The Civil Theology of Robert Bellah

Matthew Rose at Commonweal:

Robert Bellah was the last major thinker on the American Left to argue that shared religious beliefs are essential for democratic politics. In an era that saw liberalism grow progressively more secular, he defended views that dissented from elite opinion and the models of reality on which it rested. He argued that secularism is impossible, individualism is an illusion, and religious worship is inescapable. He made these arguments in best-selling books that combined learning and civility with a zeal for the ideals of democratic socialism and a dread for the practices of managerial capitalism. Bellah was the most celebrated American sociologist of his time, and it might seem absurd to suggest he was ignored. Presidents, clergy, scholars, and community leaders all sought his counsel. But if they had listened to him closely, as Bellah privately doubted they had, what would they have heard?

By the time he completed his final book, two years before his death in 2013, Bellah had concluded that America stood at the bleak end of a civilizational epoch. In its coming “time of trial,” as he called it, Americans would realize the values that had created their culture had also impaired their ability to understand or control it.

more here.