.”

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, has long framed the American
propensity for “the divine-deli-cafeteria religion” as “very much in the
spirit of Hinduism. You’re not picking and choosing from different
religions, because they’re all the same,” he says. “It isn’t about
orthodoxy. It’s about whatever works. 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. More than a third of Americans now choose cremation,
according to the Cremation Association of North America, up from 6
percent in 1975. “I do think the more spiritual role of religion tends
to deemphasize some of the more starkly literal interpretations of the
Resurrection,” agrees Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at
Harvard.

So let us all say “om.”

1 Response to “America: We Are All Hindus Now (Newsweek)”


  1. 1 ramadeva August 31, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    This is mere sweet talk which should be dealt with circumspection.Yale University,which is suspected to be home of the dreaded “Skull And Bones” and the Jesuits is going to set up shop in India,and so also many other US Universities.Is this a prelude to (mis)education and mass conversion?Or at least,changing the Hindus to suit the Americans?Please google for FDI in Education,in India.


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