This Second Edition represents Bellah's summation of his views on civil religion in America. In his 1967 classic essay "Civil Rights in America," Bellah argued that the religious dimensions of American society--as distinct from its churches--has its own integrity and required "the same care in understanding that any religion."
This edition includes his 1978 article "Religion and the Legitimation of the American Republic," and a new Preface.
Originally a series of lectures at the Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Bellah's exploration of the place of religion in American society offers an apocalyptic view of our progress from the exacting God of John Winthrop and Cotton Mather to the Mammon of 20th century capitalism. He finds the roots of the mythic life of America as a chosen people in Puritan theocracy and the evangelical tradition of "great awakenings" - up to and including the 1960's proliferation of Eastern and Jesus cults. In the dosed, God-centered universe of Bellah's argument, judgment and curse follow on our national failure to uphold our moral obligations. Thus, the contemporary era of disorder, materialism and vulgarity represents to him a crisis equivalent to the throes of 1776 and 1861. In calling for that inevitable new covenant and rebirth of "ecstatic reason," he theorizes that socialism would succeed here very well were it not for its insistence on atheism, since Marx's "opiate" is part and parcel of the American identity - quite a transmogrification of revolutionary philosophy into establishment conservativism. An extrapolation of theological imperative from the common historical fallacy of depicting America as the invention of the New England mind. (Kirkus Reviews)