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Publisher's Summary

As the youngest-ever op-ed columnist for the New York Times and the author of the critically acclaimed books Privilege and Grand New Party, Ross Douthat has emerged as one of the most provocative and influential voices of his generation. Now 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.
In a story that moves from the 1950s to the age of Obama, Douthat brilliantly charts traditional 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 and down to the polarizing debates of the present day. He argues that Christianity's place in American life has increasingly been taken over, not by atheism, but by heresy: debased versions of Christian faith that breed hubris, greed, and self-absorption.
Ranging from Glenn Beck to Eat Pray Love, Joel Osteen to The Da Vinci Code, Oprah Winfrey to Sarah Palin, 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 listening for all those concerned about the imperiled American future.
©2012 Ross Douthat (P)2012 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Lynn on 06-05-12

Broad Stroke Analysis

In Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Gregory Douthat provocatively addresses the drift of Christian faith experienced in the US during the recent past. He links this drift to the current economic, policy, and political malaise effecting the populace. The slow-motion decline of traditional faith and the rise of pseudo-Christian thinking is described and analyzed. One could argue details of Douthat’s arguments, but overall he makes a rather disturbing case for what has transpired. The thought provoking book is generally depressing. The tenor turns upbeat (or perhaps I should say hopeful) in the final sections where he proposes how Christian faith may be turned back to its roots. For my tastes, Douthat reveals his political biases in a number of places. However, Christians of all stripes would do well to at least give Douthat a hearing. The reading of Lloyd James is excellent.

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By J. D. Ryals on 07-19-16

Bad Religion Is Bad Ass

Fascinating narrative of the shift from (relatively) robust mid-century/post-war American religious institutions (morally authoritative and politically above the fray) to our current, institutionally-weakened religious climate (pervaded by heresies such as Osteen-ish prosperity preaching, Oprah-esque god within thought, or Beck-like nationalism) and enlightening connection of our religio-social climate with its different forms' various historical roots. The analysis is grim but insightful, and it concludes with thoughtful and thought-provoking reflections on possibilities of renewal.

Perhaps somewhat as an aside, one of the things I particularly enjoyed was the very incisive interaction with (and, I must say - as it seemed to me - pretty epic takedown of) the popular "real Jesus" search (those who partake in the essentially autobiographical project nearly always make him into a figure too impotent to have made much of an impact on history).

Overall the book makes Douthat look like a potential journalistic heir of Chesterton.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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