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Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics Paperback – April 16, 2013
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--James Martin, SJ, author of "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything"""
"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 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"
""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"
"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 "
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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...Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Kind of wanders later on when the author's agenda intrudes. Yeah, sure Vatican 2 was terrible..and the alternative was what exactly? Read morePublished 17 days ago by Charles S. Allen
Wow. Douthat addresses every major category with influence in the U.S. in the last 40 years. None go untouched. Read morePublished 26 days ago by AA Amazon
I was very excited to read this book, as I have been fascinated with the decline of traditional Christianity and the rise of "feel good" Christianity, where whatever we... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Louise D. Somes
The best account of the background and status of the religious landscape of contemporary America. It details the philosophical, political and cultural, and theological trends that... Read morePublished 2 months ago by J. Conder
This is an excellent book discussing the role various Christian heresies have played in shaping the current American landscape. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ben G
Good book .... starts slowly but improves. He writes a good history of religion in the US since 1900. Now .... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
The book is worth the read. Ross goes wide, sometimes deep, but often belabors some otherwise strong points. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jon I Stevenson II
Douthat has a compelling thesis, and presents through history of the Church in America has sometimes been co-opted by the prevailing culture, while at other times has transformed... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Hal C. Elrod
For someone not obviously a theological professional, Douthat is remarkably well-informed. His suggestions are reasonable. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Andrew P. Porter