Died: Robert Bellah, Sociologist Who Diagnosed American Civil Religion

(UPDATED) Author of 'Habits of the Heart' lamented decline of family and community—years before almost anyone else.

Update (Aug. 2): UC Berkeley has released an obituary lauding Bellah as a "preeminent American sociologist of religion."

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Robert Bellah, an American sociologist whose career "showed the promise, and limits, of the [prophetic] scholarship he made so accessible to the church," died this week after complications following surgery. He was 86.

"While Bellah was not a young man, when I saw him last December he was physically sturdy and mentally vigorous," writes First Things blogger Matthew Schmitz. "It's hard not to see this as a death out of season."

Black, White and Gray's Margarita A. Mooney also shares a recent conversation with Bellah. The Berkeleyan interviewed him in 2006.

Bellah is perhaps best known for co-authoring the 1985 book Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, which showed the limits of American indivudalism. But his career spanned decades on either side of that book.

"In 1966 ...

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