I just saw on the website of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) that the amazing sociologist Robert Bellah passed away yesterday, July 31, 2013, at the age of 86.
Bellah was the Elliot Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught sociology of religion. Educated at Harvard where he taught for 10 years, Bellah moved to Berkeley in 1967 and served there until 1997. He did cross-cultural work on religion in Japan and in American society. Bellah is best known for his seminal essays “Civil Religion in America” (1967) — where he coined the term "American civil religion" — and “Religious Evolution” (1964). He won the Sorokin Award from the American Sociological Association for Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in a Time of Trial (1975) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (1985). A prolific author, Bellah published his latest book, Religion in Human Evolution, in 2011.
A celebrated scholar and teacher, Bellah also won the Harbison Award for Gifted Teaching from the Danforth Foundation. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Bellah the National Humanities Medal for raising “our awareness of the values that are at the core of democratic institutions and of the dangers of individualism unchecked by social responsibility.”
Here is a video of 2011 AAR presentation including Bellah titled A Conversation with Robert Bellah on "Religion in Human Evolution"
I was introduced to the works of Bellah by Luke Garrott, a communitarian political theorist at the University of Utah (who is currently a member of the Salt Lake City Council). In particular, I spent quite a bit time with his volumes Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (1985) and The Good Society (1991). I really need to get caught up on his works dealing more directly with religion.
Bellah was a great scholar who also seemed to have lived a great life. What a beautiful combination.