President Barack Obama celebrates Diwali at White House with Indians
BROADLY speaking, religion is less important for Asian Americans than for Americans overall, but that doesn’t mean they shun faith altogether, a Pew Research Center study on Thursday (July 19) suggests.
In “Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faith,” Pew’s Forum on Religion and Public Life found that most either count themselves as Christian or say they have no religious affiliation.
Thanks to waves of immigrants in recent decades, the number of those who are Buddhist or Hindu has grown to two per cent of the US population - about the same proportion of the total population who are Jewish.
“When it comes to religion, Asian Americans are really a study in contrasts,” said Cary Funk, a senior researcher at Pew who wrote up the findings.
Overall, Asian Americans make up 5.6 per cent of the total US population, with Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese being the biggest subgroups.
When asked how important religion was in their lives, 39 per cent of Asian Americans who took part in Pew’s survey called it “very important” - compared with 58 per cent of the general public.
Broken down, however, 37 per cent of Asian-American Christians said “living a very religious life” was among the most important things in their lives. That compares with 24 per cent of all American Christians.
Moreover, members of all three Asian-American Christian groups - Evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics - attended services more frequently than their non-Asian counterparts.
Sixty-seven per cent of Asian-American Buddhists, whose family roots go back to Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia, believed in ancestral spirits, and 57 per cent maintained a shrine in their homes.
Among those who identified themselves as Hindu, 73 per cent regarded yoga “as a spiritual practice,” 59 per cent believed in reincarnation and 78 per cent had a shrine in their residence.
“The celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is nearly universal among Indian-American Hindus” at 95 per cent, said the Pew report, published in full at www.pewforum.org.
Asian-American Hindus also boasted a greater percentage of adults with a household income of more than $100,000 (£64,018.44) - 48 per cent - than any other religious group in US society.
Branching out into politics, the survey found that Asian Americans who are registered voters lean more towards the Democrats (52 per cent) than to the Republicans (32 per cent).
However, the Evangelical sub-group bucked the trend, with 56 per cent favoring the Republicans. Asian-American Catholics were almost evenly split between the two parties.
Asked how they viewed themselves in comparison with other Americans, 53 per cent of Asian Americans said they thought of themselves as “very different,” compared to 39 per cent who believed they were “typical.”
The survey was based on telephone interviews with 3,511 adults nationwide in January through March, in English and seven other languages, although it took calls to 65,000 households to find enough qualified respondents.
Muslims of Asian origin were not included in the report, researchers said, because their numbers were too few for an accurate statistical picture to emerge.
Pew’s earlier report, “The Rise of Asian Americans,” based on the same survey data, was released in June. It found Asian Americans to be better-paid, better-educated and more satisfied than the general population.
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