Monday, 24 August 2009


Among "25 Surprising Things You Need to Know," Newsweek’s Lisa Miller reports that "conceptually, , at leastwe are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity." How can the land of mega churches, televangelists, and the Bible Belt become more Hindu?
America is a place where politicians pepper speeches with biblical references, athletes point heavenward when they score, and the founding fathers’ religious views are a matter of intense speculation. It’s also a place, Miller learned, where one in three people choose cremation, a majority believes there is more than one path to eternal life, and thirty percent of us describe our beliefs as "spiritual" rather than religious. Nearly a quarter of Americans believe in reincarnation.
Our fascination with Hindu thought isn’t new. Emerson and Thoreau read the Hindu scriptures and found much to agree with. The Beatles introduced transcendental meditation to popular culture. More recently, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love brought her quest to find God in an Indian ashram and on the mostly Hindu island of Bali to millions of readers. Americans have become so enamored of yoga that a group of entrepreneurs even tried to patent it.
There is certainly much more to Hinduism than yoga and meditation, but it’s not surprising that Hindu ideas have seeped into our culture through practices that are relatively accessible to Westerners. What I found notable is Miller’s finding that many Americans see more than one path to eternity. I’m hopeful this tolerance spills into public discourse and political problem solving.