How many Buddhists in the U.S.?

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There are more Buddhists in the United States than there are Muslims.

That’s according to a survey of 35,000 adult Americans, conducted in the summer of 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. This is a well-respected research group, non-partisan, and their surveys are conducted according to strict social-science collection protocols.

Of the people surveyed, 78.4 percent said they are Christian; 1.7 percent Jewish, 0.7 percent Buddhist, 0.6 percent Muslim, 0.4 percent Hindu, 16.1 percent “unaffiliated,” and 0.8 percent don’t know or refused to answer. I don’t mean to make a big deal over the number of Muslims, but just to point out that while our Muslim neighbors have been more in the public eye in recent years, and Buddhists seem so few here, our numbers are in fact quite similar.

Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.

In his Inauguration speech, our new President said: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.” I thought that was wonderful. It’s the first time Muslims have ever been mentioned in an Inauguration speech, and I’m really happy they were mentioned as “us” and not “them.”

I also don’t mind at all that Obama referred to Hindus (0.4 percent) and not Buddhists (0.7 percent). No need to quibble. No need to be greedy.

Breathe.

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