AbstractWith the availability of Robert N. Bellah’s original draft of his first published essay on civil religion, it is possible to gain new insight into the development of this key concept in the sociology of religion, political sociology, and related fields. Discussion begins with a comparison of the ways in which the two versions of the essay present the concept of civil religion. The draft provides a broad and insightful discussion of the nature of American religion before focusing specifically on civil religion, while the published essay begins almost immediately with illustrations of the civil religion, leaving the broader analysis of religion in Twentieth century America largely implicit, but providing more detail on the deep connections of the civil religion to American historical experience. Emphasis is then given to the Weberian as well as Durkheimian qualities of Bellah’s concept of civil religion. Among these qualities is the attention in each of Bellah’s discussions to the “discontents” of American civil religious beliefs and commitments. The various analyses of such discontents in several of Bellah’s writings on civil religion are briefly summarized.
Keywords: Civil religion, ascetic Protestantism, tradition, modernity, morality.