"A New Religious America"
A review of Diana Eck's much-discussed book on pluralism
But the fact that it's worked out that America, conceived as a Christian society, has opened its door to virtually all of the world's non-Christian faiths is totally consistent with the American concept of religious freedom. Arriving here 200 years ago, new Americans wanted the right to practice whichever Christian view they embraced, without encountering the prejudice or state interference directed against them in their native lands. Today many Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and others arriving in the United States seek the same thing--the freedom to worship as they choose, a freedom their native countries may deny. No American Christian who claims the right of religious freedom can begrudge the same right to the plural beliefs of others. That this so far hasn't been a problem--diverse faiths are blooming in the United States with comparatively few instances of intolerance--is testament to the fact that the majority of Americans mean what they say about the right to determine your own faith. Who can doubt that American beliefs are so robust exactly because no one can tell an American what to believe?
But while we celebrate, as we should, the growth of non-Judeo-Christian faiths and the nation's ability to accommodate them, let's not lose sight of the center. America is "a Christian nation," by numbers, by observance, by authenticity of belief. Christian views should not have anything to do with government, of course, nor ever be used against non-Christians. But if you had to choose one salient thing about United States spiritual culture, it would not be the growth of plural forms. It would be the strong, solid, and serious Christian majority.