tv Religion in 20th Century New York City CSPAN June 4, 2016 10:31pm-10:46pm EDT
currently writing a book on religion in urban areas. us totler sat down with talk about religion in the 20th century and talk to us about misconceptions on the subject. --was interned at interviewed this year in providence, rhode island. >> you were writing a book what isgod in gotham," it about? jon butler: it is about religion in new york city. when people think about religion in america and new york, they do not put the two together. religion ink about america, weeping think about rural america and south. but we do not think about manhattan. manhattan and new york city are often referred to as the capital f --
>> wins my urge you to write this book? jon butler: two things. a close friend to was an urban historian. we were close friends. we both lived in minneapolis in summer. our kids played together. we talked about urban history. i thought there was a story here. he helped me find a story. i started out as a colonial american historian. i thought there was a story about religion in modern that you and part of can see economically and in the architecture. people remember st. patrick's cathedral, central synagogue. but if you walk around the city, you will find religious conceivable every
type, corner, cranny, people stuck them in wherever they could because they had no choice if they wanted to fit them in. i thought, there is something to say here and that is what i want to say. inant to tell a story, not encyclopedic history, not 700-pages long, but a series of religions unfolded 1960's.0 into the the story is not the collapse of religion or secularization. it is how religious groups coped with their situation, which was density, diversity. new york city is the only city where catholics and jews outnumbered protestants. made catholics and jews
anxious because they were used to not living with so many other groups and that is not taking into account all of the other groups in the city will stop like the hotel in the 1920's, what he called dromedary, which taught natural religions. what is that religion? jon butler: they are disappearing. we have -- to my knowledge, i have not found a majority. they advertise themselves as a group that in a sense natural to --d had the capacities on itself. therefore, when you discover those inner resources as opposed to revealed in emergence which
teach from texts and show us what we know. we can discover this within ourselves. >> what similarities if any did you find from the time that you studied in your book? jon butler: a lot of things i found in the colonial time. there is a book that traces american religion from european colonization to the civil war. end, what i found was somewhat unexpected stories that we think emphasize the diversity of american religion. religions,so many most of them versions of christianity but there were also substantial numbers of jews in america, in all the colonial states, there were substantial amounts of catholics. christians, protestants. an incredible number of protestants.
there is a reason why -- a perfectly commonsensical reason we have the first amendment. congress shall make no for evidence of free exercise of religion because each of the states, we should have state churches, the federal government had tried to enforce a religion. they knew they would have failed. and that has to do with the diversity of religion. phenomenon,ther that is that most americans of the revolutionary time did not actually belong to a congregation. which does not mean they were irreligious. they practiced and what you would call modern times occultism. they had little things they carried around. amulets. that they thought gave them some kind of special little powers.
they would consult our astronomers, i'm sorry, astrologers. astrologers about illnesses, about their fortunes, if a child was lost in the woods. this was in colonial america in the woods.ls roamed there were still wild boars and pigs and when your child wanders off and you look for two days and you cannot find the child, the local news was there and you would pray. if you still had not found the child, the local minister was absent. they wrote about it in their diaries or accounts that the family went to an astrologer. to find the child. there were whole varieties of orthodox that were not in anyway so you have this incredible diversity. this on orthodoxy. sense ofpeople had a
the transcendence, the divine. overwhelming sense of purpose in life. that true of thousands and millions of new yorkers. >> tell me about the prominent if theys leaders and had any particular challenges in urban areas. jon butler: the first challenge in an urban area is to learn to live with other religions. worriedestants more about the influx of catholics and jews. to succeed?y going is specially when they've out they were being outnumbered. say,could look ahead and if this immigration continues, east european italian, we're going to be inundated. what are we going to do? we had separation of church and state so to speak, but we had a
protestant culture. you can put it that way. with the word culture. catholics were worried because catholics authorities especially were worried because they were churches. to state how is catholicism going to succeed without the support of government? how are they going to transfer this? jews were worried because now they are not living and many jews did not live in the state werestern europe, but they used to being suppressed and pushed down hand some of them, -- now them could not they are all free and the problem was they also abandoned their judaism. some did because they become communists. they also remained as jews but threats tohem sought their enterprise and the irony
, --hat amidst those threats catholics did a great job and you see it in the buildings in new york city. one huge catholic church after the next. that was the strategy of the archdiocese of new york to a very large buildings and part of that has to do with that it really, physically, kept the power of the church in a city that had lots of other people. hand,egan, on the one those that date from the colonial time, -- also had big buildings. they were building big buildings. this has been part of our the 1890's to the
1910s and 1920's, probably 1000-1500 small congregations which were tiny and they were above laundries and to stores and most of them had no rabbis but they were shipped and they worshiped together with 10 or 15 people. when they could not pay the rent, they moved someplace else. and african-americans who moved from the south to new york city, placeented all over the in stores. yes, there were also big african american congregations. so you have all of this and all ofvariety these little, tiny congregations. we generally pay attention to the big ones because they are the ones that leave historical records.
cracks were there any particular surprises in your research? yes.utler: one of the biggest surprises was that we also became a place famous for theology and so if ,ou think of paul tillich reinhold lieber, dorothy day, the leader of a special kind of catholicism now being promoted for sainthood, if you think of abraham tesh all or joseph soul jewisheck, very famous theologians, these people all coalesced in the 1930's or 1940's into a remarkable -- they gave a remarkable intellectual life. they did not always correspond or know each other, the two he did work abraham has sure and
reinhold lieber. gave the eulogy at the other's funeral. and the others did not necessarily associate. but the intellectual vitality of modern manhattan helped and them a make new york city marvelously theologically creative place and whoever thinks about this about new york city. place where broadway shows and whatnot are. you do not think about it as a place for theological creativity in judaism, catholicism, and protestantism, where would we be without them? not just to new york city, in the nation. these are major national figures and here they are in the capital northern city. >> jon butler, thank you very much. jon butler: you are welcome. an ounce of: interested in
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