Q&A with Diana Eck: A Look at Charlotte's Diverse Religious Scene

January 23, 2007

Author: Tim Funk

Source: The Charlotte Observer


As director of Harvard University's Pluralism Project, Diana Eck is the leading authority on America's changing religious landscape. She'll be in Charlotte next week in connection with "Families of Abraham," a photo exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South that spotlights local Jewish, Christian and Muslim families. Eck, author of "A New Religious America" and past president of the American Academy of Religion, recently spoke to Tim Funk, the Observer's faith and values reporter. The conversation covered religious diversity in Charlotte and the Carolinas, the "Families of Abraham" exhibit, September 11, and how her own Methodist faith has been colored by her work.

This is the full transcript.

Q. You've said the United States has become the most religiously diverse nation on earth. How about the southern United States and, in particular, the Carolinas?

ECK: "Actually, the Carolinas are rather remarkably diverse. Let me say that the Pluralism Project has had researchers in almost every part of the United States, including in North Carolina. It's not, of course, quite as intense, the diversity of North Carolina, as it might be in some of the portal immigrant cities in the United States.

But there is certainly an enormous new religious diversity that includes, for example, quite a number of Buddhist centers. We had a colleague at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who for several years -- I think he's still doing it -- ran a "Buddhism in North Carolina" project in which they documented more than 30 Buddhist communities across North Carolina.

Not only EuroAmerican meditation centers that tend to cluster in the mountains and retreat areas of North Carolina, but (also) places that are Buddhist centers built by immigrants from Asia. A Thai center that's opening a new multi-million-dollar project around Bolivia, N.C. A Lao temple, a couple of Vietnamese temples, a Chinese temple right there in Charlotte. So there really is a range of religious diversity.