Campus & Community

Project finds Hindus in New Jersey, Buddhists in Montana

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Pluralism Project looks at changing religious demographics

An influx of new immigrants that began in 1965 when U.S. immigration laws were liberalized has changed our society in ways that contradict traditional assumptions about the correlation of religion and geography. Mapping this religious diversity is the goal of the Pluralism Project, founded in 1991 by Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies. The project, which is currently funded by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, seeks to document and better understand the changing contours of American religious demography, to study the ways in which religions of Asia and the Middle East are adapting to their new environment, and how American society is adapting to this growing religious diversity. Surprising recent findings include the religious diversity of Montana, where researcher Scott Hyslop found that in addition to traditional Christian sects, Montana hosts 13 Buddhist Sanghas, representing 10 different traditions of Buddhism. All the major towns are home to Baha’i communities, whose presence in the state dates from 1899. There are Muslim centers in Bozeman and Missoula, a wide variety of Native American religions, and a flourishing group of Pagans and Wiccans.