Religious Pluralism in America

The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal

William R. Hutchison

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October 11, 2004
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300105162
Paper

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Cloth

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

William R. Hutchison is Charles Warren Research Professor of the History of Religion in America at the Divinity School, Harvard University.

"This is the most ambitious book yet from the dean of historians of religion in the United States: a wonderfully discerning exploration of how Americans have variously confronted and tried to evade the challenge of religious diversity."—David Hollinger, author of Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism

"A wonderfully engaging and exceedingly timely study of religious pluralism over the last two centuries. Religious Pluralism in America provides a superior delineation of our shifting ideas about religious diversity, and the challenges it has posed to the American nation."John F. Wilson, Princeton University

"A wonderfully engaging and exceedingly timely—because so obviously needed—study of 'The Making of American Religious Pluralism' over the last two centuries. Drawing on popular (as well as 'high') cultural materials, and analytic studies as well, Hutchison traces changing responses to the religious diversification that began with the new United States and relentlessly continues into our present. A superior delineation of changing consciousness about, and responses to, religious diversity and the challenge it poses to American society and nation as well as to religious believers, their positions and their parties."—John F. Wilson, Princeton University

"This is a landmark study. Addressing a topic that is both central to American history and relevant to pressing current debates, this book is stimulating, illuminating, and provocative. Religious Pluralism in America wears—lightly—the marks of great learning."—Mark Noll, Wheaton College

"Hutchison has written 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. His analysis shifts the perspective from the familiar one of the role of the Constitution and the state. He emphasizes instead the attitudes and actions of the once dominant denominations and of the popular religious life, which may well be more important in achieving the effective, daily, and accepted pluralism that now prevails."—Nathan Glazer

"Hutchison has written 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. He explores the attitudes and actions of the once dominant denominations, and the role of the popular religious life, which may be more important in achieving the effective, daily, and accepted pluralism that now prevails than state and constitution."—Nathan Glazer

"Hutchison has written 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

"Hutchinson’s . . . account of the odd and often tortured path from religious diversity to spiritual pluralism after 1800 in a succinct, readable book should attract anyone fascinated by one of America’s most amazing and perplexing features."—Jon Butler, American Historical Review

"In a chronicle rich in insight, alive with anecdote, Hutchison illuminates the cultural transformations that enabled twentieth-century Americans to embrace belatedly the religious diversity that emerged in the nineteenth-century influx of Catholic and Jewish immigrants and in the rise of new American-born faiths such as Mormonism and Transcendentalism. . . . Hutchison hails America's new religious pluralism as a great achievement. A balanced and informative narrative."—Booklist (starred review)

"A very interesting and thoughtful book, suitable for a wide range of readers."—Choice
 

"Rich and engaging. . . . [Hutchison's] description of the Protestant establishment's 'warp and woof'—its institutions, its shared values, its ties of family and friendship—shows why his reputation as a historian of Protestantism is unsurpassed."—Thomas C. Berg, Christian Century

"In both conception and execution, the entire project reflects well on Hutchison."—Christopher D. Levenick, Claremont Review of Books

"This illuminating and readable book makes its points with examples drawn both from theological discussion and the data of everyday religion. Its many pictorial illustrations are strikingly apt. It explains much about the current religious situation of the United States and does not minimize the need of societies to find unifying ideals even as they bring together persons of varying convictions."—Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., Interpretation

"A feast for the historian of American religion. . . . Hutchison richly narrates the history of religious pluralism and gives us a clear vision as to where we must go."—James K. Wellman, Jr., Journal of Church and State

"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. . . . 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. . . . Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries."—Library Journal (Starred Review)

"Hutchison's new book . . . arrives at just the right time. . . . 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 at points. More importantly, at all points it is clear. . . . The 'contentious history of a founding ideal' just might make us more contentious fighters for the values we hold dear."—Erin Leib, New York Sun

"Based originally on lectures given in Sweden in 1996, this lively and synthetic discussion of religious pluralism has the historical sweep and telling detail that mark William Hutchinson’s earlier studies of theological modernism and the missionary impulse in American Protestantism. The strength of this book lies in its initial premise that the main conflict in America has rarely been between religious toleration/pluralism and a unitary ethnic and Protestant nativism."—Eldon J. Eisenach, Political Science Quarterly

"Elegantly written. . . . Blending a deceptively simple analytical model with a wide range of insightful examples, this book is highly recommended for classroom use and for its contribution to scholarly conversations."—Mark Hulsether, The Journal of American History

"Arrogance almost by definition is incurable because it denies itself.  One of the best explorations of this subject is William R. Hutchison's Religious Pluralism in America."—Robert Dickson Crane, Muslim World Book Review

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