July 19 2024

In Memoriam: Robert Bellah


Preeminent sociologist and long-time AAR member Robert N. Bellah passed away on July 30, 2013, at the age of 86.   Bellah was the Elliot Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1967 until 1997.  His research and teaching focused on cross-cultural religiosity 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 (Harper, 1975) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (University of California Press, 1985). A prolific author, Bellah published his latest book, Religion in Human Evolution (Belknap Press), in 2011.   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.” In 2007, Bellah received the AAR's Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.   The December issue of Journal of the American Academy of Religion will feature roundtable discussion of the field of sociology of religion—to which Bellah was a contributor—and an obituary by Mark Juergensmeyer.