Taking Other Religions Seriously: A Comparative Survey of Hindus in India
40 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 14, 2018
While the study of religion in political science has reemerged as a growing field of inquiry in the last few decades, most research still focuses on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What religion is and how it is measured has largely been conceptualized through the lens of these Abrahamic faiths. This article, by contrast, examines Hinduism, the world’s oldest and third most populous religion. I randomly assigned closed-ended or open-ended surveys about Hindu religiosity across and within two demographically similar villages in the north Indian state of Bihar. A comparison of survey responses from a sample of 100 respondents suggests that many Hindus: a.) do not recognize basic analytical categories scholars use in the social scientific study of religion; b.) do not differentiate between ostensibly religious and secular categories; and c.) recognize features of everyday life, such as attire or obedience to rules about purity and auspiciousness, as religious in ways that may be different from most western religious communities. This article productively challenges how political scientists think about what religion is and how to measure it, tasks that must precede explaining how it affects political behavior.
Keywords: Religiosity, Eastern religions, Hinduism, India, Bihar
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