CSM: Why some Americans mix Christianity, Eastern religions

Because she attends Catholic mass every Sunday and observes all the religious holidays of her faith, Angela Bowman may well exemplify the Latin root of the word “religion,” which is “to bind.”

But the Chicagoan also meditates several times each day and practices yoga every other week. She knows Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism have contradictory elements but is unfazed by her multiple observances because, to her, “it’s all pretty much the same thing.”

“The biggest part of praying is opening yourself up to a connection with God, and I perceive clearing your mind in meditation as another form of receptivity,” says the 30-something textbook editor. Although she is a devoted Roman Catholic, she says she doesn’t “believe it’s the one true path and anything else is flirting with the devil.”

Ms. Bowman’s attitude tracks with those in a study released last month, which found that large numbers of America’s faithful do not neatly conform to the expectations or beliefs of their prescribed religions, but instead freely borrow principles of Eastern religions or endorse common supernatural beliefs.

Read the whole thing.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Buddhism, Hinduism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

15 comments on “CSM: Why some Americans mix Christianity, Eastern religions

  1. NewTrollObserver says:

    Practicing meditation and yoga is not the same as practicing “Hinduism” and “Buddhism”.

  2. Katherine says:

    Yoga is a religious exercise in India. In Chicago, it probably depends on what sort of yoga and meditation she does. The more interesting question is what Catholic parish she attends and what she hears and learns there.

  3. NewTrollObserver says:

    Yoga is also a religious exercise in America, but “religious practice” is not the same as practicing “Hinduism”.

  4. Jeff Thimsen says:

    I believe that to most people in America, yoga is a form of exercise only.

  5. Branford says:

    I think you’re right, Jeff, but in my RCIA class, one of the sponsors was a former Hindu and he was adamantly against yoga, because each position, whether one is aware of it or not, is a prayer position to a Hindu god or goddess. So I’m conflicted. Some yoga classes I’ve been to have definitely stressed the spiritual (and when I found myself in one of those a few years ago, I just repeated the doxology to myself throughout the class) and others have a few trappings (some words, etc.) but are really more about stretching.

  6. Hakkatan says:

    I doubt that very many, if any, yoga instructors in the US teach class members to pray to particular Hindu gods or goddesses. However, I would bet that most yoga instructors in the US speak of “energy centers” in the body, and of “energy flow” being increased through yoga exercises. These are Eastern, monistic concepts. If one takes yoga, one is very likely to do so in the context of a Hindu or Buddhist worldview, even it neither religion is openly taught.

    I will not take yoga for that very reason. There are plenty of other ways to get stretching done.

  7. Katherine says:

    NewTrollObserver, yoga is a Hindu religious practice, in India anyhow, and as Branford #5 says, the various positions relate to Hindu worship and Hindu deities. That doesn’t mean that U.S. instructors are Hindus, of course. I took a yoga class with some expatriate women for about a month in India. The beginning and the end of the sessions involved chanting in which I could clearly hear these women repeating the names of Hindu gods. Like Branford, I repeated Christian prayers to myself. A “yoga” class which involves stretching and downplays the “spiritual” aspect can be great exercise.

    The woman in the article seems to view yoga and meditation as additions to her Catholic faith, so she’s not looking at this as just exercise and quiet moments. In that sense, she is accepting Hindu ideas and practices.

  8. palagious says:

    I like incense, I’m not Eastern Orthodox am I?

  9. Vatican Watcher says:

    1. and 3.:

    The Ouija board is viewed by most in the US as only a game and not as a occult way of contacting spirits, but that doesn’t make it safe.

    Same principle applies to yoga.

  10. jkc1945 says:

    Vatican Watcher, you have nailed it. The Apostle Paul found it necessary to write to one of his fledgling churches: “The things which the gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons.” He was fighting the idea, already developing in the Roman world, that ‘worshipping God’ is the same thing, no matter how it is done, no matter who does it, no matter in what manner it happens. None of that is true, and it didn’t matter for Paul whether the worshipped realized his mistake or not. The “one” being worshipped certainly understood.

  11. jkc1945 says:

    Correction to above: “. . . and it didn’t matter for Paul whether the worshipper realized his mistake or not.’ Sorry.

  12. St. Cuervo says:

    10&11;: 1 Cor 8:4?

    “… for we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one…”

  13. Katherine says:

    Sure, #12, but there is also, “thou shalt not bow down to them and worship them.”

  14. Courageous Grace says:

    yay, does this mean I can stop doing the yoga exercises that my Wii Fit tells me to do?

  15. St. Cuervo says:

    Sure, #13, but there is also an allowance from St. Paul to eat meat sacrificed to idols if no one watching objects for “food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” or “nothing is unclean in itself.”

    As such, yoga sans the Hindu prayers done with no intent to worship Hindu gods (which is easy if you don’t know anything about Hinduism and only know the yoga moves themselves) is probably benign. It will also neither help nor hinder your spiritual progress (indeed if someone is looking to help his or her relationship with the Trinitarian God through yoga, he or she is too spiritually “weak” to be doing it).

    I don’t do yoga. Never have. But I’ve never felt the need to criticize a Christian who does unless they are looking to gain some religious insights from the practice. There is no problem with yoga done purely for exercise. Although Christians who do yoga for physical probably shouldn’t rub it in the face of those who objects.

    That’s my reading of 1 Cor 8 and Rom 14 anyway…