God in Gotham: The Miracle of Religion in Modern Manhattan

Cover: God in Gotham

Jon Butler, the Howard R. Lamar Professor Emeritus of American Studies, History, and Religious Studies

(Harvard University Press)

In his latest book, the renowned Yale historian traces the flourishing of organized religion in Manhattan between the 1880s and the 1960s, revealing how faith adapted and thrived in the supposed capital of American secularism. In Gilded Age Manhattan, Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant leaders agonized over the fate of traditional religious practice amidst massive immigration, the anonymity of urban life, and modernity’s rationalism, bureaucratization, and professionalization. Yet, Butler notes, by the 1950s Manhattan was peppered with religious sanctuaries, a center of religious publishing and broadcasting, and home to august spiritual reformers from Reinhold Niebuhr to Norman Vincent Peale. “God in Gotham” portrays a city where people of faith engaged modernity rather than floundered in it — suggesting that modernity enabled rather than crippled religion in America well into the 1960s.

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