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A Snapshot of Religious America

Thinkstock: gustavofrazao

This new reality is not a New York-California phenomenon of the cosmopolitan coasts of America. This is a Main Street phenomenon. There are Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in Salt Lake City, in Toledo, and in Jackson, Mississippi.

This article appeared in the Summer 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health. For almost ten years my students and I at Harvard have been studying our country’s new religious diversity as immigrants have come to America from all over the world, bringing with them their faith — as Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. On a recent Sunday morning, I drove out to the Sri Lakshmi Hindu temple in Ashland, on the route of the Boston marathon. They were dedicating a new altar, and a thousand Hindus in festive dress were there to celebrate. On my way home, I stopped at the Islamic center in Wayland. The midday prayers were just over, and two hundred children were pouring into the parking lot from a morning at Islamic Sunday school. If I had spent the whole day circling Boston, I could have stopped at the Jain Temple in Norwood, the Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Roslindale, the Islamic center in Sharon, and the Chinese Buddhist Temple in Quincy. This is New England today, and this is America. Frankly, most people are surprised to learn America has more Muslims today than Episcopalians, as many M …

Diana L. Eck is the director of the Pluralism Project ( and professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University. Her publications include the CD ROM On Common Ground: World Religions in America (Columbia University Press) and the book Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (Beacon Press). She received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton in 1999.

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From the ArchivesReligious StudiesReligious DifferencesReligionReligionsDiversityFaith

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