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Will Herberg's Biography (Books)

Will Herberg (June 30, 1901 - March 27, 1977) was an American Jewish writer, intellectual and scholar. He was known as a social philosopher and sociologist of religion, as well as a Jewish theologian.

Herberg was brought up in a secular Jewish family in Manhattan. He was expelled from City College in 1920 and never was awarded any academic degree. However, he falsely claimed to have degrees from Columbia University, including a PhD in 1932. However, he later received three honorary doctorates, the first in 1956.

During his undergraduate years Herberg became a member of the Communist Party USA. Following the split of party leader Jay Lovestone and his co-thinkers in 1929, Herberg remained loyal to them, a decision earning his expulsion from the CPUSA on September 10, 1929. Thereafter Herberg joined the so-called Lovestoneites, remaining with that organization until its termination at the end of 1940, serving as editor of the group's weekly newspaper, Workers Age.

He later turned away from Marxism and became a religious conservative, founding the quarterly Judaism with Robert Gordis and Milton R. Konvitz. During the 1960s he was Religion Editor of the conservative journal National Review, and taught at Drew University.

Herberg's 1955 book Protestant, Catholic, Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology created a sociological framework for the study of religion in the United States. Herberg demonstrated how immigration and American ethnic culture were reflected in religious movements and institutions. It has been described as "one of the most influential books ever written about American religion."

During the 1950s, this book, as well as the 1951 essay Judaism and Modern Man, set out influential positions on Judaism and on the American religious tradition in general.

Herberg also wrote that anti-Catholicism is the antisemitism of secular Jewish intellectuals.

In his September 7, 1965 National Review article, "'Civil Rights' and Violence: Who Are the Guilty Ones?", Herberg wrote of his opposition or skepticism towards the Civil Rights Movement, feeling, like many of his colleagues at National Review at the time, that the civil rights campaign was moving too quickly and broke up the fabric of American society in an overly socially disruptive manner, not friendly to proper social cohesion. They supported what is often termed the Booker T. Washington position of "gradual reform."

Herberg was also a prominent traditionalist conservative and wrote for traditionalist publications as Russell Kirk's Modern Age. He was also a frequent contributor to William F. Buckley, Jr.'s fusionist conservative National Review magazine.