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Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditionalist World

Robert N. Bellah
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Belief
    Book Description:

    Beyond Beliefcollects fifteen celebrated, broadly ranging essays in which Robert Bellah interprets the interplay of religion and society in concrete contexts from Japan to the Middle East to the United States. First published in 1970,Beyond Beliefis a classic in the field of sociology of religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91112-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    R. N. B.
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    David Riesman has reversed Gilbert Murray’s phrase to speak of “the nerve of failure” so perhaps one can transpose another phrase common today and speak of “the faith of loss.” “The nerve of failure” and “the faith of loss” point to a situation in which the idols are broken and the gods are dead, but the darkness of negation turns out to be full of rich possibility. Out of the nothingness which has swallowed up all tradition there comes nihilism but also the possibility of a new ecstatic consciousness. The yes and the no, joyfulness and despair, are terribly close...


    • 1 The Sociology of Religion
      (pp. 3-19)

      Sociologists have undertaken three main types of religious study. They have studied religion as a central theoretical problem in the understanding of social action. They have studied the relation between religion and other areas of social life, such as economics, politics, and social class. And finally, they have studied religious roles, organizations, and movements. This article is concerned primarily with the theoretical study of religion and secondarily with the relation between religion and the social structure.

      The sociological study of religion has grown out of and remains inextricably related to the much broader effort to understand the phenomenon of religion...

    • 2 Religious Evolution
      (pp. 20-50)

      Though one can name precursors as far back as Herodotus, the systematically scientific study of religion begins only in the second half of the nineteenth century. According to Chantepie de la Saussaye, the two preconditions for this emergence were that by the time of Hegel religion had become the object of comprehensive philosophical speculation and that by the time of Henry Thomas Buckle history had been enlarged to include the history of civilization and culture in general.¹ In its early phases, partly under the influence of Darwinism, the science of religion was dominated by an evolutionary tendency already implicit in...


    • 3 Reflections on the Protestant Ethic Analogy in Asia
      (pp. 53-63)

      The work of Max Weber, especially the so-called “Protestant Ethic hypothesis,” continues to exercise an impressive influence on current research in the social sciences, as a glance at recent journals and monographs will quickly show.¹ The great bulk of this research is concerned with refining the Weberian thesis about the differential effects of Protestant compared with Catholic religious orientations in the sphere of economic activity. In recent years, however, there have been increasing though still scattered attempts to apply Weber’s argument to material drawn from various parts of Asia. The present paper will not undertake to review these attempts with...

    • 4 Meaning and Modernization
      (pp. 64-75)

      Modernization, whatever else it involves, is always a moral and a religious problem. If it has sometimes been hailed as an exhilarating challenge to create new values and meanings, it has also often been feared as a threat to an existing pattern of values and meanings. In either case the personal and social forces called into play have been powerful.

      One very widespread response to the modern has been to see it as disturbing and disorienting, as creating an unsatisfactory situation that must be mastered or overcome. In considering a few examples of this response we might begin with the...

    • 5 Father and Son in Christianity and Confucianism
      (pp. 76-99)

      Aristotle, in the first book of thePolitics, briefly discusses the relation between the family and religious symbolism. He says that the earliest form of social organization is the family, that the earliest form of political organization is simply an extension of the family in which the patriarch of an extended family is king, and finally, that men speak of Zeus being the father of gods and men, or of the gods having a king, on the analogy of their own way of life.¹ Though noting that “He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a...

    • 6 The Religious Situation in the Far East
      (pp. 100-113)

      It is extremely presumptuous to try to discuss so complex a subject as the religious situation in East Asia in so short a time. All I can do is raise some general considerations and give a few examples. I will try to give some idea of the order of complexity of the problems, but I cannot hope to give any solutions.

      In speaking of religion today, I will be using an essentially Tillichian definition—religion as that meaningful structure through which man relates himself to his ultimate concern—and will not be concerned primarily with the largely moribund institutional structure...

    • 7 Values and Social Change in Modern Japan
      (pp. 114-145)

      It is possible to differentiate between a cultural system and a social system. This is often done unconsciously, but it can be done from a more careful, analytic point of view as well. By a cultural system I mean that collection of symbol systems that includes such areas as science, art, literature, ethics, philosophy, and so on, considering them as cultural patterns more or less in themselves. They are, of course, interrelated with a social system but are to a certain degree independent, detachable elements that, of course, can be transmitted to other social systems. They are the object of...

    • 8 Islamic Tradition and the Problems of Modernization
      (pp. 146-167)

      Religion is a way of making sense of the world, but ours is a world it is increasingly difficult to make sense of. Joseph Conrad describes the modern age as one “in which we are camped like bewildered travellers in a garish, unrestful hotel.” But the great religious systems were not designed to deliver us from this particular hotel. Their plans and instructions are for another set of rooms. They are not wholly irrelevant, because not only in the modern age but in time and history man is camped and bewildered. The puzzlements, anxieties, and confusions of our age are...

    • 9 Civil Religion in America
      (pp. 168-190)

      While some have argued that Christianity is the national faith, and others that church and synagogue celebrate only the generalized religion of “the American Way of Life,” few have realized that there actually exists alongside of and rather dearly differentiated from the churches an elaborate and well-institutionaliezed civil religion in America. This article argues not only that there is such a thing, but also that this religion—or perhaps better, this religious dimension—has its own seriousness and integrity and requires the same care in understanding that any other religion does.¹

      John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address of January 20, 1961,...


    • 10 “It Doesn’t Go Far Enough”
      (pp. 193-195)

      As a social scientist, I find the real significance ofHonest to Godin the fact that it is a direct attack on classical theism not from some liberal fringe point of view but from the core of the Christian tradition itself. Bishop Robinson is in the most involved sense a churchman. I think we must accept his remark on page 27: “I have never really doubted the fundamental truth of the Christian faith. . . .” But, he continues, “I have constantly found myself questioning its expression.” His quarrel is not with the Christian faith but with the way...

    • 11 Transcendence in Contemporary Piety
      (pp. 196-208)

      In traditional theology transcendence is an attribute of God that indicates that he is outside and independent of the world. A number of metaphysical arguments have been developed over the centuries to prove this point. Both biblical and Quranic religions have also asserted the existence of God outside the world on the basis of revelation. Today arguments based on metaphysical proofs or revelation are not very compelling. These approaches may be viewed as interesting “perspectives,” which can be illuminating if properly interpreted in some contemporary frame of reference. It is not now so much the substance of that which it...

    • 12 The Dynamics of Worship
      (pp. 209-215)

      Blake’s words do not really deny the contrast between sacred and profane. For the sacred is not simply a property of external objects any more than it is purely a subjective feeling. It is a quality of experience, of relation between subject and object. The apprehension that everything that lives is holy does not arise from sense perception; it does not have in Blake’s words a “Philosophic and Experimental” character. Rather, it arises from a different kind of perception that Blake called “Poetic or Prophetic.” The first thing about worship, if we define it as a human activity that attempts...

    • 13 Religion and Belief: The Historical Background of “Non-Belief”
      (pp. 216-229)

      “Unbelief,” like “theology,” is a product of the Greek mind, one might almost say of the mind of Plato. It is in Book X of theLawsthat Plato argues for necessary theological beliefs: the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the moral government of the world. Unbelief in these propositions is a crime, punishable with five years of solitary confinement for a first offense and death for a second. Such notions are on the whole quite alien to the Bible. Where the word “belief” is used to translate biblical Hebrew and Greek it means not the...

    • 14 Review of Love’s Body, by Norman O. Brown
      (pp. 230-236)

      Love’s Bodyis an unsettling book. When it first came out I glanced through it, read a paragraph here and there, and put it away, disturbed. It was two years later, in the spring of 1968, that I read it on the plane corning home from the East Coast. It made me dizzy, intoxicated; it made me change. I am still living with the book, teaching with it, absorbing it. This review must be a personal response to one of the most personal books of the century. It is also one of the most important books, both for what it...

    • 15 Between Religion and Social Science
      (pp. 237-259)

      In this essay, let me talk about the religious implications of social science, a phrase that contains a certain amount of deliberate ambiguity. It suggests that social science not only has implications for religion, but that it has religious implications or aspects within itself. I start with the assumption that the relation between religion and social science is complex and in some ways organic. This is in conscious contrast to one view of secularization, the view that there is only a mechanical relation between science and religion, namely, the more of the one the less of the other, and that...

  9. Appendix: The Systematic Study of Religion
    (pp. 260-288)
  10. Bibliography of Robert N. Bellah
    (pp. 289-300)
  11. Index
    (pp. 301-306)