Diversity and Uniqueness of Religion in New York City

Introduction

Even in the midst of modern science and technology, a good number of New Yorkers adhere to religious faith. It clearly shows the pulse of the people. They believe in tradition. Mechanically or intentionally, they pass on the rich traditions of their religion to the new ones.

The statistics shows that the present generation is not irreligious though certain revolts against religious faith emerge from some quarters. Edward. A. Purcell Remarks here that “massive immigration and cultural changes have created an increasingly complex social landscape in which religious life plays a dynamic role in New York” (Purcell, 2007, p. 78)

New York City as a Cultural Center

The city has been noted for its financial, transportation and manufacturing brilliance. Even so, it attains a global glory for its religious diversity. Almost the entire world religions have its home in the heart of the city. It stands unique for its cultural amalgamation.

A religion is not merely a set of customs and traditions. It is of a greater dimension. A religion brings a distinctive culture with it. All the religions working in a specific locality get synthesized resulting in the materialization of a great culture. No religion can claim any right over such one. At the same time, the newly emerged culture belongs to each and every religion.

Unity amidst Religious Diversity

What makes New York City stand apart among other cities is its unique religious forbearance. Nowhere else in America can be seen such a distinctive convergence of different religions having different ideologies. Each New Yorker finds it necessary to identify himself/herself with a religious faith and it is done not at the coast of undermining other ones.

There are many reasons behind the City’s religious multiplicity. First of all, the population of the city is remarkably high. Hence, it is likely that there live people of multiple customs and traditions.

The New York City Department of City Planning reports that “with a 2008 estimated population of 8,363,710, New York is the most populous city in the United States, more than twice the size of the second largest city, Los Angeles. Over 3 million of New York City’s residents are foreign-born” (Population Facts). Such foreign born people carry their religion with them resulting in its expansion within the territory.

Ideas and Ideals from Outside

Religion is an open system. Anyone can follow any religion at any time. The twentieth century has witnessed an outburst of many ideologies. The changing man is in need of changed ideologies. With the emergence of advanced telecommunication systems, people really got to know much about the new philosophies and principles. It is natural that they are enticed by the latest movements on air.

It is nothing but the curiosity of the New Yorkers that tempted them to follow religions of far-off lands. Their search for novel things crossed the seas to reach India and its surrounding regions. Though having a less number of followers, Hinduism and Buddhism had its presence in the New York soil. Besides this, the immigrant Hindus and Buddhists contributed much to make the New York culture really a heterogeneous one.

Immigration

It can be aptly said that the history of mankind is the history of migration. Relocation has been an everlasting occurrence in human civilization. Large groups of the New Yorkers are such ones. An official report in The New York Times says that “sixty percent of New York City residents are immigrants or children of immigrants. New York was a heterogeneous city from its founding; 17 languages could be heard in the streets of New Amsterdam in the 1640s.

The wave of immigration has helped New York City maintain and even expand its population. Today, native-born whites with native-born parents represent less than one in five residents of New York City. Italians largely came from agricultural backgrounds, whereas Jews were more likely to come from industrial and urban backgrounds” (Chan, 2007).

Religion and the New Yorkers

The modern man is badly in need of emotional and spiritual assistance. The busy New Yorkers find it much difficult to make their mind settled down. In order to find out an outlet to the overwhelming emotional burden they quite often go for spiritual relief. It is this basic instinct of the city dwellers that many religions happen to thrive in New York City.

New York is remarkable among other cities because of its soaring residential density. Its extra ordinarily varied population exhibits a unique combination of culture. However, the New Yorkers began to embrace different religions only after 1775.Complete religious liberty was not allowed until the constitution of 1777. It is amazing to learn the fact that there were no Roman Catholic churches in New York until 1797. Right from that period, the city witnessed rapid spread of diverse religions and traditions in its soil.

In the early 19th century, pioneers like Presbyterian, Methodist, Universalist, Baptist, and Quaker had tried and succeeded in their attempt to carry their belief all over the country. Favoring this decision, many Protestant churches had shown interest enthusiastically in the abolitionist movement, and some churches had been formed by the blacks who fled northward out of slavery.

As regards the Roman Catholics and Jews are concerned, the history of the 19th century is the journey of alternating the implications of migration; Roman Catholics ancient from Ireland and Germany, afterwards from Italy and Poland, Jews ancient from Germany, Austria, and England, afterwards (in all-embracing numbers) from Russia and added Eastern European nations.

The Jews who acclimatized in New York City tended to abide there, the Roman Catholic immigrants were added broadcast throughout the state, with a ample German and Eastern European accumulation clearing in Buffalo. Irish Catholics were the ancient accession to win abounding political influence, but aback World War II, Jews and Italian Catholics acquire played a accomplished role, abnormally in New York City.

Christianity

During the last 25 years of the twentieth century, the missionary movements of the church had approved their best to advance the Christian belief throughout the world.The most extensively distributed of the world religions, Christianity’s spread and fame in New York City have been a much sought after topic for researchers and scholars. Beyond any uncertainty, one can say that it has substantial representation in New York City. A vast majority of New York identify themselves as Christians.

The history of Christianity in New York City begins the moment the Christian missionaries landed the soil. Besides setting up educational institutions, they could make drastic impact in the lives of New Yorkers. The new stream of thoughts and the distinctive way of living caught their attention. Christianity spread the whole of the region in no time.

Buddhism

Buddhism is a major world religion originated in Northeastern India. The religion is based on the teachings of Siddhartha, who, afterward, known as Buddha, or Enlightened one. Theologians and archeologists may find it amazing to learn that a mere monastic movement like Buddhism could develop so quickly among the mass across the world.

Why has New York welcomed Buddhism as one of its major religions? This has been a frequent query among the learners of religion and cultures. It is nothing but the distinctive feature of the religion. One of its long-lasting strong points has been its capability to get used to changing situations and to a variety of cultures.

As a philosophy, Buddhism is opposed to materialism. It does not recognize any disagreement between itself and contemporary science. As a result of rapid progress in the field of religion and cultures, many societies and organizations have begun to study the spiritual values of Buddhism.

The Buddhist monks are more energetic than ever before because they were alleged of being socially unconcerned. The New York City witnessed many social welfare projects conducted by the followers of Buddhism. In order to adapt to the new situation, The New York Buddhism still undergoes the process of acculturation.

Judaism

The list of religions alive in the city of New York cannot be full without mentioning Judaism, the world’s oldest ongoing religious traditions. Judaism is the religious culture of the Jews. Originated in the land of Israel, it happened to have a hand in almost all parts of the world at one time or another.

The people who follow Judaism happened to be in New York due to the voluntary migration of the Jews as well as enforced exile or expulsions. According to the American Jewish Year Book, the total world Jewish population in the year 2000 was estimated at 13.2 million, of whom 5.7 million lived in the United States. It is obvious that a good number of them lived in the City of New York to make its culture richer.

Since the mid-nineteenth century the United States of America has become an figure of freedom. Countless numbers of immigrants from all over the apple accept arise to the United States gluttonous ambush from the ancestral and religious harassment they encountered in their built-in lands.

America symbolizes a place of opportunities free from these discriminations, area anybody has the appropriate to accept what they wish to believe, arise as they wish to appear, and say what they wish to say. America is a capitalism area anyone, behindhand of their socioeconomic status, can actuate their own afterlife by alive their way to success. America became a dream for the bitching humans of Europe and Asia, and New York City adumbrated the aperture to their dreams

The Jews were tortured and expelled by the Spanish in the Middle Ages. The Plight of the Jews became beyond words in the time of the Second World War. The ‘Holocaust’ has eaten up many of the Jewish community. As a result of this political disorder, they started migrating to distant places. The United States have been a secure place for refugees. They found America a nice place to live in and here starts the history of the Jews in ‘New World’. A group of Jews moved to the City of New York to make it their permanent residence.

Throughout the history, the Jewish people have been moving from one place to another in search of secure shelters. It gave the people and their religion a lot of experience and dynamicity. It evolved to be an easily adaptable system among the people of varied cultures. Lance J. Sussman of the New York State University once opined that “Religious life among New York Jews also became more diverse as East European Jews immigrated to America.

Already in 1887, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) was founded in New York City. Jews also played an increasingly significant role in the general cultural life of New York as the 20th century progressed. In every dimension, New York will most likely continue to function as the vital center of the American Jewish community during the 21st century” (Sussman).

Muslims

Statistics tells that there were less than ten mosques in New York City before 1970. The situation has changed. Now, there are over hundred mosques in the heart of the city to actively participate in the city’s cultural and traditional affairs. It also indicates that there is a rapid growth of Muslim population.

On an average of 600,000, Muslims community now represents one of the fastest developing religious communities in New York City. Over a period of many decades of clearing and conversion, Muslim New Yorkers form an active variety of ethnic, racial, bigoted and socioeconomic diversity.

New York City has become a city with small percentages of a number of religions and community owing to the diversified immigration. Some of the commonly seen are Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Orthodox Christians. It has been found that there are about 223,968 associates of Muslim believers in the city itself.

Though the exact numbers were not available, there were about 121 Buddhist followers and 83 Hindu congregations statewide (New York Religions). There is as well a wide spectrum of religious-nationalist sects and cults, including the World Community of Islam in the West, which is otherwise known as the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), the Hare Krishna group, and the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

Hinduism

Hinduism is a set of religious, cultural and philosophical system having rich, multifarious, and inclusive mythology like the Greeks. Though it is centered on India, Hinduism crossed the marital boundaries to reach the United States some decades before. In New York City, there are reasonably a good number of followers in Hinduism, living in close adherence with the Hindu traditions. For daily of weekly worship, there are a number of temples too.

Hinduism has been providing much to the religious and cultural diversity since its establishment in the city. The Hindu pundits and scholars teach the lessons of Ramayana and Mahabharata to the children of Indian origin and to the spiritually inclined people of the New York City.

The peculiarity of soil of New York is that it welcomes all customs and traditions. It is nothing but this unique feature of the city that it accommodates even minor religions from different parts. The Indian subcontinent has not been the only source of major Hindu migrations in the last 50 years. These communities, whose forefathers left India 150 years ago, have unique elements today.

Commotion and Confusion

No system is devoid of defects. There has been a great deal of bewilderment among different religions for years. The September 11th incident created drastic alterations in the patters of different religions. It had a great impact on the very foundation of the Muslim community.

A study conducted in 2004 reveals that “facing increased discrimination after the Sept. 11 attacks, New York City’s Muslims have identified more deeply with their religious roots, setting aside the sectarian and linguistic differences that have traditionally divided them. Though New York City’s Muslims are from many places – Guyana, Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco – they were united after Sept. 11 by a common burden” (Elliott, 2004).

Conclusion

Because of its huge geographical area, its material prosperity, and its mixture of people from around the globe, New York offers an amazing array of cultural riches. The diversity in their culture is best seen in different street festivals and ethnic celebrations. In many cultures, religion is a cementing force which is deep-rooted in the soil for the benefit of humanity.

Quite often, it happens that religion becomes a means to narrow-mindedness and fanaticism. However, the necessity of religion and religious faith is indispensible for the development of all cultures. It is not an exaggeration to say that, for the people of New York, religion has been a part of their daily life affairs.

Work Cited

Beckman, Joanne. “Religion in post World War II”. National Humanity Center. 16th December, 2009. < http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/trelww2.htm>

Chan, Sewell. “Immigration in the New York City: Taking the long view”. City Room. The New York Times November, 14th 2007. 14th December. 2009. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/immigration-in-new-york-city-taking-the-long-view/

Elliott, Andrea. “Study Finds City’s Muslims Growing Closer Since 9/11”. New York Region-The New York Times. October- 2004. 15th December. 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/05/nyregion/05muslim.html?_r=1

“New York Religions”. New York Detailed State Guide. 15th December. 2009 http://www.city-data.com/states/New-York-Religions.html

Population Facts. “Department of City Planning”. New York City. 15th December. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/census/pop_facts.shtml

Purcell, A. Edward. Originalism, federalism, and the American constitutional enterprise: a historical inquiry. Yale University Press, 2007

Sussman, J. Lance. “New York Jewish History”. New York State Archives. 14th December, 2009. http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/research/res_topics_pgc_jewish_essay.shtml

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