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Hinduism: The world's third largest religion

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Overview:

Hinduism differs from Christianity and other monotheistic religions in that it does not have:

  • a single founder,
  • a specific theological system,
  • a single concept of deity,
  • a single holy text,
  • a single system of morality,
  • a central religious authority,
  • the concept of a prophet. 

Hinduism is generally regarded as the world's oldest organized religion. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE." 1 Because of the wide variety of Hindu traditions, freedom of belief and practice have traditionally been notable features of Hinduism.

Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic religions. They recognize a single deity, and view other Gods and Goddesses as manifestations or aspects of that supreme God or Goddess. Henotheistic and polytheistic religions have traditionally been among the world's most religiously tolerant faiths. As a result, India has traditionally been one of the most religiously tolerant in the world.

However in 1998, a Hindu nationalistic political party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) controlled the government of India. The linkage of religion, the national government, and nationalism led to a degeneration of the separation of church and state in India and a decrease in the level of religious tolerance in that country. An escalation of anti-Christian violence was one manifestation of this linkage. With the subsequent change in government, the level of violence has diminished somewhat, but intolerance still exists in some areas of the country.

Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. It claims about 950 million followers -- about 14% of the world's population. 2 It is the dominant religion in India, where 95% of the world's Hindus live. It is also very common in Nepal, and among the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Estimates of the number of Hindus in the U.S. vary greatly:

  • According to the "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches," there were about 1.1 million Hindus in the U.S. during 1999. 3

  • The "American Religious Identification Survey"may have under-estimated the numbers of Hindus because of communications problems with non-English speaking households. 4 They estimated: 766,000 Hindus in 2001 and 1.2 million in 2008.

  • During 2015, the Pew Research Center conducted their Religious Landscape Study and estimated 2.23 million Hindus live in the U.S.

Statistics Canada conducted their National Household Survey In 2011. They estimated that 157,015 Hindus live in Canada (1.51% of the total population). Unfortunately, they only update these numbers once each decade. 5

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletA general introduction to Hinduism: Name of the religion, early history, sacred texts, beliefs, practices.
 
bullet Yama: Basic human values in Hinduism an essay by Dr. Chintamani Rath
 
bullet

Two human rights concerns about Hinduism:

bullet Additional information: Divisions within Hinduism, the forehead mark, symbol, Hindu websites.
 
bullet

Is there a Christ - Krishna linkage?

bullet

Christian-Hindu conflicts:


bullet

Other:

Amazon.com's online bookstore lists the following books on Hinduism:

If you see a generic Amazon.com ad here, please click on your browser's refresh key.

Also, you might consider:

Carl Olson, Ed., "Hindu Primary Sources: A sectarian reader," Rutgers University Press (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Some links to Hindu websites:

bullet Ardh Kumbh is a Hindu religious gathering held every six years. See: http://www.kumbhamela.net/

bullet Diwali-Greetings.com provide free online greeting cards at: http://www.diwali-greetings.com/

bullet Lotus Sculpture supplies the works of artists Bali, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam to customers world-wide. They have a showroom in Oeanside, CA. See: http://www.lotussculpture.com/

bullet Hi Greetings have a series of Hinduism eCards available at: http://www.higreetings.com/

bullet Mystery of India is is a website dedicated to Ancient India and Hindusim. See: http://www.mysteryofindia.com

bullet Omjai, which translated "Glory to the Lord" is a large, multilingual Hindu website See: http://www.omjai.org

bullet TotalBhakti features mantras, bhajans, videos, yoga, etc. at: http://totalbhakti.com/index.php

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. book cover David Levinson, "Religion: A cross-cultural dictionary," Oxford University Press, (1998). Read reviews or order this book
  2. From data published by the 2004 Encyclopedia Britiannica Book of the Year.
  3. Estimate from the 1999 edition of the "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches," National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
  4. "American Religious Identification Survey," by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/
  5. "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables," Stats Canada, 2011, at: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/

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Copyright 1995 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2016-NOV-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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