Pew survey highlights how American Hindus view their faith

Recommended by Alicia Purdy

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 23 2012 10:33 a.m. MDT

Our take: The Pew Research Center has released a new report highlighting how people of Hindu and Buddhist faiths carry out their beliefs in religious practice and in daily life. According to the report, one of the most detailed to date, the practice of Hinduism in the U.S. is very diverse with several major strains of the faith among adherents. The report also noted that Hindus are more likely to celebrate traditional Christian holidays like Christmas and do better at accepting a religiously pluralistic society than adherents of more mainstream faiths.

In a report on Asian America and religion published today, the Pew Research Center offers new data that illuminate the complexity and richness of our pluralistic democracy. Pew's national survey is providing one of the first detailed glimpses into how Hinduism is practiced in the United States.

While temples representing many strains of Hinduism have sprung up across the U.S. since 1965, the Pew report offers the first data on where American Hindus locate themselves on the broad and diverse field of Hindu belief. More than half (53 percent) identify as simply "Hindu," but of the other half, about twice as many (19 percent) identify with the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism as with Shaivite Hinduism (10 percent). Smaller percentages identify with the Hare Krishna tradition (3 percent) or with Vedanta philosophy (2 percent).

The Pew report also indicates how Hinduism is lived in the U.S. -- how it plays out in the daily lives of individuals. This chance to go beyond encyclopedia definitions and scriptural analysis is priceless to a social scientist like me. The Pew report tells us that nearly half (48 percent) of Hindus engage in daily prayer, and another third (32 percent) pray weekly or monthly. More than three quarters (78 percent) keep a puja (altar or shrine) in their home. A similar number (73 percent) believe in yoga as a spiritual practice, and more than four in 10 meditate daily (44 percent) or fast during holy times (41 percent).

Read more about the Pew study on U.S. Hindu faith on The Huffington Post.

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