A New Religious America by Diana Eck

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The Book: A New Religious America by Diana Eck

The book by Diana Eck gives a general summary of the religious diversity that exists in the country of America. The author expertly presents fascinating details about how people from various denominations interact and associate with one another in daily life. The author also lists a few instances where the American government has acknowledged the existence of religions other than Christianity. Since the Harvard professor views American culture from a variety of perspectives, we can learn about the past and present circumstances of the American people with regard to many religions. The book further focuses on the aspect of pluralism which has been embraced in the central regions of America and how it has been significant to the inhabitants of America. Therefore, this paper seeks to review the whole perspective of the American religion through the analysis of the book A New Religious America by Diana Eck.

Proof of Growing Religious Diversity

To prove the legitimacy of her assertions of the growing diversity in worship, Eck writes that the whole idea has become the Main Street Phenomena. Despite the fact that most Americans are not conversant with this reality, she supports her idea by providing the real-life examples which affect the indigenous inhabitants of America (Eck, 18). In this case, she cites the small town of Nebraska education system in general which is no different to the situation in New York. The presence of Buddhists and Hindu temples, the emergence of Islamic centers and the mosques signifies their presence in a modern state in the country. Additionally, Eck points out that Los Angeles is currently the most complex Buddhist city present in the world as compared to any Asian city. The book further explains the influence that can be felt in the American cities as a result of the interaction with the Sikhs and the Hindus. An evident and notable occasion happened in the year 1998 when Bill Clinton issued a proclamation remembering the birth date of Guru Nanak who was a 16th-century cleric who was the founder of the Sikh movement. The concept of diversity can adequately be deduced from the action of Bill Clinton visiting a very minute religion as perceived in the global map. In this case, the presence of a major political bigwig trying to please the Sikh proves the diversity of other religions in the area other than the standard Christianity.

The Role of Constitutional Amendments

The author majorly attributes the religious diversity on the various constitutional amendments which have been done by the US government over the years. She agrees to the fact that the immigration laws passed and amended over time have been the main pillars which have guaranteed the success of the diversity and shaped the overall religious landscape in the cities. A major point of reference is the Immigration Act of the year 1965 which played a huge role in eliminating the linking quotas to the particular original states. Through the enactment of the laws which pushed for religious freedom, there was an increase in the number of people settling in the United States. All these elements worked hand in hand to ensure no religion was discriminated and that the freedom of worship was upheld (Eck 64). Soon after the enactment, there has been a stream of Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Catholics who have settled in America hence altering the entire religious orientation in different states in the country. Therefore, through the book, it is evident we get the concept of spiritual reality from the intermingling among the religions found in the state.

Rejecting America as a Christian Nation

A deeper analysis of the book, it is clear it rules out the idea of America being referred to as ‘A Christian Nation.’ The old notion in the region correctly points out the country as a Christian state by the history and the culture upheld by the inhabitants. In this case, she dismissed the idea of Kirk Fordice, former Arkansas governor, who pointed out that the entire nation of America is a Christian state. On the other hand, the author also shows that the mixture of religion is essential in pushing forward the agenda of progress in the United States. She attributes this fact by pointing out the central role which the Buddhists played when fundraising for the 2000 election. In this case, it goes without mentioning the multitude of religious views helps to shape the administration of any given government (Eck, 135). Being an inclusive state, the idea of a Christian nation can be ruled out entirely to accommodate the current population which is made up of many diverse groups. Hence, through this, we can now observe the significant aspect which the inter-religious relations can bring into a given society. In this case, the author skillfully highlights the positive side of the religious diversity which the United States faces in the current generation.

Specific Examples of Religious Landscape Change

The author points out some specific elements which adequately showcase the changing religious landscape in America. She does this by distinctly coming up with unique concepts which are convincing to the intended audience (Eck, 243). She highlights the significant step in accepting other religions happened in the 90s when the United States Navy received its first Muslim chaplain. The move signified the acceptance of worship into the American security charter hence maintaining the aspect of pluralism in America. Additionally, there is the construction of the first Mosque which ultimately proved that any religion is welcomed to stay in the United States. Statistically, Eck asserts that there are a few numbers of American Episcopalians, Presbyterians or Jews as compared to the number of American Muslims inhabiting the region (Eck 255). All these facts provide sufficient proof of the existence of other religions in America which are considered part of the greater population.

Religious Pluralism and Coexistence

A keen concept highlighted by the book is the idea of religious pluralism which Diana seems to defend and uphold the idea firmly (Eck 145). Diana in her research analysis correctly points out that in the present America there is widespread religious pluralism. She goes ahead to explain that specific religious denominations have specific values which they uphold and they are mature enough to accept the beliefs of other religions. In case she points out there is an element of coexistence which gives the inhabitants of America to accept each other irrespective of the religious dispensation and the type of things they tend to believe in strongly. A common part that is subject to debate is the high valued argument on the state of the stereotypic Muslims (Eck, 159). She strongly points out that the Council on American Islamic Relations is a group which advocates for tolerance and understanding contrary to the allegations which have been aired claiming they defend terrorism and they aim to silence any individual who seeks to expose it to the public. At this point, she comes out in their support citing that the acts of terror are carried out by specific Semitic groups and that the Muslims appear in the headlines in positive and negative situations in equal measures. The notion spread by the extremist rules out the concept of religious pluralism ultimately breaking the intensity of the content shared by the author.

Accommodating Nature of Americans and the Plight of Assimilation

The book highlights the accommodating nature of the American people which is too much basing on the sentiments brought forward by Eck Diana. With the characteristic of being too accommodative, the major worry for the people is mostly assimilation rather than discrimination (Eck 302). Assessing the situation in a wider perspective, it is correct to point out that people from diverse backgrounds have a different view of life. The implication of this statement is that for pluralism society to be formed there are some aspects of assimilation which are bound to happen along the way. For the case of the religious refugees, they have a specific culture which has infiltrated into the culture of the inhabitants of America. In this perspective, Diana advocates for a bridge-building exercise which rules out the aspect of anti-traditionalism and aids the American natives in maintaining their way of life.

Limitations and Negative Aspects of Religious Pluralism

Given the overall positive perception brought about by the author, she fails to touch on the negative issues which affect the inhabitants of America other than the problem of assimilation. In Diana’s perspective, the only problem associated with the religious invasion is bigotry. For instance, when another religion is denied some privileges to undertake any given project they perceive it as discrimination other than digging deeper to get the real answer for their dismissal. In Diana’s perspective, other religions inhabiting the nation should be provided with anything they demand in an attempt to maintain the aspect of religious pluralism. Most of these religions gain mileage from the American System of law or among their new neighbors in the area. A classic example can be traced back to the Cambodians whose idea of erecting a Buddhists temple was rejected by the zoning board claiming to place the building there was considered unfit. Despite the minute setback, they were able to secure a loan from the Local Quaker Meeting, and ultimately, they were able to obtain a bigger place just six months later. From this excerpt, it is evident the foreign religions have an upper arm before the American Law System. Additionally, the corporate environment is affected by the legal system which has affected their decisions regarding their employees. An observation under the legal threat of action, institutions such as the US airbase, the Domino’s Pizza among other agencies have lifted their ban on hiring headscarf-wearing job seekers. Therefore, the law tends to provide a given religious backyard an upper arm in the corporate world.

The Disadvantages of Pluralism

Despite the enormous drive of religious pluralism, it is evident there are some disadvantages which the idea does not adequately address. Some religions have divergent views on some societal aspects which the author fails to address in her writing. Evaluating the book precisely, it is clear that the author mainly sticks to the positive aspects of the religious pluralism and fails to highlight the plights of this system (Eck 231). One of the issues which can infringe pluralism is the belief of same-sex marriage which different religions have divergent views. The Muslims in their understanding believe that same-sex marriage is a sin and should not be tolerated in any sane society while on the contrary, other religions may perceive it as something which is not an issue. In this case, the government is torn into two over which side to take as the constitution advocates for the freedom of worshiping. Such matters can bring about conflict in a society thus inflicting war on the inhabitants of America. Hence, the idea of negative pluralism can result in war which can destabilize the corporate orientation of the nation.

Conclusion: The Landscape of American Religious Orientation

Conclusively, Diana Eck cohesively provides an overview of the rich America which she perceives. The ability to accommodate other religions and the humility in each faith very well works to root out some of the evils which are present in any given society. What fascinates her most is the fact that the different beliefs can correctly relate to each other and share ideas about various issues. The book is uniquely educative, mind intriguing and makes good use of facts which can easily be substantiated. Despite the few controversies surrounding the Muslim religion, it is correct to note that the author handles the matter in an intelligent way expressing neutrality, therefore, does not bring about antagonism. The overall perspective is that the book headlines the landscape of the American religious orientation in the positive picture.

Work Cited

Eck, Diana L. A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Now Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation. New York: Harper One, 2009. Print.

April 13, 2023
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