Dr. Paul D. Numrich, a professor of world religions and interreligious relations, conjectured that there may be as many Buddhists as Muslims in the United States by now.Professor Numrich’s claim is startling, but statistics (some, anyway) support it: Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the United States. More Americans convert to Buddhism than to Mormonism. (Think about it, Mitt.)Many converts are what Thomas A. Tweed, in “The American Encounter With Buddhism,” refers to as “nightstand Buddhists” — mostly Catholics, Jews (yeah, I know, “Juddhists”) and refugees from other religions who keep a stack of Pema Chödrön books beside their beds.So who are these — dare I coin the term? — Newddhists? Burned-out BlackBerry addicts attracted to its emphasis on quieting the “monkey mind”? Casual acolytes rattled by the fiscal and identity crises of a nation that even Jeb Bush suggests is “in decline”? Placard-carrying doomsayers out of a New Yorker cartoon? Uncertain times make us susceptible to collective catastrophic thinking — the conditions in which religious movements flourish.Or perhaps Buddhism speaks to our current mind-body obsession...
Or it could be...it could be that there's a heck of a lot of suffering and people have figured out that Buddhism helps. Or it could be that Buddhism is one of the few major world religions (is there any other?) where skeptical brains aren't not only not checked at the door, but encouraged.
Mr. Atlas kind of gets to that latter point, but it's kind of buried in the studied trendiness of the article.