After Hare Krishna visits ‘Mad Men’; Hinduism enters American mainstream

Frank Ockenfels AP “Mad Men” cast members Christina Hendricks, left, John Slattery, Jared Harris, Vincent Kartheiser, Jon Hamm, Robert Morse … Continued

Frank Ockenfels


“Mad Men” cast members Christina Hendricks, left, John Slattery, Jared Harris, Vincent Kartheiser, Jon Hamm, Robert Morse and Elisabeth Moss.

Paul Kinsey re-emerged in Sunday night’s episode of “Mad Men” after a long absence — if only to remind the Heinz-hawking ad execs at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce about life’s spiritual side. (For a Mad Men recap, check out Jen Cheney in Celebritology today.)

So the former copywriter Kinsey is a Hare Krishna devotee. What is the Hindu spiritual movement and why did it surge in popularity during the 1960s and ’70s?

It’s not all Beatles songs and airport evangelizing: “Hare Krishna followers worship the Hindu god Vishnu in his earthly manifestation as Krishna,” the religion Web site Patheos explains in their religion library. Writing for Newsweek, Michael Kress explained the popular movement’s millennia-old roots in Hinduism:

The Hare Krishnas may have been seen as a highly visible, though fringe, movement in the ’60s, but today the ideas they worked to popularize are as mainstream as ever.

Writing for Newsweek in 2009, current On Faith columnist Lisa Miller suggested that it’s Hinduism, a 5,000-year-old tradition that teaches a cycle of rebirth and God’s many manifestations — and not Christianity — that best captures the religious beliefs of most Americans:

And the 50 years since Hare Krishnas invaded popular American culture have also seen marked transformations in American religion.

Kress in Newsweek, again:


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
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