In this groundbreaking and timely history, an eminent historian of religion chronicles America’s struggle to fulfill the promise of religious toleration enshrined in our Constitution. William Hutchison shows that as Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and others emerged to challenge the Protestant mainstream, we have expanded our understanding of what it means to be a religiously diverse country.
“[This] landmark study address[es] a topic that is both central to American history and relevant to pressing current debates. . . . Stimulating, illuminating, and provocative.”—Mark Noll
“A fascinating account of how religious pluralism, a pluralism that now accepts the most distant stretches of religious diversity, has become institutionalized in the United States.”—Nathan Glazer
“Rich and engaging.”—Thomas C. Berg, Christian Century
“Hutchison’s history is learned and accessible. In its use of cultural evidence—including political cartoons, gospel lyrics, portraits, and photographs—it is even entertaining. . . . More importantly, at all points it is clear.”—Erin Leib, New York Sun
Hutchison (Harvard Divinity Sch.), the leading historian of religion in America today, has written a very informative book on religious pluralism in America from Colonial days to the present. Originally, the nine chapters of this book were presented as 14 lectures at Uppsala University in Sweden. Hutchison begins by defining pluralism as an "acceptance and encouragement of diversity," which some historians might find far too hopeful given the problems and perils of differences of religion in America. Nevertheless, Hutchison brilliantly documents the vast experience of religion in the United States in order to demonstrate the existence of diversity, tolerance, and experimentation in religion, though he does admit that prejudice, persecution, and peer pressure are an ongoing part of this history as well. In the last chapter, he finally presents his own views freed from the constraints of historical reportage, advocating the broad acceptance of pluralism. He optimistically believes that as Protestantism declines, the ideal of pluralism so rooted in the U.S. Constitution has a chance again to receive broad-based acceptance. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-James A. Overbeck, Atlanta-Fulton P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.