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God in Gotham: The Miracle of Religion in Modern Manhattan
by Jon Butler
Harvard University Press
Paper: 978-0-674-29221-5


“Are you there, God? It’s me, Manhattan…Butler…argues that far from being a Sodom on the Hudson, New York was a center of religious dynamism throughout the 20th century.”
Wall Street Journal

“What a pleasure it is to take a tour of Manhattan’s sacred past led by one of the nation’s preeminent religious historians.”
Christianity Today

“A masterwork by a master historian…God in Gotham should be an instant classic.”
—Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism

In Gilded Age Manhattan, religious leaders agonized over the fate of traditional faith practice amid chaotic and sometimes terrifying change. Massive immigration, urban anonymity, and the bureaucratization of modern life tore at the binding fibers of religious community.

Yet fears of the demise of religion were dramatically overblown. Jon Butler finds a spiritual hothouse in the supposed capital of American secularism as Catholics, Jews, and Protestants peppered the borough with sanctuaries. A center of religious publishing and broadcasting, by the 1950s it was home to Reinhold Niebuhr, Abraham Heschel, Dorothy Day, and Norman Vincent Peale. While white spiritual seekers sometimes met in midtown hotels, black worshippers gathered in Harlem’s storefront churches. Though denied the ministry almost everywhere, women shaped congregations, founded missionary societies, and fused spirituality and political activism. God in Gotham portrays a city where people of faith embraced modernity and thrived.

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