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Links: Pages on Hinduism, Other Religions
God(s)Atheist / Monotheist / Polytheist / Other
AfterlifeReincarnation until escape
Area of OriginIndia
Numbers in the UK (Census results)
2001552 4212011817 000
Hindus Worldwide (Pew & WM)
World: 13.1%. Nepal (80.7%), India (79.5%), Mauritius (56.4%), Fiji (27.9%), Guyana (24.9%), Trinidad & Tobago (22.7%), Bhutan (22.6%), Suriname (19.8%), Qatar (13.8%), Sri Lanka (13.6%) 1

Hinduism is the name given to the cultural religions of India and encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and practices2. It is polytheist, with many gods taking many forms2, and represented by many names in a kaleidoscope of symbolism and meaning. All living creatures embody a spark of the divine ('atman') which is carried into a new body after death2. There are many shrines, points of pilgrimage and places of reverence, such as the river Ganges, "especially where it flows through the city of Varanasi (Benares)"2. There are also many texts and scripts that are considered sacred, mostly written in Sanskrit2, one of the oldest written languages of mankind. In fact, most things about Indian religion are sourced from pre-history, and thus it represents one of the oldest traditions of belief that humanity possesses. Hinduism is counted as one of the great world religions3.

Historically, religion in India was decentralized and disparate rather than a single belief system. A process of cultural homogenisation had already centered along trade and pilgrimage routes4 but real change came under the influence of Western categorisers from the 18th century, who simplified all of India's culture under the single title of "Hinduism", an identity which Hindus now accept3. During the period of colonial rule Christian powers at first tolerated Hinduism but over time used harsher and harsher language towards it, labelling it as heretical5. Over the last decade or two a "Hindu-ness" movement, Hindutva, has seen a rise in intolerance of non-Hindu culture5 including physical attacks on Muslims and Christians6,7,8.

1. Numbers of Hindus Around the World, by Country

TOP 202011
Pew Forum
Social & Moral
Development Index

(Lower is better)
6Trinidad & Tobago22.7%24.3%62
10Sri Lanka13.6%11.4%122
19St Vincent & Grenadines3.4%3.36%30
20New Zealand2.1%1.15%5
Data Source

The population of 3 countries are mostly Hindu (2011)1. Comparing those 3 country(ies) to the rest of the world:

Counting the numbers of Hindus in each country is not actually as simple as you might think. There are so many related belief systems, especially given that Indian religious practices date from prehistory, that Hindus might call themselves by a wide number of names. It is up to statisticians merely to assume that these categories should also be counted amongst "Hindus". And the opposite problem occurs sometimes, as some members of more widely recognized groups, such as Jains, call themselves Hindus14.

2. The Formation of Hinduism as a World Religion 15

The cultural practices and beliefs of ancient India were historically decentralized and disparate rather than comprising a single belief system. Before Western powers arrived on the scene, a gradual process of homogenisation had began due to the development of "shrines and pilgrimage centers [which] created a continent-wide network of transport and communication, over which people, goods, and ideas continuously flowed"16. Also, Muslim encroachment had already stimulated a more self-organized approach especially for military defence17. But real change came under the influence of Western categorisers from the 18th century, who simplified all of India's culture under the single title of "Hinduism", an identity which Hindus now accept3. Hinduism is counted as one of the great world religions3.

3. Hindutva and Modern Violent Hinduism 15

Polytheistic religions such as Hinduism are naturally more inclusive towards others' beliefs and practices and this bears out in international statistics, and is an argument seized upon by Hindus to argue that their religion does not have a problem with extremism18. Indeed it tends to get ignored by the Western press and Hindu fundamentalism is simply "less well known than Christian or Muslim fundamentalism"19. But over the last few decades Hindu revivalism in India has shown fundamentalist tendencies20. "Some among India's Hindu nationalist reformers have also insisted on the need to establish a nation-state grounded on Hindutva, or 'Hinduness', presented as the authentic culture of the majority"5 and "Hindu nationalists have at times taken violent action against Muslims and Christian missionaries, in defiance of official state policies"6. Recent years have seen this trend continue. When a 2007 Indian film was released covering incidences of communal riot, it wasn't shown in one state (Gujarat) for fear of retaliation by Hindu activists21. Take, for example, an incident in 2015 that saw a mob of 1,000 Hindus attack a small family of Muslims in India: A rumour had broken out that a cow had been slaughtered. Vigilantes from Save the Cow prompted a mob to appear on site, and proceeded to, amongst themselves, blame a nearby Muslim family (no slaughtered cow was found). They appeared at the house, where the family were sleeping, and beat the husband to death and left his boy in critical condition in hospital. The press got involved and Save the Cow explained their religious duty as Hindus to protect cows, which are sacred. A local politician from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Lakshmikant Bajpayee, defended the mob saying that there had a been a failure of local police to respond to the rumour adequately22. The issues are (1) that the slaughter of a cow - even if it had actually happened - is none of the business of local Hindus. It doesn't matter that they consider it sacred - other people do not. And (2), they should not be trying to force others to follow their own superstitions. Likewise, politicians should not be encouraging them - they should be representing all citizens including those with non-Hindu beliefs. Entire communities and cultures are being negatively affected by religious nonsense. Jack Donnelly in "Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice" (2013) highlighted that Hindu extremism has become "an impediment to the exercise and enjoyment of internationally recognized human rights"7

"Hinduism: Fundamentalism and Violent Extremism" by Vexen Crabtree (2016)

The following pages mention this religion. The 10 most relevant are listed:

Cultural Religion Versus Scholarly Religion, 15 times, in the following sections:
    5. Conclusions
    1.2. Examples from Ancient Babylon to the Christian Present
    1.1. Culture Infuses Religion and is Often Independent and Resistant to Change

Hinduism: Fundamentalism and Violent Extremism, 15 times, in the following sections:
    * Top of page

Satan and The Devil in World Religions, 12 times:
    2.5. Polytheism, Hinduism (Not Applicable)
    4. Who Believes? The Slow Demise of Satan: Satan is Not Universal, Not Everywhere

Christianity and Satanism are Completely Different Religions, 6 times, in the following sections:
    * Top of page

The New Age, 6 times, in the following sections:
    1.2. One Hundred Years of New Age History

Dictionary List of Different Types of Religion, 6 times, in these sections:
    * Top of page

Review of 'Varieties of Religious Experience' by William James, 3 times, in these sections:
    * Top of page

Ethics Of Reciprocity like the Golden Rule and the Wiccan Rede Do Not Work, 3 times, in the following sections:
    4. Adherents of the Golden Rule, by Religion

What Causes Religion and Superstitions?, 3 times, in these sections:
    2.6. Culture and Myth

The Causes of Fundamentalism, Intolerance and Extremism in World Religions, and Some Solutions, 3 times:
    4.1. Increasing Literalism is a Trait of Human Development

By Vexen Crabtree 2015 Nov 09
(Last Modified: 2015 Dec 18)
Originally published 2013 Jul 22

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

Book Cover

The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source.

Antoun, Richard T.. Professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton (USA).
(2001) Understanding Fundamentalism. Subtitled "Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements". Published by AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD, USA, a division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Assayag, J.
(1995) Au Confluent de Deux Rivieres: Musulmans et hindous dan le Sud de l'Inde. Published by Presses de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, Paris, France.

Babb, Lawrence A.
(1975) The Divine Hierarchy: Popular Hinduism in Central India. Published by Columbia University Press, New York, USA.

Brass, Paul R.
(2003) The Production of Hindu Muslim Violence in Contemporary India. Published by University of Washington Press, Seattle, USA.

Brekke, Torkel. Professor of religious history. University of Oslo.
(2012) Fundamentalism. Subtitled "Prophecy and Protest in the Age of Globalization". Published by Cambridge University Press.

Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer
(1997) Religions of the World. Subtitled "The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions, & Festivals". By Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien & Martin Palmer. Hardback. Published for Transedition Limited and Fernleigh Books by Lionheart Books.

Clarke, Peter B.. Peter B. Clarke: Professor Emeritus of the History and Sociology of Religion, King's College, University of London, and currently Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, UK.
(2011) The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. First published 2009.

Cohn, Bernard S.
(1964) "The Role of Gosains in the Economy of the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Upper India". Indian Economic and Social History Review, 1:172-82.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Third edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

Hefner, Robert W.
(2011) Religion and Modernity Worldwide. This essay is chapter 8 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011) (pages 152-171).

Pew Forum. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
(2012) The Global Religious Landscape: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Major Religious Groups as of 2010. Published 2012 Dec 18, accessed online 2013 May 01.

Ruthven, Malise
(2007) Fundamentalism. First edition 2005. New edition now published as part of the “Very Short Introduction” series. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

United Nations
(2013) Human Development Report. This edition had the theme of The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Published on the United Nation's HDR website at hdr.undp.org/.../hdr2013/ (accessed throughout 2013). UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.

Van der Veer, Peter
(1998) Gods on Earth: The Management of Religious Experience and Identity in a North Indian Pilgrimage Centre:46. Published by Athlone, London, UK

(2008) Worldmapper Datasets 551-582: Religion. Worldmapper Datasets 551-582: Religion (2008 Mar 26) on worldmapper.org/.../religion_data.xls, accessed 2013 Nov 11. Authored by John Protchard, published by SASI, University of Shieffield. Data is for year 2005, with some datasets being edited from original sources to remove the effects of double-counting, and, adjusting for population changes between 2002 and 2005.

Wright, Theodore P.
(2001) "The Muslim Minority Before and After Ayodhya". In Arvind Sharma (ed.), Hinduism and Secularism after Ayodhya, 1-24. Published by Palgrave, New York, USA.


  1. Pew (2012).^^
  2. Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997) p10.^
  3. "Religions of the World" by Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997) counts Hinduism amongst 10 world religions, devoting a chapter to each.^^
  4. Heffner (2011) cites Assayah (1995), Babb (1975), Cohn (1964) and van der Veer (1994): 46.^
  5. Heffner (2011).^^
  6. Heffner (2011) cites Brass (2003) and Wright (2001).^^
  7. Donnelly (2013) p157.^^
  8. Ruthven (2007) ch.6 "Fundamentalism and Nationalism II" p21, 104, 111.^
  9. Worldmapper (2008).^
  10. UN (2013) Table 1 provides Life Expectancy At Birth for all countries.^
  11. UN (2013) Table 14.^
  12. UN (2013) Table 1.^
  13. UN (2013) Table 4.^
  14. Tanebaum, Center for Interreligious Understanding, "World Religions Fact Sheet", on https://www.tanenbaum.org, accessed 2013 Nov 10.^
  15. Added to this page on 2015 Nov 08.^^
  16. Heffner (2011) cites Assayah (1995), Babb (1975), Cohn (1964) and van der Veer (1994): 46. Added to this page on 2015 Nov 08.^
  17. Heffner (2011) . Added to this page on 2015 Nov 08.^
  18. The Economist (2007 Nov 03) A special report on religion and public life p14.^
  19. Brekke (2012) p10.^
  20. Antoun (2001) p2.^
  21. The Times of India article "Parzania not screened in Gujarat" (2007 Jan 26), accessed 2016 Apr 13.^
  22. Added to this page on 2015 Dec 18. The Hindu mob attack reported in NYTimes 2015 Oct 04.^

© 2016 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.