Comparative Religion

Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditionalist by Robert N. Bellah

By Robert N. Bellah

Beyond Belief collects fifteen celebrated, widely ranging essays during which Robert Bellah translates the interaction of faith and society in concrete contexts from Japan to the center East to the us. First released in 1970, Beyond Belief is a vintage within the box of sociology of religion.

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Religion emerges in action systems with respect to two main problems. In order to function effectively, it is essential that a person or group have a relatively condensed, and therefore highly general, definition of its environment and itself. Such a definition of the system and the world to which it is related (in more than a transient sense) is a conception of identity. Such a conception is particularly necessary in situations of stress and disturbance because it can provide the most general set of instructions as to how the system is to maintain itself and repair any damage sustained.

This point of view was applied to religion in the somewhat idiosyncratic but extraordinarily fruitful Moses and Monotheism,'1'1 "The Future of an Illusion"12 represents a reversion to the early projective theory of religion and is neither the final statement of Freud's position nor even typical of his own late thinking. By the early 1920s, then, the elements of a more adequate theory of religion had come into existence. However, at just this point the primary preoccupation with religion displayed by most of the great social scientists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries disappeared.

Through this more differentiated form of religious action a new degree of freedom as well, perhaps, as an increased burden of anxiety enters the relations between man and the ultimate conditions of his existence. Archaic religious organization is still by and large merged with other social structures, but the proliferation of functionally and hierarchically differentiated groups leads to a multiplication of cults, since every group in archaic society tends to have its cultic aspect. The emergence of a two-class system, itself related to the increasing density of population made possible by agriculture, has its religious aspect.

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