When Diana Eck refers to the Latin phrase “e pluribus unum”, she first of all speaks of the American people’s desire to unite, to create one people out of many, to create one religion out of many. She speaks of the people who come from diverse backgrounds, and this includes diverse religious backgrounds, and she shows how people with diverse religious views managed at last to become a single nation and to create a religion, an informal religion, which allows them to create a common stance upon various issues, such as gay marriages, euthanasia, and so on and so forth.
The ability of people from diverse religious backgrounds, the diversity of which in its nature presupposes their radically different approaches to such controversial issues, to develop a unified stance, is, in her eyes, evidence of American society’s approaching the goal of establishing religious pluralism and becoming one nation out of many. Still, she finds it very important, there is a lot to be achieved, and by far not always the society has been tolerant of each other. The new-comers were trying to press their laws, and this began from the very time when Pilgrims arrived in America. At the same time, in many instances, the new-comers were met with protests, with a significant degree of alert and prejudice.
Many people from heavily religiously charged societies, Eck remarks, were coming to the United States and enjoyed the very opportunity of not practicing any religion, of being secular. And to a large degree, this is a new American religion. But as Eck remarks “But being secular does not automatically place one outside the currents of religious ideas, symbolization, and stereotype that move through the heartland of American society” (Eck, 2009).
Diana Eck (2009) explores the history of the country and reminds the readers that “Religious freedom and what today is called religious pluralism have not always been the American way” (Eck, 2009). And she reminds how some of the most prominent American political figures were trying to oppose the attempts to press Christianity upon American society back in the XIX century. She reminds of James Madison’s position regarding the problem. He claimed that the state is no authority to make judgments in religious affairs and that the state ought to stay away from telling what religion is right and what is wrong (Madison, 1867). Similarly, approximately at the same time, Thomas Jefferson wrote that it is important for the state to remain beyond the religion and that a particular religion or confession cannot be dominant and especially officially dominant in the state. The state has got no power to authorize such, superiority (Jefferson, 1858).
The arguments, suggested by Diana Eck, appear to be quite convincing, especially in the part where she proves: religious tension and prejudice have always been a part of the US agenda. But it may be too early to think that the balance has been achieved or that it is close to being achieved. In this respect such a balance seems to be an unreachable ideal – we need to seek it, we need to thrive it, but we need to realize that we can get better and better, but we can never reach perfection. In other words, “of many one” is not the state of the nation. It is, rather, a process, a never-ending process of development in which we reach new levels and new horizons open before us. This needs to be realized in order to avoid disappointment and to remain motivated for further changes. In general, the author seems to also realize this and to express similar thoughts, yet, in some segments of the text she sounds very charmed with the results. But this must be solely the comprehension/interpretation issue.