Aurora, Illinois (pop. 90,000), sits in the middle of small farms, 30 miles west of metropolitan Chicago. The amoebic spread of suburban Chicago has not yet engulfed its small-town distinctives, and all along Randall Road, the community’s northern approach, fields of corn and soybeans guard its rural virginity.

This pastoral calm is rudely violated as one approaches the city’s northern limits. There, rising out of the cornfields like a mountain jutting upward from a grassy plain, is a massive Hindu temple with spires that dwarf a Congregational church’s white steeple two pastures away.

So unusual is the sight—a picture clipped from National Geographic and pasted in the middle of a Norman Rockwell postcard—that at first it defies identification: State Farm Insurance Company’s latest venture into modern architecture, perhaps? A theater-in-the-field? A rube millionaire’s silly quest for culture? No, it is indeed a Hindu temple, complete with its traditional stone gateway (gopuram) and statues of Indian gods.

But how did it get here?

It got here as part of a growing trend, a nationwide influx of world religions. In past generations, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam reached our shores predominantly in the form of scholarly studies or popularized cults. We learned about them through missionary reports and college world-religions courses; we observed shadowy imitations of their practices through Hare Krishna gurus, imported meditation techniques, and black professional athletes changing their names to Ali and Abdul.

But now we are faced with these religions in their pure forms. Temples and mosques proclaim the oneness of Brahman, the path of Buddha, and the greatness of Allah in ways that would ...

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