How religions cultural and organizational forms vary, change and evolvein contrast with the sort of timelessness of Durkheim et al.s elementary forms that are supposed to operate everywhere.
Change occurs in both directions (see Scheme of Religious Evolution handout)
Bellahs purpose: Providing a link between the theory of religion as a whole across all time, peoples, historical epochs, symbolic forms (e.g., between us and the Kung).
Bellah defines religion as "a set of symbolic forms and acts, which relate humans to the ultimate conditions of their existence" (p. 21).
Stress is on what religion does by way of meaning.
Religion is a symbol system that joins together meaning, the way things are and moral moods and motives with reference to the way we ought to be and what we ought to do given the way things are.
So religion is a kind of picture of reality, a vision. And its also a kind of moral map or guide, the most general model "of" and "for" reality that we have.
Religion can vary in its complexity and its degree of differentiation.
Religion also varies in terms of its adaptability to the environment and the autonomy it allows persons and societies.
Bellahs theory is an "along with" theoryhow things vary along with one another.
Variations in religion go on along with variations in the culture and the social order.
Bellahs concern is not the evolution of humanity, God, or ultimate reality. Rather, what is evolving or changing is a system of symbols as a cultural system and a system of social practices.
Religion evolves in four senses:
Bellahs thesis: everything already exists in some sense in the religious symbol system of primitive man [sic] . (pp. 21-22).
Bellahs theory is a goes-along-with theory that:
Major Point: with any other categories, these categories of primitive, archaic, historical, early modern, and modern are analytical distinctions. They are useful only to the extent they illuminate what's going on .
"Modern religion": marks a profound change from that metaphysical dualism at the core of historic religion.
"Multiplex monism": one all encompassing world in which life is an infinite possibility thing instead of just one thing.
Bellah stresses the dynamic multidimensional nature of the self capable of continuing self-transformation and capable of remaking world.
Denominations are the characteristic modern religious organization.
Webers Systematic Comparative Study of Religion
An Outline of Religious Evolution
Introduction: "The Social Psychology of World Religions"
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Ascetic Protestantism as indispensible catalyst for the emergence
Of a new form of society, i.e., modern capitalism, a new kind of
Civilization, not just a new kind of economy
"The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism"
The Religion of China (Confucianism & Taoism)
"Intermediate Reflections: A Theory of the Stages and Directions of
Religious Rejections of the World"
The Religion of India (Hinduism and Buddhism)
"The Sociology of Religion" section of Economy and Society
The Order of Webers Presentation
Christianity (Weber was unable to get to Christianity and Islam; he considered them secondary formations from the Original "breakthrough.")
Basic Weberian Framework
A basic three-stage typology organizes Webers sociology of religion
Bellah takes this Weberian framework and shows that human religious and social development has a certain form and pattern, a form and pattern that can help us humans living today to know who we are by knowing where we came fromthat is Bellahs project for revising the 1964 "Religious Evolution" article into a forthcoming book of the same title.
What is the nature of modern religion in your own experience and in relationship to your own experience of religious communitieswhether theyre mainline conventional or unconventional?
What do you think of the idea of religious symbolism as self-conscious and self-revising?
And what about when you juxtapose modern religion with a fundamentalist emphasis on biblical literalism and scriptural inerrancy?
Or what about the notion of personal reinterpretation, which leads to individual, autonomous action compared to a very strong, powerful kind of moral authority enacted in many fundamentalist or evangelical churches?
Also, in view of what Marx is says, we might want to ask whether Bellahs religious evolution scheme is somehow biased, especially when you get past the historical stage?
Is it biased in some ways that are ethnocentric or Eurocentric or Protestant-centric? Similarly, does the modern stage of religious evolution represent some sort of liberal Protestant outlook of the early 1960s?