Bad Religion

Bad Religion

How We Became A Nation of Heretics

Book - 2012 | 1st Free Press hardcover ed.
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From the popular New York Times columnist, a powerful and original critique of how American Christianity has gone astray--and the deeply troubling consequences for American life and politics.

As the youngest-ever op-ed columnist for the New York Times , Ross Douthat has emerged as one of the most provocative and influential voices of his generation. In Bad Religion he offers a masterful and hard-hitting account of how American Christianity has gone off the rails--and why it threatens to take American society with it.

Writing for an era dominated by recession, gridlock, and fears of American decline, Douthat exposes the spiritual roots of the nation's political and economic crises. He argues that America's problem isn't too much religion, as a growing chorus of atheists have argued; nor is it an intolerant secularism, as many on the Christian right believe. Rather, it's bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional faith and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities that stroke our egos, indulge our follies, and encourage our worst impulses.

These faiths speak from many pulpits--conservative and liberal, political and pop cultural, traditionally religious and fashionably "spiritual"--and many of their preachers claim a Christian warrant. But they are increasingly offering distortions of traditional Christianity--not the real thing. Christianity's place in American life has increasingly been taken over, not by atheism, Douthat argues, but by heresy: debased versions of Christian faith that breed hubris, greed, and self-absorption.

In a story that moves from the 1950s to the age of Obama, he brilliantly charts institutional Christianity's decline from a vigorous, mainstream, and bipartisan faith--which acted as a "vital center" and the moral force behind the civil rights movement--through the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s to the polarizing debates of the present day. Ranging from Glenn Beck to Barack Obama, Eat Pray Love to Joel Osteen, and Oprah Winfrey to The Da Vinci Code , Douthat explores how the prosperity gospel's mantra of "pray and grow rich," a cult of self-esteem that reduces God to a life coach, and the warring political religions of left and right have crippled the country's ability to confront our most pressing challenges and accelerated American decline.

His urgent call for a revival of traditional Christianity is sure to generate controversy, and it will be vital reading for all those concerned about the imperiled American future.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2012.
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781439178300
Branch Call Number: 277.3083 DOUTHAT
Characteristics: x, 337 p. ; 24 cm.


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Jul 04, 2017

I am very disappointed with Douthat. Although he traces out many of the social factors which have lead to a decline in mainline Christianity, he has totally ignored one key point. Catholicism has lost most, if not all, of its moral authority because it has been protecting pedophile priests for decades. Why should anyone listen to their moral precepts when they have been aiding and abetting child molesters?

I could overlook this shortcoming in the book if Douthat were Protestant. But he isn't. So Douthat is in denial about corruption in his own denomination. And since he is in denial here, how do I know he isn't twisting the truth elsewhere?

Oct 22, 2015

While well-presented and eloquently written, Douthat's basic thesis - that the United States has fallen into moral and social decay because of a lapse of religious orthodoxy - suffers much from a "golden age" mentality that presents the 1950's as an enlightened period of Catholic and mainline Protestant cultural dominance, a claim that might be made for a portion of the United States of the era but doesn't stand up well to the nation as a whole. He also holds up Catholic orthodoxy as a shining beacon of stability over the last two thousand years, having held firm and unchanging while heresies come and go. To anyone with a knowledge of the Church's history, this is hilarious. These, in addition to many other strange and unsupported assumptions, make the book little more than a bitter complaint about "Christians These Days" from an Ivy Leaguer pining for good old days that never were.


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