A New Religious America

new-religious-america-50Dr. Diana Eck
Published by HarperSanFrancisco

Diana Eck’s book, A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation was published in 2001. In 2002, a reprint edition was released, with the preface “A New Religious America – After September 11.”

In A New Religious America, Diana Eck describes the transformation of America’s religious landscape, and explores the implications of this new religious reality. For excerpts, please see: “A Mosque in Massachusetts” and “Next Door Neighbors: Muslims and Methodists.”

From the publisher, HarperSanFrancisco: “The United States is the most religiously diverse nation in the world,” leading religious scholar Diana Eck writes in this eye-opening guide to the religious realities of America today. The Immigration Act of 1965 eliminated the quotas linking immigration to national origins. Since then, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, SikhsSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob..., Jains, ZoroastriansOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra..., 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 ProtestantsProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists... 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 centersAn Islamic center will typically include a mosque, school, and area for social and cultural activities. When a new Islamic center is being organized in the United States, attention is paid to community needs, including a weekend or full-time school, indic... and mosquesMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit..., Hindu and Buddhist templesBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra..., and meditationMeditation is the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention. Different meditation practices commend focusing attention on a word, a prayer, a form, or the breath as a way of practice. Meditation is commo... centers can be found in virtually every major American metropolitanA Metropolitan is the title given to a bishop, used especially in the Orthodox family of churches today. area. There are Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in Salt Lake City, Utah; Toledo, Ohio; and Jackson, Mississippi. BuddhismBuddhism is a multi-hued tradition of life, thought, and practice that has developed from the teaching and practice of Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE) who came to be called the Buddha, the awakened one. The three major streams of the tradition—Ther... has become an American religion, as communities widely separated in Asia are now neighbors in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago. Eck describes Muslims worshipping in a U-Haul dealership in Pawtucket, Rhode Island; a gymnasium in Oklahoma City; and a former mattress showroom in Northridge, California. Hindu templesA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ... are housed in a warehouse in Queens, a former YMCA in New Jersey, and a former MethodistThe Methodist church is a Protestant communion of churches which began in England with John Wesley (1703-91) and has become a worldwide movement. In the U.S., the United Methodist Church—one of the largest Protestant denominations—is known for its str... churchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, 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 question — facing American society. While race has been the dominant American 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 hope of new friendships, offering a road map to guide us all in the richly diverse America of the twenty-first century.

An eye-opening account of the changing landscape of America:

  • The 1990s saw the U.S. Navy commission its first Muslim chaplainA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community. and open its first mosqueMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit....
  • There are presently more than three hundred templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in Los Angeles, home to the greatest variety of Buddhists in the world.
  • There are more American Muslims than there are American EpiscopaliansEpiscopal refers to any church in which authority is vested in a bishop (Greek episkopos). More particularly it refers to the Episcopal Church in America, which developed from the Church of England after the American Revolution., Jews, or PresbyteriansPresbyterian is the general name for churches governed by elected presbyters or elders and refers especially to Reformed churches in Scotland and England that shaped Presbyterian churches worldwide. The church is distinguished both from those in which aut....

Reviews of A New Religious America

A wonderful book with delightful descriptions and challenging insights that revise the traditional Norman Rockewell-ian pictures of America. Professor Eck’s book presents a new family portrait with Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus and encourages us to acknowledge the new family members who live and work with us in America.

—Vasudha Narayanan, University of Florida

Meet your new neighbors! The religious complexion of America is changing so fast we all need a roadmap and a trustworthy guide. This highly readable book is the best map available, and Diana Eck is an immensely well-informed guide. We need this book to tell us who we are and who we are becoming.

—Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School, author of Five from Heaven

Diana Eck’s portrait of the new religious America shatters our old preconceptions and challenges us to “get real” with the world in which we live in the 21st century. Vivid in its description, it beckons us not just to recognize but to embrace the global religious diversity of our own land, and to live up to our highest ideals of freedom and tolerance for all faith traditions.

—Wade Clark Roof, J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and Society, University of California Santa Barbara

It is impossible to understand religion in America without appreciating our new, and stunning, religious diversity. Diana Eck is the country’s best guide to America’s new pluralism. I urge you to take her tour.

—Alan Wolfe, Boisi Center for Religion and Public Life, Boston College

For decades, many Americans have slowly inched their way toward the realization that their nation is indeed a religiously pluralistic one. Now, with the guiding arms of Professor Diana Eck to support us, we can at last take bold and giant steps into that pluralism, which is as unabashed as it is undeniable.

—Dr. Edwin S. Gaustad, author of A Religious History of America

What a kaleidoscope religion in the United States has become, and Diana Eck’s A New Religious America provides us with the vision to see it in all its bright, shifting, colorful, and fragmented brilliance. With an engaging mix of anecdote and sharp analysis, Eck offers the best overview we have of American religious pluralism. It is a book with profound implications for how we negotiate the future of American civil society.

—Leigh Eric Schmidt, Professor of Religion, Princeton University

This portrait of the religious reinvention of America is as surprising as it is hopeful. With scrupulous scholarship, vivid writing, and an always respectful eye, Diana Eck shows the way toward this nation’s future.

—James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword

Diana Eck brilliantly portrays the kaleidoscopic changes taking place in religious America today, and then courageously addresses the critical civic question: What kind of E PLURIBUS UNUM will work for the 21st century? Highlighting Hinduism“Hindu” was originally a word given by the Greeks, then the Persians, to the land and peoples beyond the Indus or “Sindhu” River. The term “Hinduism” came into common use only in the 19th century to describe a complex and dynamic pattern of li..., Buddhism and IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to..., her symphonic concept of the new public square involves deep listening as well as passionate participation.

—Rev. Scotty McLennan, Dean for Religious Life, Stanford University, author of Finding Your Religion

Awash in a great wave of immigrants and faiths from around the world, the first new nation finds itself both born again and radically reincarnated in this revealing story of a new multireligious America. Our religious roots reach further than ever, even as our historically ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists... and EnlightenmentEnlightenment means awakening to or realizing the true nature of reality. The term is used with various nuances in the Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu traditions to express the spiritual awakening that is the goal of religious life. “The Enlightenment” also... institutions refocus their profound power to shape selves and social relations through a tightening monoculture driven by middle-class work and schooling. What will come of this moral drama all of us inhabit? Greater cultural conflict or liberal tolerance? A pluralist democratic miracle in the gospelGospel means “Good News” and refers to the central message of the Christian tradition: the good news of Christ’s life and message of redemption. Gospel refers more specifically to the four books that tell the story of the Christ event and became par... of American exceptionalism, or an unfolding mystery of interdependent globalization? Providential or problematic, the next act will keep us guessing and praying. In both pursuits this book is an invaluable guide.

—Steven M. Tipton, Emory University, Co-author, Habits of the Heart and The Good Society

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