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A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation Hardcover – June 5, 2001

3.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard University, delivers a stunning tour de force that may forever change the way Americans claim to be "one nation, under God." Drawing on her work with the Pluralism Project, an ongoing study of religious diversity in the United States, Eck focuses here on the explosion of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities in America, particularly since 1965. How has the growth of these religions changed the American landscape? And just as important, how are the religions themselves changing because of America? Eck's travels take her (and us) to major cities, but also to places such as Greenville, S.C.; Portland, Maine; and Toledo, Ohio. Eck is a highly skilled ethnographer who delicately balances the challenge of interpreting events while also participating in them. The success of this portrait lies in the details: in the Nikes and Reeboks that adorn the shoe racks in Sikh gurdwaras, Islamic mosques and Hindu temples; in the Muslim Girl Scout who promises to "serve Allah and my country"; in the consecration rituals at a Massachusetts Hindu temple, where the waters of India's sacred Ganges River are mixed with the Mississippi and poured freely over the building. Eck does far more than simply document the presence of religious diversity in America; she places it in historical context and illustrates the ongoing challenges it presents by describing legal battles and pivotal court cases. The last chapters address the rise of religiously motivated hate crimes and, conversely, the innovative ways some communities have welcomed religious pluralism. This is not just a book; it is a celebration. Agent, Jill Kneerim at Palmer & Dodge.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

America has always been a fundamentally Christian or "Judaeo-Christian" country with a few atheists and agnostics included. We're a secular, pluralist polity within that framework or so the received opinion goes. But in this wide-ranging book, Eck (religious studies, Harvard) shows us that this received opinion is erroneous. The framework is now, and in fact has always been, much broader. Eck discusses the history in America of three religious traditions with large numbers of adherents: Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Islam, she shows, arrived with African slaves. Buddhism and Hinduism came early as well, with the first Asian immigrants to the West Coast. These faiths are growing rapidly because of recent changes in our immigration laws and political turmoil in much of Asia, and thus our sense of religious pluralism needs to broaden. Well written and thorough, this volume will appeal especially to scholars, but casual readers will find much to enlighten them. Warmly recommended for both academic and public libraries. James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 404 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (June 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060621583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060621582
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Professor Diana Eck has written a study documenting how the United States has become the most religiously diverse nation in the world. Her focus is on the immigration act of 1965 which allowed for the first time in our history a large immigration to the United States from Asia. Asian immigrants brought with them their religious traditions, particularly in this book, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Professor Eck studies the growth of these communities in the United States and explores how they have changed the religious face of our country.
The book begins with a short historical overview of religious diversity in the early United States beginning with the intolerance of some of our early settlers through the work of Jefferson and Madison in securing religous liberty.
As the United States experienced large waves of immigration in the late 1800, two views of the nature of our country developed. The first viewed the United States as a "melting pot" under which the new settlers together with the population already here would blend and form a single, unified nation of shared values. The second view, developed by sociologist Horace Kallen articulated a vision of pluralism based upon the analogy of a symphony orchestra. It takes many different instruments to play a single symphony. Each voice is unique and yet each contributes to one whole. Professor Eck's sympathies are with the latter view. I suggest that it might be possible to synthesize these two apparently competing positions.
I found the most interesting parts of the book were the central chapters describing in some detail the various Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim communities in the United States.
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Format: Paperback
Eck writes what was could have been a great book about a very important subject. She has a great deal of background in this area, and reminds you of this background throughout the entire book. It is filled with stories of her travels, and her extremely one sided arguements. Although she makes some great points, the stories are overabundant, and the book is completely redundant. If you read the prelogue, and the first chapter of each of the three sections (Islam, Hindu, and Buddhism) then you will be able to answer any question someone asks you of the entire book, yes it is that redundant. If you enjoy reading the same thing in a book more than 15 times this is the book for you, but if you are on an actual search for knowlege and want to learn something without bias, look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books on religion in America I have ever read. This author focuses on Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, who have been growing quickly in recent years. In the past decades mosques & temples have been poping up all over, even in the most Christian parts of this country. The author gives a good history on how the religion was established here, and its growth. Her view into the daily lives of these people was fascinating. I am truly inspired how these religious people, hold true to their values, along with American values at the same time.
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Format: Paperback
In the last 30-40 years the USA has been transformed from an essentially one-religion (Christianity) nation into a religiously diverse one. Eck's book does a good job of detailing this change. She provides good background leading up to the transformation during the last half of the 20th century, as well as a description of the religious landscape of today. Eck provides helpful (and in a few cases, eye opening) accounts of how some of the major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam) have taken root in America (though curiously she says very little about Judaism).

Her overall thesis, stemming from her `Pluralism Project' at Harvard University, is E Pluribus Unum, 'From One, Many.' She attempts to distance herself from the implementation of one overall accepted religion in the USA, while all the time hoping for a society that accepts different religious beliefs, ethnic customs, etc. Her dream is for the creation of a civil and accepting society. Thus, if the reader is interested in a blueprint for a society that assumes that religious differences should not be reasons for disagreement and distinctive programs, Eck's book is what you are looking for.

However, where she comes up short is in the area of just how important are religious differences. She simply downplays such differences and never addresses the importance of acknowledging key distinctions in beliefs. Her self-designation as`Christian Pluralist' really says it all. She believes people should be aware of their personal beliefs but should not let them stand in the way of embracing other religions. While I applaud her goal of mutual understanding on everyone's part, I am concerned that this understanding will not take place as she proposes.
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Format: Paperback
The United States of America is a nation founded on religious freedom for all. Government cannot, or should not, interfere with individual practice or show favoritism toward a particular religious faith. This doctrine of freedom has led to the United States becoming the most religiously diverse nation on Earth, and this diverification is openly praised and celebrated in this book, "A New Religious America".
Author Diana Eck is a Harvard professor who is herself affiliated with the Methodist Church. She respects all religious faiths, and she spends time in this book discussing the most significant among them: Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. Other religious groups get a little bit of mention, but most of the book focuses on these three groups. Eck combines together some historical perspectives along with her own personal experiences as she writes this book. She travels around the country, from mosque to temple, observing directly the traditions and religious practices of these different religions, meeting with leaders and joining in at ceremonies and prayer gatherings.
Diana Eck takes a more liberal approach in this book, and this fact might not be to the liking of some readers. It's obvious from the very beginning of this book that Eck fully supports the idea of religious diversity. She never makes a single negative comment about any religious group in her study. She also avoids discussing the merits of the various religious affiliations. Instead, she just states what she knows about each one of them, along with what she experiences first hand, and leaves it at that. She gives the impression that all religions are equally worthy of respect and equally valid.
The last part of the book deals with the future and what it has in store for religion in America.
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