The Interaction of Law and Religion

Harold J. Berman

Most people put law and religion in separate compartments. Berman writes: “The principal affirmation is that law and religion are two different but interrelated aspects, two dimensions of social experience–in all societies, but especially in Western society, and still more especially in American society today. Despite the tensions between them, one cannot flourish without the other. Law without (what I call), religion degenerates into a mechanical legalism. Religion without (what I call) law loses its social effectiveness.”

Frona Powell, in her review in Iustitia, wrote: “This book is comprised of [Berman’s 1971 lectures in the series of Lowell Lectures on Theology] with an introduction, postscript, and annotations… Those who are members of the legal profession as well as those who are not, are aware of the fact that the legal system does not always function properly… Berman recognizes the problem, which he calls ‘the massive loss of confidence in law-not only on the part of law-consumers but also on the part of law-makers and law-distributors’… He attributes society’s loss of faith in law to the fact that law has become ‘shorn of its mystique and its authority in the grand design of the universe’… Berman’s concept of… law is… different than that of the legal positivists of his generation.”