Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment

Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment

Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment

Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment


Many of our nation's oldest ethnic communities trace their roots in this country to New York City's Lower East Side. A century ago, travelers to the area could attend a black-faced minstrel show performed by Irishmen, drink German lager, visit Jewish-run gambling houses, and dine on Chinese delicacies, all within a matter of blocks. Long a hub of immigrant cultures, this vibrant section of New York City remains one of the country's most astonishingly diverse neighborhoods.

This unique walking guide takes us back to the world of these bustling immigrant enclaves. The historical tours, enlivened by colorful photographs and illustrations, chronicle the evolution of the communities--African, German, Irish, Chinese, Jewish, and Italian--for whom the Lower East Side served as an entryway into America.

As participants stroll through one of the world's most heterogeneous and visually stimulating neighborhoods, the tours take them past such historic points as the African burial ground excavation site; Old St. Patrick's Cathedral, the first Catholic cathedral in New York State; the charming Caff Roma, which still serves authentic Italian coffee and desserts much as it did in the early 1900s; the oldest still- standing Jewish house of worship in the City; the site of the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911; and Mott Street, the main thoroughfare around which New York's Chinatown developed.

Combining educational historical accounts with enchanting scenic tours, the heritage tours impart a keen sense of the legacies waiting to be discovered in the Lower East Side's remarkable past.


The world seems more religious than ever these days.

Across the Middle East, fervent forms of Islam are growing more popular and more politically active. Muslim nations that were somewhat secularized 40 years ago—such as Lebanon and Iran—are now teeming with fundamentalism. in Turkey and Egypt, increasing numbers of women are turning to the veil as an overt manifestation of reinvigorated religious commitment. But it isn't just in the Muslim world that religion is thriving. From Brazil to El Salvador, Protestant Evangelicalism is spreading with great success, instilling a spirited, holy zeal throughout Latin America. Pentecostalism is proliferating, too—vigorously—and not only throughout Latin America, but in Africa and even China. in the Philippines, tens of thousands of people are committing themselves to new religious movements such as El Shaddai, with its powerful theology of prosperity. and many nations of the former Soviet Union, which had atheism imposed upon them for decades, have emerged from the communist era with their faith not only intact, but strong and vibrant. Even in Canada, a nation hardly known for its religious vitality, there is evidence of a spiritual and religious renaissance. To quote a leading sociologist of religion, Peter Berger, “most of the world is bubbling with religious passions.”

Here in the United States, religion is definitely alive and well. in fact, religion in the United States—in terms of church attendance and belief in God, Jesus, and the Bible—is stronger and more robust than in most other developed democracies. Simply driving around Southern California, where I live, it seems like every third bumper sticker is an ad for Jesus, God, or the Bible. But Americas religious fervor isn't just to be found on bumper stickers. I was recently in Tucson, Arizona, and was struck by the many prominent billboards all around the city, advocating prayer and worship of the Lord. in addition to the proliferation of religious bumper stickers and billboards, Christianity in America today is being steadily broadcast from radio stations and television channels with unprecedented dynamism. As for the nation's politicians, both Republicans and Democrats seem to be more . . .

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