By Robert N. Bellah
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Additional resources for Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditionalist World
Yet all the historic religions have, to use Voegelin's term, mortgages imposed on them by the historical circumstances of their origin. All of them contain, in suspension as it were, elements of archaic cosmology alongside their transcendental assertions. Nonetheless, relative to earlier forms the historic religions are all universalistic. From the point of view of these religions a man is no longer denned chiefly in terms of what tribe or clan he comes from or what particular god he serves but rather as a being capable of salvation.
However, over time, as more and more of the group process becomes consciously understood and as the deeper feelings about the group and the leader are worked through, the group itself becomes "secularized" and the quality of the sacred is relegated to certain group ideals and symbols of group solidarity. Slater's comparison of this process of group development with the long-term process of religious evolution is highly suggestive. Par13 THE SOCIOLOGY OF R E L I G I O N ticularly important is the perception of the changing role of symbolism with respect to the meaning-motivation balance as the group itself undergoes new experiences and changes in structure.
He has also pointed out the function of social and psychological control that such symbolic working through performs. Perhaps Burke's chief contribution is his insistence on the special formal qualities of language and symbolism generally. Language does not merely reflect or communicate social and psychological realities. Rather, language contains within itself a "principle of perfection,"18 which operates relatively independently of other factors. That is, a terminology, once established, has certain "entelechial" implications.