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My Take: 7 Ways religious diversity played in the election

“It’s demography, stupid!” is the new mantra for analyzing the 2012 election, in which African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos cast their votes in overwhelming numbers for President Obama.

But religious diversity was another key theme. How so? Let me count the ways.

1. The first Hindu in the House

Thanks to Hawaii’s 2d congressional district, a Hindu has been elected for the first time to the House of Representatives. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat who was born in American Samoa, served in the Hawaii National Guard and was deployed to Baghdad and Kuwait, crushed Republican Kawaki Crowley with over three-quarters of the votes.

Gabbard is a Vaishnava Hindu, which means she worships Vishnu. The key scripture in her Hindu tradition is the Bhagavad Gita, a meditation on duty in the face of war.

2. The first Buddhist in the Senate

Democrat Mazie Hirono, who vacated the House seat in Hawaii that Gabbard just won, handily defeated Republican Linda Lingle to become the first Buddhist (and the first Asian-American woman) elected to the U.S. Senate. Hirono, who describes herself as a non-practicing Buddhist, and Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) became the first Buddhists in the U.S. House when they were sworn in in 2007.

3. Out with one atheist, in with another

Pete Stark, who has served California’s 13th congressional district for 40 years, came out as an atheist in 2007 and since that time has been a standardbearer in Washington for secular Americans. He lost on Tuesday to Democrat Eric Swalwell, who criticized him during the campaign for voting against a bill that reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as our national motto.

In a very tight race in Arizona, however, Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, appears poised to win by some 2000 votes over Republican Vernon Parker. If that result holds up, Sinema would become the first member of Congress to identify herself as bisexual. Sinema, who was raised a Mormon, also describes herself as a nontheist. It looks like she will replace Stark as the only openly atheist in Congress.

Read on at CNN’s Belief Blog.

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