"Religious outsiders" as seen through the eyes of Euro-American Christians are nothing new, but the growing range of religious diversity in the United States has reached new heights of visibility as well as deeper intensities of tension. As U.S. communities of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs strengthen, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians wrestle for America's soul and control of the country's religious identity.
In this tumultuous environment, can Americans truly embrace a more widespread religious pluralism, which can be incorporated into the nation's civil religious symbolism and genuinely affirmed in public rituals? Religiously, can we as Americans rethink our identity and view ourselves as a "multireligious nation" and not simply as Christian or Judeo-Christian? And how does religious pluralism dovetail with the idea of multiculturalism?
The articles in this volume of The ANNALS explore these and other key questions by examining the contemporary religious climate in the United States. Specifically, readers will gain a better understanding of how faith communities are pulled into networks and niches that bond them with some traditions while dividing them from others. Organized into three major topics, the articles in this volume delve into this urgent topic of our day and offer valuable insights in the following areas:
I. Broad Perspectives – Providing a solid foundation, this opening section lays the groundwork for clarifying this complex issue. The articles in this section examine religious pluralism through historical, social, and cultural lenses while exploring the persuasive power of rhetoric and symbol, in both the religious and civic realms.
II. Region and Religion – The papers in this section point to the importance of regional history and culture in shaping differing styles of pluralism within America.
III. Minority & Immigrant Experiences – Focusing on contemporary immigrant and minority groups in the United States, these articles reflect on the experiences of Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and Latino religions as well as the role of interfaith leaders in the 2005/2006 immigration reform debate.
IV. Institutional Patterns – Examining creative ways that pluralism is flourishing within the United States, these articles provide a framework for future interfaith dialog.
Social scientists, religious scholars, policy makers, and the informed public will find this volume of The ANNALS to be a valuable resource that distills this complex and sometimes cloudy issue of religious pluralism.