First, they tend to substitute a desired interpretive flexibility for Herberg’s analytical rigidity, and second, they neglect Herberg’s concern with what he deemed “the American Way of Life”, or “the operative faith of the American people”.
Psychologically, he posited, religion emerges from “inner necessity”, offers a sense of peace and security, and protects individual authenticity.
Asserting that “religion, like the family, is one of the enduring, elemental institutions of mankind”, Herberg framed religion as a historical entity.
Since then, Herberg’s tripartite construction of religion in mid-twentieth-century-America has become a staple of scholarly and popular literature on religion and pluralism in the United States.1 For example, while pointing out that religion’s resilience in the United States owed much to immigration, contemporary political analyst E. Dionne remarked, “Will Herberg wrote an important piece of religious sociology in 1955 called ‘Protestant-Catholic-Jew’.
If he were here now, his book would have to be named ‘Protestant-Catholic-Jew-Muslim-Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist-Jain-Confucian.’ And even that ungainly title wouldn’t exhaust the possibilities” .