cover image God in Gotham: The Miracle of Religion in Modern Manhattan

God in Gotham: The Miracle of Religion in Modern Manhattan

Jon Butler. Belknap, $29.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-674-04568-2

Butler (Awash in a Sea of Faith), professor of history at Yale, explores in this illuminating history why religious practice flourished in Manhattan during a period when urbanization and its associated “spiritual exhaustion” were destroying it elsewhere. Drawing on old maps, portraits, speeches, and church archives, Butler paints a vibrant cultural portrait of the streets of New York, “a city alive with religious and cultural change.” He compares this to the situation in Europe, where secularism was on the rise in the early 19th century, fueled by poverty, dysfunction of social services, and a lack of time for people to attend church services. In America, however, waves of immigration brought an array of religions to Manhattan, and the resulting religious pluralism gave rise to a lively faith community whose competing forces thrived by becoming “as much institutional and bureaucratic as theological.” This eye-opening history is sure to enlighten anyone interested in cultural histories of New York City. (Sept.)