- Paperback: 404 pages
- Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco; 2nd ed. edition (May 28, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060621591
- ISBN-13: 978-0060621599
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation Paperback – May 28, 2002
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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.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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. Again, I thought the discussion of the history of these groups in our country even more interesting than the discussion of contemporary pluralism. Each of these groups has a long history in the United States. Their ideas have contributed much to our country even though for many years the number of adherents of these groups has been small. For example, Emerson and Thoreau showed a great deal of interest in both Buddhism and Hinduism and had valuable things to say about them. In 1893 a world "Parliament of Religions" took place in Chicago in which representatives of both Hinduism and Buddhism began to make an impact in the United States. (There was a similar Parliament in 1993.) Religions outside the Judeo-Christian mainstream have had much to teach for a long time.
Professor Eck's discussion of Buddhism focuses on how recent immigrants from various parts of Asia have attempted to keep and develop communal practice in the United States. I found this interesting in that she focuses on Asian Buddhism in the United States and pays relatively little attention to Westerners who have been attempting to develop an understanding of Buddhism indigenous to our country.
There is a revealing discussion as well of the growth of Islam in the United States. Professor Eck describes the black Islamic movements and describes as well how Islam in the United States has become large, organized, and visible. The book was written before September 11, and inevitably the reader will have questions about how the events of that day affect her account of American Islam.
There is an account in the book of the difficulties the new religions have faced in terms of fear and bigotry from some of their fellow citizens. There is also a good, more inspiring and positive account, of how people in our country are learing to live and share their various religous traditions.
I have become fascinated with the study of comparative religion in part through my own study of Buddhism. This book discusses the growth of different traditions in the United States. It may also help those wishing to explore and to better understand themselves.
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. To acknowledge that another person has different religious beliefs from mine that may cause me to refrain from assimilating their beliefs is the first step toward genuine understanding. To ignore such differences is to patronize and to dialogue while in denial. Her failure to address religious dissimilarities head-on is my main criticism of the book.