Despite the First Amendment’s role in the separation of church and state, the United States is far from a secular nation. God is invoked in our Pledge of Allegiance, dollar bills, and in nearly every inaugural address since James Monroe’s in 1817. Biblical references in these inaugural speeches, during elections, and following national tragedies suggest to many that the civic religion of America is profoundly Christian. The insistence of conservatives like Newt Gingrich on returning the nation to Judeo-Christian values, and President Trump’s promise to save the term “Merry Christmas” only compound such sentiments. This domination of Christian language has a profound effect on important religious minorities, alienating and othering them as un-American. However, cities like New York, with a substantial population of religious minorities such as Muslims and Jews, paint an entirely different image of America. How can we label the United States as a Christian nation when more than 40 percent of its largest city, and an icon of American culture, do not identify as Christian? The specific religious tinge behind much of the nation’s rhetoric situates itself in direct conflict with America’s actual culture and demographic. This topography of urban religion shows that non-Christians’ presence is significant and cannot be ignored.
* “Total non-Christian” includes all those practicing non-Christian faiths, as well as the religiously unaffiliated, such as atheists and agnostics.