Cover: God in Gotham: The Miracle of Religion in Modern Manhattan, from Harvard University PressCover: God in Gotham in HARDCOVER

God in Gotham

The Miracle of Religion in Modern Manhattan

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674045682

Publication Date: 09/29/2020


320 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

42 photos

Belknap Press


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… [He] reminds us that New York was a center for Catholic religious orders too, their numbers rivaling any city’s except Rome.—Katrina Gulliver, 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… Butler offers yet one more reason why contemporary Americans might want to ask hard questions the next time they hear someone declaiming against urban places. The worlds of the city, the suburbs, and beyond are more interdependent than we sometimes think. And an unrelenting pursuit of the divine is common to them all.—Heath W. Carter, Christianity Today

Elegantly written and persuasively argued… You cannot put this book down without feeling that Sin City has gotten a bad rap from the media. The metropolis has long been characterized by deep religious feeling and expression… This is a major book on a major topic in American history. It will complicate our judgements about the nation’s biggest city.—Kenneth T. Jackson, Gotham

Serves as a reminder of how vital religiosity was to the old New York of 1900–1960… Butler gives readers a deeper sense of how ‘New York values’ were once a modus vivendi for religious pluralism that provided a broadly religious foundation for American culture. He believes that it could be so again.—James M. Patterson, Law & Liberty

If I were still teaching Introduction to Religion in American History, I would assign Jon Butler’s God in Gotham, with its excellent cameos of Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Abraham Heschel, Dorothy Day, the Reverends Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Sr., and other great or notorious divines who shaped Manhattan’s religious landscape from the Gilded Age to the Sixties.—Bob Carey, The Metropole

Proves that ‘tools of modernity’ were also the tools of religion. Scholars of urban history, American religion, urban religion and modernity and secularism will find much to think with in God in Gotham’s compelling history of how congregations responded to the technologies, pace, and cityscape of Manhattan to engage with ‘the enchanted,’ not turn away from it.—Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Butler paints a landscape of religious vitality in arguably the heart of burgeoning modernity—Manhattan… [He] shows that religion adapted to modernity rather than being trampled on the concrete.—Justin McGeary, Modern Reformation

Spans the 1880s to the 1960s, arguing that contrary to the expectations of many, modern Manhattan did not suffocate organized religion… Will certainly resituate the place and significance of Manhattan for American religious life more broadly.—Justin McGeary, Reading Religion

In his enthralling God in Gotham, Butler takes us through the mighty city’s neighborhoods, traditions old and new, and bustling heterogeneous populations to illuminate the ways diverse Manhattanites have organized themselves in pursuit of community and faith. I learned something rich and surprising on every single page of this compelling book, as fascinating as Gotham itself.—Elizabeth Alexander, President, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Enlightening and engaging, God in Gotham chronicles the collision of religion and modernity in Manhattan with incredible skill. Butler not only reveals traditional religious forms challenged and changed by their confrontation with a secular city, but also a major metropolis sacralized by the work of the faithful. A must-read for anyone in search of the soul of America.—Kevin M. Kruse, author of One Nation Under God

A masterwork by a master historian. Butler’s lively multidisciplinary, multidenominational book will serve as a model for all future work on the subject. God in Gotham should be an instant classic.—Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism

An expansive work on a sweeping subject. Butler persuasively argues that religion flourished rather than foundered in Manhattan—not in spite of modernity but precisely because of the ways diverse communities of faith engaged with modern structures, sensibilities, challenges, and opportunities. He shows religious traditions as fluid, dynamic, and resilient.—Heather D. Curtis, author of Holy Humanitarians

With lively prose, fascinating accounts, and riveting analysis, Butler transforms our understanding of urban religion and the very meanings of modernity as he convincingly portrays a city at once notably secular and a religious ‘hothouse.’ Whether considering the uses of urban space, the impact of racial segregation, or the significance of technologies such as electricity, radio, and sound recordings, he has produced nothing less than a distinctive urban history as well. God in Gotham is history at its finest.—Michele Mitchell, author of Righteous Propagation

Butler’s marvelous contrarian intelligence is on full display, as is his silky smooth prose. Could any other author help us better understand James Baldwin, Abraham Heschel, Norman Vincent Peale, and Dorothy Day? Read God in Gotham as a primer on almost the whole of modern U.S. religious history and beyond.—John T. McGreevy, author of Catholicism and American Freedom

God in Gotham shows how religion in Manhattan thrived as the borough barreled along the leading edge of American modernity—defying the prophets of secularization who looked for piety to wither away. In elegant prose, Butler tours Manhattan’s evolving religious landscape, showing how the city’s crowded pluralism nurtured both ugly prejudices and brilliant theological breakthroughs that left a lasting imprint on American culture well beyond New York.—Molly Worthen, author of Apostles of Reason

[An] illuminating history [of] why religious practice flourished in Manhattan during a period when urbanization and its associated ‘spiritual exhaustion’ were destroying it elsewhere… This eye-opening history is sure to enlighten anyone interested in cultural histories of New York City.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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