Editorials: Religions in Maine

May 8, 2003

Source: Casco Bay Weekly


On May 8, 2003 the Casco Bay Weekly published an editorial by Abraham J. Peck stating that "Professor Diana Eck of Harvard University argues in her recent book, A New Religious America: How a 'Christian Country' Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation, that 'the presupposition that America is foundationally Christian' is being challenged by a new religious pluralism. Indeed, again according to Professor Eck, the newest American dilemma is no longer the problem of race, but the challenge to legitimize a genuine religious pluralism... The reality of twenty-first century America is that there are larger and larger numbers of Hindus and Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. There are more Muslims than Presbyterians, possibly more Muslims than Jews... For a city such as Portland and a state such as Maine — which a recent magazine article described as 'one of the most unchurched states in the country' — and a state that is ranked as the 'whitest (97%)' in the nation, the new religious pluralism, accompanied by new religious insignia and markers of religious identity worn by people of color, must seem extraordinarily out of place. Despite Mainers’ innate sense of independence, ' foreign' expressions of religious belief 'from away,' can become the most visible targets for bigotry and violence... Now in its third year, Interfaith Maine continues to seek answers to several crucial questions: Can Maine, this most tolerant of states, which cherishes individuality and independence, accept the new cultural and ethnic diversity in its midst? Is that enough? Indeed, one can have diversity and tolerance and still witness the creation of religious and ethnic ghettos with little contact between them."