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US-wide survey of religions gives interesting stats on Hindus

An new study – “2010 U.S. Religious Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study (RCMS)” by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) – looks at the congregations and the religious adherents across the US.  The statistics for Hindus are very interesting. (link)

Approximately 641,200 Hindu adherents and 1,625 congregations were reported across the country. With more than 80,000 Hindu adherents, the greater area of New York, NY-NJ-PA reported the highest number of Hindu adherents, whereas the greater area of Baltimore, MD reported the lowest — only 71 identified as Hindu adherents. Similarly, with 195 congregations, the greater area of New York, NY-NJ-PA reported the highest number of congregations in a million-plus metropolitan area, whereas the greater area of Providence, RI-MA reported the lowest with just three Hindu congregations.

Only 416 counties across the country reported the presence of Hindu adherents, and as the map below shows, most Hindu adherents in the United States live near the East Coast or the West Coast.

The map illustrates the distribution clearly:

This looks interesting, but there is a dichotomy between these statistics and the total population of Hindus and the “Hindu adherents” in the country.  As per most stats, the Total number of Hindus in the US is around 2.5 million.

What makes the “adherents” just around 26% of the total Hindu population?  Well, Philip Goldberg has an explanation, which I think is correct. (link)

One data point is misleading: the study says there are about 641,200 adherents of Hinduism in America. At first glance, this would seem to be a grave error, since most sources number Hindus of Indian descent at close to two and a half million. The reason for the discrepancy is that the study focuses on adherents, which it measures by participation in a religious congregation, defined as “groups of people who meet regularly at a pre-announced time and location.” To put that in perspective, there are about 6.5 million Jews in America, but if only regular synagogue goers were counted the number might be a fraction of that amount. More importantly, temple attendance is an awful criterion to apply to Hindus, since their tradition does not emphasize congregational activity and many Hindus prefer to do their spiritual practices on home altars and meditation cushions.

This may also have been the reason why the invaders in India weren’t able to destroy Hinduism, even when they destroyed the temples.

(Image featured: Hindu Temple, Livermore CA)


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