Remembering Robert Bellah (1927 – 2013), Discoverer of Civil Religion
On July 31, one of the great contemporary scholars of religion has left this world. Growing up as a sociologist in the United States during World War II, followed by McCarthyism and the Vietnam War, this great scientist decided to move to Canada for some years in order not to compromise his analytical views. His name will be remembered especially for the discovery and description of "Civil Religion", the inevitably emerging combination of symbols, myths, rituals and beliefs in every political body (such as a state, a city or a party).
And while other scientists tried to stay away from evolutionary studies they neither liked nor even tried to comprehend, the late Robert Bellah did just the opposite: Understanding that any true scientific understanding of human behavior has to be rooted in evolution, he plunged headlong into the matter, dedicating his last book "Religion in Human Evolution" to our expanding field.
Therefore, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson managed to have a conversation with him on the topic last october. It is published on Evolution: This View of Life-magazine and worth hearing. It is part of the great legacy of a true social scientist, who has just started to explore the next world.