“The United States is the most religiously diverse nation in the world,” leading religious scholar Diana Eck states. The Immigration Act of 1965 eliminated the quotas linking immigration to national origins. Since then, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jams, Zoroastrians, and new varieties of Jews and Catholics have arrived from every part of the globe, radically altering the religious landscape of the United States. Members of the world’s religions live not just on the other side of the world, but in our neighborhoods; Hindu children go to school with Jewish children; Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs work side-by-side with Protestants and Catholics.
This new religious diversity is now a Main Street phenomenon, yet many Americans remain unaware of the profound change taking place at every level of our society, from local school boards to Congress, and in small-town Nebraska as well as New York City. Islamic centers and mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples, and meditation centers can be found in virtually every major American metropolitan area. There are Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in Salt Lake City, Utah; Toledo, Ohio; and Jackson, Mississippi. Buddhism has become an American religion, as communities widely separated in Asia are now neighbors in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago. Eck discovers Muslims worshiping in a U-Haul dealership in Pawtucket, Rhode Island; a gymnasium in Oklahoma City, and a former mattress showroom in Northridge, California. Hindu temples are housed in a warehouse in Queens, a former YMCA in New Jersey, and a former Methodist church in Minneapolis.
How Americans of all faiths and beliefs can engage with one another to shape a positive pluralism is one of the essential questions—perhaps the most important facing American society. While race has been the dominant social issue in the past century, religious diversity in our civil and neighborly lives is emerging, mostly unseen, as the great challenge of the twenty-first century. Diana Eck brilliantly analyzes these developments in the richest and most readable investigation of American society since Robert Bellah’s classic, The Habits of the Heart. What Eck gives us in A New Religious America is a portrait of the diversity of religion in modern America, complete with engaging characters, fascinating stories, the tragedy of misunderstanding and hatred, and the hop of new friendships, offering a road map to guide us all in the richly diverse America of the twenty-first century.
—Courtesy of the Pluralism Project, Harvard University
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