What Place Does Religion Have in Hawaii?

Over more than six years in Hawaii I didn’t meet many people that were overtly, devoutly religious. It seems like the people in the islands, in general, are extremely happy to be living in paradise on earth and they’re not looking for whatever paradise might be found in religion.

That said, there are churches all over the islands – and some Buddhist temples as well. I knew Christians, Jews, Rastafarians, those that believed earth itself was god… There is a large Mormon University on Oahu – BYU, and there are a lot of Mormon students attending. If there are Hindus, and Hare Krishnas I didn’t see them. There were some guys shaven bald with one little pony tail sticking up walking the streets in robes and handing out pamphlets – I ignored them at the time, but today wish I would have known which group they were from – quite possibly the Hare Krishna group, but I cannot say for sure.

Mainlanders coming over to Hawaii are either atheist, agnostic, or Christian – again, speaking in generalities. There are those from the Philippines that are predominantly Catholic. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese residents are mostly Zen, Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist. Indonesians and Malaysians are mostly Muslim.

Hasidic Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others all have a presence in Hawaii. There is no one, dominant religion, and however you choose to worship, there is probably a group for you – at least on Oahu.

Nearly ½ of Hawaii’s residents practice some form of Christianity meaning, Catholic, Christian, Protestant, etc. Nearly any denomination existing in the mainland also exists here in Hawaii.

Far east religions play an important role Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, Islam, and other spiritual practices are all found on the islands.

Religious followers in Hawaii are distributed as follows (data by religious establishments themselves):

  • Christianity: 351,000 (28.9%)
  • Buddhism: 110,000 (9%)
  • Judaism: 10,000 (0.8%)
  • Other: 100,000 (10%)*
  • Unaffiliated: 650,000 (51.1%)**

“Other” in this data are religions other than Christianity, Buddhism, or Judaism; this group includes Bah?’? Faith, Confucianism, Daoism, Traditional Hawaiian religious beliefs, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, and other religions.

“Unaffiliated” refers to people who do not belong to a congregation; this group includes agnostics, atheists, humanists, and the irreligious.

[Photo credit – flickr.com member, JoshBerglund19]