If Hindus haven’t replaced WASPs as the religious elite of America, they’re doing quite well for a relatively small (about 2 million) community of fairly recent arrivals to the United States. The movie Eat Pray Love has lovely scenes of India and Hindu practice, and star Julia Roberts says she is now a Hindu.
Moreover, yoga continues to be one of the most popular recreational and spiritual activities in America, while belief in reincarnation — a tenet of traditional Hinduism — is spreading.
Yet there are drawbacks to this growing popularity. Some purists say that yoga, for example, has been exploited by the fitness industry and corrupted beyond recognition as a spiritual practice, and others say movies like Eat Pray Love reinforce a kind of Western “spiritual tourism” in India that is superficial at best.
And of course many Christian leaders in particular are not happy about their flocks adopting aspects of a pluralistic faith like Hinduism. Evangelist Franklin Graham was openly scornful of Hinduism during a debate in May over how to mark the National Day of Prayer. “None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation,” he said.
This source guide provides resources to help journalists cover this trend.
Stories on Hinduism's popularity
Read an essay at the website Patheos about Julia Roberts and the appeal of Hinduism and Eastern religions throughout American history. The article is by Suhag Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation.
In The Daily Beast, Indian author Gita Mehta wrote about Eat Pray Love and the attractions and perils for Westerners of “spiritual tourism” in India.
Read an Aug. 27, 2010, story in The New York Times about the growing belief in reincarnation.
Read an Aug. 23, 2010, story in The Washington Post about Indian concerns over “yoga theft” by American practitioners.
There are currently at least eight Indian-Americans running for Congress or statewide office, which may be a record, according to this Associated Press report in June 2010.
As Aseem Shukla, a doctor who is also on the board of the Hindu American Foundation, wrote at the On Faith blog for The Washington Post, that the Indian-American candidates for public office do not always embrace their Indian religious traditions.