The recent PEW Research Center findings on America’s religious landscape revealed that approximately 56 million Americans are religiously unaffiliated and belong to the category of religious “nones”. There are more ” nones” than Catholics or mainline Protestants and the “nones” are second only to evangelical Protestants. “Nones” are comparatively younger and more educated.
In addition,the PEW survey estimated that the number of Hindus rose from 0.3 percent of the population in 2007 to 0.7 percent in 2014. 77 percent of Hindus in the U.S. are college graduates. Good questions have been raised by Murali Balaji about the challenges of gathering accurate numerical data for American Hindus. He suggests that the actual numbers may be higher.
Although we may rejoice at our growing percentage of the adult population, the rise of the “nones” is particularly worrying for Hindus. Hindus are not immune from these wider trends in the United States. When I was a child attending a Hindu elementary school in Trinidad, we recited a series of questions and answers about Hinduism from a small catechetical text. One of the questions was, “Why are you a Hindu?” The answer followed: “Because I was born a Hindu.” It may have been a good answer in its time, but it will not work for a new generation of Hindu Americans. Affiliation with the Hindu tradition will not be guaranteed by birth.