Beliefnet
It's often assumed that the fight over the separation of church and state is between people who are religious and those who are atheists. In the court ruling about the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, the plaintiff was an avowed atheist, further reinforcing this idea. But the original 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision, which stated not that the words "under God" in the pledge enforced religion on the public, but that they enforced monotheism, demonstrates that it's no longer just a fight between the religious and the non-religious, but a fight over how religion is expressed.

The U.S. is an increasingly diverse nation. The religious spectrum of the country continues to expand--we've gone from calling the U.S. a Christian nation, to a Judeo-Christian nation, to more recently, a nation founded on Abrahamic ideals (to include Islam). Now non-Abrahamic religions, or at least religions aside from Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, are gaining more of a presence in the U.S. The American Religious Identification Survey in 2001, by Egon Mayer and Barry Kosmin of the City University of New York, found that 78.3% of American adults adhere to one of the Abrahamic religions, and 14.1% of the U.S. population claims no religion. That leaves 7.6% of American adults belonging to a non-Abrahamic religion--not a startling amount but a group growing in numbers and significance. Here's a look at how the pledge ruling affects some of these groups.



Buddhists
How Many in the U.S.
There are about 1,080,000 Buddhists in the U.S.

Under Who?
Buddhism posits no Creator or ruler God. However some Buddhist doctrines do include belief in higher being or an absolute reality. In Buddhism, any person can potentially achieve Buddhahood, transcending personality and becoming one with the impersonal Ultimate Reality, which is Infinite Bliss (Nirvana). There are countless Buddhas presiding over countless universes. Bodhisattvas--humans and celestial spirits who sacrifice their imminent liberation (Buddhahood) to help all others to become liberated--are revered or worshipped as gods or saints by some.

Reactions:
Buddhist Beliefnet member ommani wrote in reaction to the pledge ruling: "Removing the 1950's addition of the words 'under god' does not refute the existance of a creator god, so I don't see what all this uproar is about." (Respond.)

Hindus
How Many in the U.S.
Estimates of the number of Hindus in America range from 766,000 (American Religious Identification Survey, 2001) to about 1.1 million (National Council of Churches), making up 0.4% of the U.S. adult population.

Under Who?
Hindus believe in many different gods and goddesses (as many as 33 million), but most believe that all of these gods and goddesses are incarnations or aspects of the one ultimate reality, or Brahman. The Hindu trinity of Brahman is the creator (Brahma), the preserver (Vishnu), and destroyer (Shiva) of the universe. (More about Hinduism)

Reactions:
Arvind Sharma, a Hinduism expert and Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University, told Beliefnet the pledge ruling wouldn't be likely to make waves in the Hindu community. "Hindus tend to be a little laid back about these things; they would be less excited about it as an issue," he said. "That said, most Hindus believe in God. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not polytheists, they are monotheists." Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, is in favor of keeping the words "under God" in the pledge and does not feel the phrase excludes Hindus. She told Beliefnet, "The court's decision is extremely disappointing and distressing. The phrase 'under God' doesn't designate any one faith. In Hinduism there is only one God--we may believe in different forms of God, but ultimately it is one supreme reality, Brahman. This is not good for the nation."

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