Lisa Miller writes that recent polls show that conceptually Americans are becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians. ‘We are becoming more like Hindus in the way we think about God, ourselves, each other and eternity ‘she clarifies in an article in ‘Business week’. Christians learn in their Sunday school that their religion is alone true and others are false [Incidentally Muslims beg to differ sometimes violently on this little matter].
Did not Jesus say ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life? No one comes to the Father except through me’. Americans — with their voracious buying habits – are no longer buying this. According to a Pew Forum Survey carried out in 2008, 85% of Americans believe that ‘many religions can lead us to eternal life’.38% of white evangelicals whom Lisa describes as’ the group most likely to believe that salvation is theirs only’ now say that there are many other paths to salvation — so ‘Hindu’.
The number of people seeking salvation outside their church is growing. 24% of Americans say they believe in rebirth and 33% want to be cremated. What explains this? If you think that Hindu missionaries are doing unto others what Christians are doing unto them you are mistaken. Americans are a practical people. Their approach is – whatever works is fine for me. Thus if practicing Zen meditation gives them peace they will learn and practice it.
If yoga improves health Americans will take to it with far more enthusiasm than Hindus… Richard Gere and other Hollywood biggies have found peace in Buddhism. Bill Gates insists on getting ‘Prasad’ from a certain temple in Tamilnadu every month. Obama has a Hanuman Talisman. Steve Jobs was attracted to India and Buddhism – all these are working for them.
I have a hypothesis. Hindus taught the world of the many facets of the self — the body, the mind, the intellect, the senses and the soul. But it was Christian missionaries who when they arrived in India realized that Hindus sages after realizing this great truth did little to actualise this. These missionaries proceeded to cater to these various facets and provided — and still provide to this day — what a man needs starting from the basics.
Thus they set up schools to nourish the mind and the intellect. Provided food and medicine for the body, preached sermons in easily understood language to nourish the soul, and generally did what Hindus had neglected to do. The latter had no doubt reached lofty heights but having perched themselves at the stratospheric levels they lost contact with ground level realities. Thus a highly regarded Guruji addressed poor farmers in remote Rajasthan and taught them pranayama to handle stress. Weeks later, Christian missionaries arrived and distributed food. Guess who left a mark?
My hypothesis is as follows: Hinduism is more suited for those who are proceeding upwards in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, for the bottom billions, Christian missionaries have a more practical answer. Does that explain why Christianity fascinates more and more of the poor in India and Hinduism fascinates more and more of the better off in America? Readers are invited to join a new Godless religion I am setting up and it will be a Non Prophet faith! Await more news from me.