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Image by Katherine StreeterAccording to the latest research, Buddhism is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States. Sociologist James Coleman looks at the emerging Buddhist population and who will shape the new public face of Buddhism.
Like it or not, Western Buddhism is heading into the cultural mainstream, and it may well be a rough ride. Although the population of American Buddhists has been growing rapidly for decades, to this point Buddhism has remained something of a stealth religion, virtually invisible to most people outside our cosmopolitan coastal enclaves. It has, for example, become commonplace for politicians to include Islam in their rhetoric about American cultural diversity, while Buddhism is seldom given a mention, though by even the most conservative estimates there are almost twice as many Buddhists as Muslims in the United States.