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Pluralism in America

Dr. Diana Eck

Pluralism in America allows the viewer to see the United States through Dr. Diana Eck's prism, in which she views the U.S. as a new religious landscape. She delights in America as the most religiously diverse nation in the world, and has a profound understanding of the complex challenges such diversity presents.

Dr. Eck considers the essential question facing American society to be how Americans of all faiths and beliefs can engage with one another to shape a country of positive pluralism.

The great diversity of religious beliefs in the U.S. has become what she calls a "Main Street phenomenon." There are more American Muslims than American Episcopalians, Jews or Presbyterians, she notes, and she calls for a new theology of commonality.

In a lecture given in November of 2004 at the National Interfaith Dialogue Gathering in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Dr. Eck discussed religious pluralism in terms of global, national, civic and theological issues.

Dr. Eck noted that her own faith is not threatened by the fact that there are other spiritual paths to God. "Democracy doesn't function well," she said, "if you're afraid of your neighbors."

She argued that pluralism is not just about diversity but about engagement and she urged individuals to engage through interfaith dialogue. Pluralism "is not just tolerance, which creates a climate of restraint but not understanding. Tolerance is too fragile a foundation for the world in which we live," according to Dr. Eck.

And finally, Dr. Eck cautioned that pluralism does not mean relativism, or "the lowest common denominator of things we believe. Don't abandon differences but engage, she advised, "and hold [differences] in relation to each other."

Dr. Eck is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard. The Pluralism Project documents the growing presence of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Zoroastrian communities in the U.S. In 1998, Dr. Eck received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the work of the Pluralism Project.

Running Time: 
59 minutes
Kathy Close

Technical Director/Editor: Michael Gleaton

Cameras: John Defazio and Patricia Dolan


If you would like to explore films with similar themes, please click on Multifaith or Spirituality.