"A New Religious America"

A review of Diana Eck's much-discussed book on pluralism

BY: Gregg Easterbrook


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This does not mean non-Christian beliefs are not likely to rise in significance relative to the Christian center. Eck's analysis of the growth of other-than-Christian views is surely correct. Today, she writes, America has more Muslims than Episcopalians, with Muslim American numbers expanding faster than other faiths. (Muslim political clout appeared in U.S. presidential politics for the first time in 2000, as George W. Bush and Al Gore competed for the Arab American voting bloc in Michigan.)

One Nation, Under God

  • Read an excerpt of Diana Eck's new book.

  • In an interview, Diana Eck says we are a Christian nation no longer.

  • Another view: Despite pluralism, Rick Rood says, there is still just one way to God.

  • Explore the website of Eck's Pluralism Project.
  • Today, Eck says, Los Angeles is "the most complex Buddhist city in the world," with the many strains of Buddhist belief better represented there than in any Asian city. (No one can forget the role Buddhist fund-raising played in the 2000 election.) Hindu and Sikh influences can now be seen in many American cities, with both faiths growing. (In 1998, Bill Clinton issued a proclamation commemorating the birthday of Guru Nanak, the 16th-century cleric who began the Sikh movement; imagine what Milliard Filmore would have thought if told a future president would be trying to please the Sikh constituency!)

    "A New Religious America" attributes the rise in spiritual diversity to the wave of mainly non-European immigration into the United States. A 1924 federal statute ended the Ellis Island era of mainly European, Judeo-Christian influx by severely restricting immigration. That changed in 1965, when Congress passed a new law opening American borders again. The wording of the 1965 law favored non-Europeans, leading to the second great immigration wave--the United States now accepts on average 1 million legal immigrants per year, more immigrants than accepted by all other nations of the world combined, and nearly all post-1965 immigrants hail from Africa, Central and South America, India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia.

    These arrivals bring with them a broad diversity of new spiritual traditions. It is the new immigrants, Eck writes, who have transformed the United States into the most religious pluralistic society ever. And this task is far from complete, as a million more non-Europeans join the United States annually.

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