Where I am today

8778 - St Petersburg - Hermitage - Terpsichore

8778 – St Petersburg – Hermitage – Terpsichore (Photo credit: thisisbossi)

Described as the opus magnum of one of our greatest living sociologists by one reviewer or “a long hard slog” by another, I have tackled Robert Bellah’s wonderful Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. I am 20% into the book, so you can see what I’ve been doing the past few days.

At heart, I have always been a sociologist. I studied history to better inform my sociology (demography), only to discover that historians liked sociology so much that some of them do sociological history. I love “social” history as it generally involves the study of the working class or women.

Much admired in scholarly circles,  Bellah is informed by cultural anthropology, and knows much about religion across time and space. He cites many books I have read but has a few sources he likes best. As he cites anthropologist Clifford Geertz and sociologist Emile Durkheim frequently, I suspect one or the other was his muse.    

What I have learned over my life time is that the “social science” disciplines overlap madly, just as they did before the rise of compartmentalized subject areas in the early modern era (Enlightenment).  

During the Middle ages in Europe, all knowledge was subsumed under a few disciplines including, grammar, history and philosophy and taught in universities associated with the Church. Secularization begins with the Enlightenment and involves the rise of modern science (science existed long before the Enlightenment). 

Bellah describes science today as a modern-day religion. I mean how do you know if the sun rotates around the earth or the earth around the sun? Have you had first-hand experience in space. NO you believe it, and yet you persist in saying, “The Sun Rises.” Ditto everything else you “believe.”


History always had its own muse, Clio. You might recall the Muses? My favorite is Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance. I love the way her name rolls off my tongue. From her name we get the words chorus and choreography. Who is your Muse?

An ancient Roman mosaic in El Jem Museum in Tu...

An ancient Roman mosaic in El Jem Museum in Tunisia. Third century. It shows the nine Muses with their attributes : Clio (muse of history), Uranie (that of astronomy), Melpomene (tragedy), Thalie (comedy), Terpsichore (dancing), Calliope (the epic poetry), Erato (love poetry), Polymnie (presiding over religious songs and rhetoric) and Euterpe (the lyric poetry and music). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Terpsichore, Muse of Music and Dance, an oil o...
Terpsichore, Muse of Music and Dance, an oil on canvas painting by Jean-Marc Nattier (1739). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



6 thoughts on “Where I am today

  1. Wow, that is heavy reading even for me, a sociology major. A recent study shows that people who read and write regularly can stave off dementia for a longer time than those who don’t.


  2. Sounds a little too heavy going for my taste. I get what Bellah is saying, but isn’t there a crucial difference between science and religion? Religion is based on faith. Science is based on evidence, even if the evidence is not directly observed. Still … I have trouble visualizing that whole big bang thing.


    • Yes, its a heavy slog. Fortunately I have read many of the sources he cites.

      Of course science is based on faith and perhaps is a religion too. You will have to read Bellah to find out why he says what he does. He includes material from Richard Dawkins, Stephen J. Gould and others of that ilk.


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