2017-11-29 / Book Review

‘City Of Gods’ Religious Pluralism In Flushing


“City of Gods” by R. Scott Hanson “City of Gods” by R. Scott Hanson Author and lecturer R. Scott Hanson, in his new book “City of Gods,” has successfully chronicled the rich and epic history of religion in Queens in a scholarly work.

In 1657 the people of Flushing drafted the Flushing Remonstrance, a plea for religious liberty and diversity, in the face of an attempt by then-Governor Peter Stuyvesant to persecute anyone who was not a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. From colonial times, Flushing, which its residents often call “the birthplace of religious freedom,” has teemed with religious diversity fostered by immigrants who bring their own religious traditions and fervently practice them.

Hanson’s intimate portrait of religious beliefs in one of New York City’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods is at once tedious and inspiring. Hanson offers a detailed history of Flushing from its earliest colonial days, discussing its growth into a “community of churches” in the 19th century and its dramatic expansion in the 20th century beyond the “Protestant-Catholic-Jew” model into a bustling religiously diverse community now including Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists living side by side in religious harmony.

Hanson points out that the relative absence of religious conflict in Flushing illustrates the promise of such a religiously pluralistic community. The book covers in detail the many cultural traditions associated with these religions and offers a detailed look at how the early history of Flushing influenced the Flushing of today.

“City of Gods” is a great addition to the pantheon of history books on New York City and is one of the first to explore the topic of racial diversity and harmony in Flushing. As of 2017, there are more than 250 houses of worship in Flushing alone.

Perhaps the most extreme example of religious and ethnic pluralism in the world, Flushing is an ideal place to explore how America’s long experiment with religious freedom and religious pluralism began and continues. Using archival sources, oral history, and ethnography, “City of Gods” is a thought-provoking study of religious pluralism.

Published by Empire State Editions, an imprint of Fordham University Press, “City of Gods” in available at www.empirestateeditions.com or on amazon.com. Hanson is a lecturer in history at the University of Pennsylvania and an Affiliate of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

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