The Human Truth Foundation


By Vexen Crabtree 2015

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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 religions2 of India and encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and practices3. It is polytheist, with many gods taking many forms3, 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 death3. 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)"3. There are also many texts and scripts that are considered sacred, mostly written in Sanskrit3, 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 religions4.

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 routes5 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 accept4. 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 heretical6. Over the last decade or two a "Hindu-ness" movement, Hindutva, has seen a rise in intolerance of non-Hindu culture6 including physical attacks on Muslims and Christians7,8,9.

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%61
10Sri Lanka13.6%11.4%116
19St Vincent & Grenadines3.4%3.36%26
20New Zealand2.1%1.15%6
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 Hindus15.

2. The Formation of Hinduism as a World Religion16

#india #islam

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"17. Also, Muslim encroachment had already stimulated a more self-organized approach especially for military defence18. 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 accept4. Hinduism is counted as one of the great world religions4.

3. Hindutva and Modern Violent Hinduism16

#india #islam

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 extremism19. Indeed it tends to get ignored by the Western press and Hindu fundamentalism is simply "less well known than Christian or Muslim fundamentalism"20. But over the last few decades Hindu revivalism in India has shown fundamentalist tendencies21. "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"6 and "Hindu nationalists have at times taken violent action against Muslims and Christian missionaries, in defiance of official state policies"7. 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 activists22. 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 adequately23. 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"8

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

4. Karma 24

#afterlife #buddhism #india #jainism #karma #new_age #reincarnation #taoism

Karma is an important concept in a range of Vedic religions and cultures, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, all stemming from Indian beliefs. Karma is a universal principal and cosmic law, like the Tao of Taoism25. Unlike Taoism, individual beings (and the entire universe) go through a large number of incarnations. It is closely linked to the concept of continual rebirth (reincarnation)26. Original Jain beliefs had it that all actions had negative karma and only complete serenity and detachment could help the situation27. Later Jain beliefs came closer Hindu and Buddhist ideas: Acts of merit such as pilgrimages and worship can improve your next fate28. Eventually, beings can break free from the cycle. In Hinduism and Jainism this liberation is called moksha and in Buddhism the result is the attainment of enlightenment and nirvana. Western New Age movements have also taken on the concept "though sometimes with a degree of misunderstanding"28. All in all, more people on Earth believe in Karma through a series of rebirths than in any other religious principle.26,27,28,3,29

"How Does Karma Work in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism?" by Vexen Crabtree (2017)

Hindus believe that very action, good or bad, hurtful or compassionate, has an effect on this life and on future lives. This is called karma. By accumulating positive karma Hindus can eventually break free from the cycles of birth and death to achieve liberation or moksha, which is complete union with God.

"Religions of the World" by Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997)3

Some held that karma was so strict a scorecard that all action caused accumulation that had to be overcome and then removing all desire was the only recourse. Some believe that beings undergoing the cycle of rebirth make automatic progress (more or less) towards Moksha (liberation) but that this is a very, very slow process.

[Often] there is a belief that the incarnated being automatically makes progress towards liberati(Moksha) through learning the lessons of rebirth in different bodies. Indian thinkers either reject this idea, or regard such a process as impossibly slow: the way to liberation for them involves swimming upstream, against the current of karma. [...] Although Hindu texts such as the Puranas seem to describe the law of karma in terms of strict cause and effect [...] in practice their views are less fatalistic. [...] Acts of merit, such as pilgrimages (Tirtha-Yatra) or acts of worship (Puja), [can] wipe out the effects of bad karma.

"The Penguin Dictionary of Religions" by John R. Hinnells (1997)28

Over time, opinions changed. Hindu scribes told stories of Krishna lightening the mood, and arguing that in order to progress, ...

... it is the results of actions that have to be renounced, not action itself - one should not desire particular rewards, nor think proudly of oneself as the doer of great deeds. One should be satisfied in the self, offering action and its fruits as a sacrifice... [t]his is the discipline of karma yoga. Krishna goes on to explain other worthy paths which, pursued steadfastly, will bring a seeker to equanimity and, finally, liberation. Jnana yoga, the path of knowledge, and bhakti yoga, the way of devotion. [...] The Bhagavad-gita transforms the earlier pessimistic notion - that the results of action lead to continual rebirth and transmigration of the self - into a positive discipline for personal transformation.

"Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction" by Kim Knott (1998)30

More modern Hindu philosophers have argued for a clearer way of understanding karma:

Arvind Sharma's contemporary solution goes as follows. To think fatalistically about karma is unhelpful when, in fact, as human beings we have the power at any moment co change our own behaviour, and thus its consequences for our future. Free will rather than fatalism characterizes the operation of karma.

"Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction" by Kim Knott (1998)30

Current edition: 2015 Nov 09
Last Modified: 2017 Feb 13
Originally published 2013 Jul 22

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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 for some commentary on this source..

Antoun, Richard T.. (1932-2009). 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, UK.

Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer
(1997) Religions of the World. Hardback book. Subtitled: "The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions, & Festivals". Published by Lionheart Books. By Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien & Martin Palmer. Published for Transedition Limited and Fernleigh 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. Paperback book. Originally published 2009. Current version published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

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. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

Erricker, Clive
(1995) Buddhism. Paperback book. Part of the TeachYourself Books series.

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).

Hinnells, John R.. Currently professor of theology at Liverpool Hope University.
(1997, Ed.) The Penguin Dictionary of Religions. Paperback book. Originally published 1984. Current version published by Penguin Books, London, UK. References to this book simply state the title of the entry used.

Knott, Kim
(1998) Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction. Paperback book. 2000 reissue. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. Part of the Very Short Introductions series.

Momen, Moojan
(1999) The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach. Paperback book. Published by Oneworld Publications, Oxford, UK. Book Review.

Murray et al.
(2009) Hammond Atlas of World Religions. Hardback book. Published by Hammond World Atlas Corporation, Langenscheidt Publishing Group, New York, USA. Contributing authors: Stuart A.P. Murray; Robert Huber; Elizabeth Mechem; Sarah Novak; Devid West Reynolds, PhD; Tricia Wright; Thomas Cussans.

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. Originally published 2005. Current version published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. New edition now published as part of the “Very Short Introduction” series.

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(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 (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, 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. Murray et al. (2009) p.v . Hinduism is listed as one of the 11 major religions of the world.^
  3. Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997) chapter "Introduction" p10.^^
  4. "Religions of the World" by Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997) counts Hinduism amongst 10 world religions, devoting a chapter to each.^^
  5. Heffner (2011) cites Assayah (1995), Babb (1975), Cohn (1964) and van der Veer (1994): 46.^
  6. Heffner (2011) .^^
  7. Heffner (2011) cites Brass (2003) and Wright (2001).^^
  8. Donnelly (2013) p157.^^
  9. Ruthven (2007) chapter 6 "Fundamentalism and Nationalism II" p21,104,111 .^
  10. Worldmapper (2008) .^
  11. UN (2013) Table 1 provides Life Expectancy At Birth for all countries.^
  12. UN (2013) Table 14.^
  13. UN (2013) Table 1.^
  14. UN (2013) Table 4.^
  15. Tanebaum, Center for Interreligious Understanding, "World Religions Fact Sheet", on, accessed 2013 Nov 10.^
  16. Added to this page on 2015 Nov 08.^^
  17. Heffner (2011) cites Assayah (1995), Babb (1975), Cohn (1964) and van der Veer (1994): 46. Added to this page on 2015 Nov 08.^
  18. Heffner (2011) . Added to this page on 2015 Nov 08.^
  19. The Economist (2007 Nov 03) A special report on religion and public life p14.^
  20. Brekke (2012) p10.^
  21. Antoun (2001) p2.^
  22. The Times of India article "Parzania not screened in Gujarat" (2007 Jan 26), accessed 2016 Apr 13.^
  23. The Hindu mob attack reported in NYTimes 2015 Oct 04.^
  24. Added to this page on 2017 Feb 13.^
  25. Momen (1999) chapter 13 "Religion and Ethics" p339.^
  26. Murray et al. (2009) chapter "India: Changing Society, Emerging Religions" p51.^
  27. Hinnells (1997) entry "Karma (Jain Doctrine)" .^
  28. Hinnells (1997) entry "Karma" .^
  29. Erricker (1995) chapter 3 "The Buddha's Teaching" p43.^
  30. Knott (1998) chapter 3 "Understanding the Self" p34-37.^

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