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Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics Hardcover – April 17, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439178305
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439178300
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Not only is Ross Douthat’s account of orthodox Christianity’s decline provocative, but his critique of today’s ascendant heresies is compelling. This volume is a sustained proof of Chesterton’s thesis that when people turn from God, 'they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything.' Everyone who is interested in why the church is faring as it is in U.S. culture today needs to get this book."
—Timothy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

"Bad Religion is superb: sharply critical of the amazing variety of American religious pathologies, but fair; blunt in diagnosis, but just; telling a dark tale, but telling it hopefully. For those trying to understand the last half-century or more of American religion, and to strive for a better future, it is an indispensable book."
—Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis

"Ross Douthat's thoughtful, articulate, wide-ranging, sometimes contrarian and always provocative new book asks a tough question: Why has Christianity been so misunderstood, and so misused, in the past few decades? From those who (foolishly) watered down the most basic Christian beliefs, to those who (falsely) promised worldly success to the followers of Jesus, the values of orthodoxy (literally, "right belief") have often been blithely set aside. With an impressive command of both history and contemporary social trends, Douthat shows not only how we ended up with a Christianity of our own making, but also how we can reclaim an adherence to the teachings of the real Jesus—not just the convenient one."
—James Martin, SJ, author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

"Bad Religion is nothing short of prophetic. In a time of religious, political, and cultural upheaval, Ross Douthat tells the American faithful—liberals, conservatives, and everybody in between—not what we want to hear, but what we desperately need to hear. With this provocative and challenging work that no thoughtful Christian can afford to ignore, Douthat assures his place in the first rank of his generation's public intellectuals."
—Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons and senior editor of The American Conservative

"A brilliantly reasoned argument for orthodox Christianity and the need for vibrant faith in society. In this perceptive and timely work, Ross Douthat extolls the ‘vital center’ of belief while calling out the fashionable heretics among us. This is one ‘Bad Religion’ we can all believe in."
—Raymond Arroyo, New York Times bestselling author, host of EWTN's The World Over Live

"Mr. Douthat offers a lively, convincing argument for what kind of religion we need." (Mark Oppenheimer New York Times)

"Bad Religion" is an important book. It brings a probing, perceptive analysis to bear on the tragic hollowing out of American Christianity. In Douthat, readers have a guide who explains how we ended up drinking at a narcissistic trough draped in spirituality that doesn't quench anybody's deepest thirst...." (G. Jeffrey MacDonald Christian Science Monitor)

About the Author

Ross Douthat is a columnist for The New York Times op-ed page. He is the author of Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class and Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream. Before joining the Times he was a senior editor for The Atlantic. He is the film critic for National Review, and he has appeared regularly on television, including Charlie Rose, PBS Newshour, Real Time, and The Colbert Report.

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Customer Reviews

I thought is was a very provocative book, well worth reading and discussing.
Jeffrey A. Sherman
It has much to say about the intellectual antecedents of what Douthat calls accomodationism, the efforts to make Christianity fit in with American culture.
Stephen J. Haessler
It is truly an eye opener and the reader will find him/herself nodding acknowledgement of these discoveries.
Frank L. Hicks Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

193 of 204 people found the following review helpful By Jody Harrington on April 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although the title sounds polemical, Ross Douthat's book is actually a thorough, thoughtful and scholarly study of the ways in which the orthodox tenets of Christianity are losing ground to the many popular heresies of the day and the ways in which this phenomenon affects the church and the social and political culture of the country.

My IPad version of the book is covered with yellow highlighting and notes. This is not a quick and easy read because it is so thought-provoking that I often put it away for a while in order to digest a new insight.

Beginning with the fundamentalist-modernist conflicts of the early twentieth century in the mainline Protestant denomination, Douthat sets the stage for his thesis that

"America's problem isn't too much religion or too little of it. It's bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in its place."

These pseudo-Christianities include accomodationism, the embrace of Gnosticism, solipsism, messianism, utopianism, apocalypticism, nationalism and the prosperity gospel. As Douthat trenchantly observes in the prologue, heresies have always sought to simplify and eliminate the paradoxical and difficult teachings of Jesus into something that better fits the spirit of the culture and the age.

Historically, orthodox Christianity has been strengthened when it is forced to defining its beliefs against the popular heresies of the day. As Douthat says "Pushing Christianity to one extreme or another is what Americans have aways done. We've been making idols of our country, our pocketbooks and our sacred selves for hundreds of years. What's changed today, though, is the weakness of the orthodox response.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By D. Taylor on June 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I came across this book while watching late night TV one night and being completely glued to a speech he was giving on C-SPAN. I had to read the book after that - in fact, I ordered it on my Kindle as soon as the TV program ended. By the time I finished this book, I was ready and inspired to take the mantle of Christianity more seriously than I had been. I read the Kindle edition which tracks that I made 263 notes & marks - which I'm now ready to go back and re-read.

His research is solid, robust and exhaustive. He describes the decline of American Christianity and does so by giving a good history of American Christianity. He is a brainiac of brainacs whose writing is still eminently readable and likable. He critiques the more common heresies we see in Christianity today, particularly accomodationism (which tries to keep Christianity relevant but at the expense of some of Christianity's core beliefs) and American exceptionalism (which sees America as a new kind of "chosen nation" thus giving America the right to evangelize the world with its thoughts, beliefs, and culture).

Consider some of these quotes:

"The result is a country where religion actively encourages the sort of recklessness that produced our current economic meltdown, rahter than serving as a brake on materialism and a rebuke to avarice," (p. 5).

He calls America "a nation of heretics...Yet heresy without room for orthodoxy turns out to be dangerous as well. Many of the orverlapping crises in American life, from our foreign policy disasters to the housing bubble to the rate of out-of-wedlock births, can be traced to the impulse to emphasize one particular element of traditional Christianity...at the expense of all the others...
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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Matt on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As part of the generation just emerging from college, I've always been curious about the emergence of the dominant current forms of Christianity. There are churches galore, but few seats in the pews. Nearly everyone says they're a Christian, but few can give an accounting of what that means. The media is obsessed with Christianity, but usually to mock it. And there was the memorable line a guy shouted in my philosophy class, unrelated to the discussion at hand: "I hate organized religion!" The fact is, while the thought behind the line may have been surprising to me - a Christian whose education up until that point was a private Christian one - it was seemingly pretty normal among my college peers.

Ross Douthat charts a compelling narrative through the ideological landscape of the 50's and 60's to the present day. First, he takes us through the high water point of Christianity, when the horrors of World War II had disabused most everyone of the notion of continual human progress. This was the high point of institutional Christianity, when it could be theologically rigorous, intellectually respected and civil rights oriented, while being less politically polarized than it is today. Alas, the sexual revolution, a global outlook, materialism and class issues drove Christians into the two competing camps of the accommodators and resisters. The second part of the book looks at the current state of American Christianity. Douthat believes secularists and orthodox Christians alike have little to be pleased about, as a narcissistic, materialistic and nationalistic spirituality has carried the day. While Douthat supports his narrative with evidence, his strength is that he does consider competing hypotheses.
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