New Neighbors

The religious landscape of America is changing. A 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... rises from the cornfields along the interstate outside Toledo, Ohio. A Hindu templeA 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... is consecrated in a suburb of Houston, on a hillside in Nashville, or a hilltop in Lemont, Illinois. Vietnamese 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... are opened in Salt Lake City and Denver, along with Thai Buddhist 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 Oklahoma City and Bolivia, North Carolina and Cambodian temples in Lowell, Massachusetts and Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Hillside Terrace” in Fremont, California is renamed “GurdwaraThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a... Road” when 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... build a spacious gurdwara in the neighborhood.

In every state and major city in the U.S. there are new religious neighbors today. People of different faiths are not just metaphorical neighbors around the world, but often live next door. A LutheranLutheranism is a Protestant tradition following the theology of Martin Luther (1483-1546), the reformer who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and launched the German reformation. He emphasized the sole authority of the Bible, the priesthoo... 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 ... and a Buddhist templeBuddhist 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... are right across the street from one another in Garden GroveSacred groves have historically been among the most important sites for Pagan worship. In Druidism, trees are thought to have specific attributes that contribute meaning to the site where they grow. Contemporary Druid groups are often called “groves.”..., California. A Muslim community center, a Ukranian OrthodoxIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion. church, a Disciples of Christ church, and a Gujarati Hindu temple are virtually next-door neighbors on New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland. A Vietnamese Buddhist temple and a BaptistThe Baptist tradition includes a variety of Christian churches which trace their beginnings to the Anabaptist reform movement that rejected infant baptism insisting on the importance of baptizing only those who are able to profess the faith as believers. church are neighbors on the same road on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.

In the more than twenty cities shown on this gateway-map of the U.S., there is a remarkable new religious diversity. In each city you will find interactive maps that highlight the frequency and proximity of 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... and temples, synagoguesSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... and gurdwarasThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a..., not to mention interfaith efforts. You will also find essays that feature a geographic element of religious diversity in five major U.S. metropolises—Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. A Directory of Religious Centers and ongoing research efforts expand our geographic exploration beyond these select cities and into every state in the U.S.

The mapping of America’s new religious landscape is just beginning, as people from every state in the U.S. begin to realize just how religiously diverse we now are. In the introductions to each city, you will discover some remarkable things: that Los Angeles is the most diverse and complex Buddhist city in the world; that there are over fifty mosques in Atlanta, and nearly twenty 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 ...; that Chicago mirrors the diversity of the world, with a multitude of churchesThe 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 ... and synagogues, over ninety mosques, seventy-five Buddhist communities, and many Hindu temples, in addition to Jain, ZoroastrianOriginating 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 Bahá’í temples in nearby suburbs. 

Of course our maps cannot begin to do justice to the magnitude and diversity of these traditions in each city, especially for ChristianityChristianity is the religious tradition of Christians: those who confesses faith in Jesus Christ, follow the path Christ taught, and gather together in the community of the church. and JudaismJudaism is the worldview, the way of life, and the religious practice of the Jewish people, living in covenant with God and in response to Torah, the laws and ethics which guide the pattern of Jewish life. Jews today interpret their three thousand year ol.... There are many other more extensive resources for learning about Christianity in America: research conducted by the Association for Religion Data Archives is a great place to start. American Christianity is also more diverse today as a result of the new immigration. St. James the Greater, a Catholic church in Boston, is largely Chinese, while Primera Iglesia Bautista in Miami serves a growing Hispanic Baptist congregation. There are other dynamic currents too: Second Baptist Church, a megachurch in Houston, has five campuses around the city, while CalvaryCalvary is the hill on the outskirts of ancient Jerusalem on which Jesus was crucified. ChapelA chapel is a place of worship, smaller than the sanctuary of a church or synagogue, or in an institutional setting such as a college or hospital. in Costa Mesa, California is part of a spirited PentecostalPentecostalism is a term used to describe a twentieth-century Christian movement that emphasizes Spirit-filled worship, including glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” as is said to have happened on the first day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago in ... revival. American Judaism is also changing with new Jewish immigrants from Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe, with the ultra-orthodoxyIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion. of the HasidimHasidic literally means the “pious one,” and Hasidim (pl.) are those who have developed extraordinary devotion to the spirituality of Jewish life. Originally, Hasidism referred to the movement founded in Poland in the mid-18th century by Israel Baal S... and the new spirituality of Jewish RenewalJewish Renewal refers to a wide variety of contemporary Jewish movements that emphasize Jewish mystical spirituality, Jewish visionary reform, Jewish social conscience, and Jewish participation in tikkun olam, the “repair of the world.” communities.

For the past few decades, many of the changes in America’s religious landscape have been relatively invisible. There was no new architecture to catch the eye of a passerby. The first generation of new mosques and 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... was housed in a former U-Haul dealership in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in a former mattress showroom in Northridge, California, or in a huge urban movie theater in Chicago. In Denver, ranch-style suburban homes became Vietnamese Buddhist temples, with a few monksA monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ord... residing in each. Across America, Hindus have worshipped at tens of thousands of home altarsAn altar is a raised platform or stand which bears the central symbols of a religious tradition—whether in a temple, church, shrine, or home—and at which offerings are made, worship is offered, or prayers are said., or rented a Knights of Columbus Hall for weekend worship. They have transformed a New Jersey YMCA and a Massachusetts chain restaurant into permanent temples. Sikhs have converted a former church in Queens, New York into a gurdwara, while Jains worshipped in an old suburban church in Norwood, Massachusetts before converting a former synagogueSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... into a new temple. 

By the 1990s, however, the visible architectural evidence of America’s new religious diversity was unmistakable. The Hsi Lai Temple built on a hillside in Hacienda Heights, California is the largest Buddhist temple in the western hemisphere, and but one of several spectacular Chinese Buddhist temples. There are new mosques that have changed the visible skyline of American cities, such as the Islamic CenterAn 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... of Greater Toledo, or the Islamic Cultural Center in New York City, or the Islamic Center of Seattle. There are spectacular Hindu temples in Atlanta and Houston, and in dozens of other cities, with ornately carved temple-towers rising over the doorways. Today, in the first decades of the twenty-first century, construction is underway all over America: the ceremonial ground-breaking, the pouring of foundations, the skeleton of two-by-fours framing a new religious center, the dedication ceremonies, and the plans on the wall for the next phase of construction.

The dynamic changes in America’s religious landscape mean that the information here is changing, too, and is necessarily incomplete. The story of a new multireligious America is being written and revised every year. Please use this section of On Common Ground as a starting point for your own explorations. Then, let us know what you discover in your own neighborhood.


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