Oregon State University

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Bellah's Lament: the Making of Civil Religion in America

Lunch Bunch with Ray Haberski

Friday, April 26, 2013 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

In 1967, Robert Bellah published an essay entitled "Civil Religion in America" - he has regretted it ever since.  Bellah's lament is based on the ironic relationship between the historical and the historiographical aspects of that essay.  He wrote his essay in a time of war - the Vietnam War - as a reflection on the tragic mess he hoped the United States could find a way of.  However, with that essay he launched a somewhat quixotic cottage industry of scholars who seemingly searched for a moral creed - a normative civil religion - that suggested tragedies such as Vietnam were anomalies (rather than confirmations) of the "true" nature of American history.  I argue that in retrospect, Bellah’s essay and his lament reveal a significant relationship between civil religion and war. Recent scholarship confirms that at the intersection between religion, the nation, and war, many historians cannot avoid finding civil religion.  In other words, civil religion in America persists with or without Robert Bellah.

Milam Hall (campus map)
Room 301
Robert Peckyno
robert.peckyno at oregonstate.edu
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion
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