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January 22, 2002

Noted sociologist to deliver annual Currie lecture

By Elaine Justice & Eric Rangus


Renowned sociologist Robert Bellah, co-author of the best-selling books Habits of the Heart and The Good Society, will address “Marriage: Sacred Institution or Obsolete Tyranny?” at the annual Currie Lecture in Law and Religion at noon Monday, Jan. 28, in the School of Law’s Tull Auditorium.

Bellah, Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, received the United States National Humanities Medal from then-President Bill Clinton in 2000 for his contributions to illuminate the importance of community in American society. His work often addresses the tensions between individualism, a sense of community and social institutions as the dominant characteristics of contemporary American life.

In his lecture, Bellah will examine the importance of marriage as an institution and as a foundation of productive life that is in need of reform and renewal. He also will discuss why homosexuals should not be excluded from the individual and societal benefits of marriage.

Educated at Harvard University in sociology, anthropology and Eastern religions, Bellah began teaching at Harvard in 1957 and moved to Berkeley in 1967.

Bellah’s best-known book, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, has sold more than one million copies since its first publication in 1985. In Habits of the Heart, Bellah and four co-authors (one of them Steven Tipton, director of the Graduate Division of Religion) wrote that a social movement was necessary to restore the dignity and legitimacy of democratic politics. It discussed Americans’ suspicion of politics as an arena “in which arbitrary differences of opinion and interest can be resolved only by power and manipulation.”

In 1991, the book’s five authors released a sequel, called The Good Society, in which they argue that the American citizenry must take responsibility for its institutions if a more effective and morally conscious society is to be created. Bellah’s other books include Beyond Belief, The Broken Covenant and The New Religious Consciousness.

The Currie Lecture, an annual event of the law school’s Law and Religion Program, has featured internationally prominent scholars whose expertise encompasses a broad range of religious and legal issues. Previous speakers include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Emory Provost Rebecca Chopp and last year’s speaker, Charles Villa-Vicencio, a leading South African theologian and professor.

Bellah’s lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call 404-727-5588.




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