Can We Imagine a Global Civil Religion?

Date: 12 December 2011
Speaker: Prof. Robert N. Bellah


The lecture will question whether a global civil religion is possible or even desirable, but it will argue for the necessity of some kind of global civil society. For the creation of a viable and coherent world order a global civil society is surely an essential precondition, and any actual civil society will have a religious dimension, will need not only a legal and an ethical framework, but some notion that it conforms to the nature of ultimate reality. The biggest immediate problem is the strengthening of global civil society, and it is on that that the lecture will focus, but it will have some hints and suggestions that perhaps the religious communities of the world may have something to contribute to that global civil society, and that their participation may be essential for its success. It will refer to ways in which Christianity and Confucianism have contributed and can even more in the future contribute to some kind of viable global civil society, but not without serious reflection on their own past histories.

Speaker Bio

Prof. Robert N. Bellah

Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus
University of California at Berkeley

Professor Robert N. Bellah is Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. He was educated at Harvard University, receiving the B.A. in 1950 and the Ph.D. in 1955. He began teaching at Harvard in 1957 and left there as Professor of Sociology in 1967 when he moved to Berkeley to become Ford Professor of Sociology. His publications include Tokugawa Religion, Beyond Belief, The Broken Covenant, The New Religious Consciousness, Varieties of Civil Religion, Imagining Japan: The Japanese Tradition and Its Modern Interpretation, The Robert Bellah Reader, and most recently (2011) Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. In 1985 he published Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, in collaboration with Richard Madsen, William Sullivan, Ann Swidler and Steven Tipton, and in 1991, with the same collaborators, The Good Society. In 2000 Professor Bellah was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Clinton.